Nicaraguan Bishops Demand National Elections in New Year’s Message

Nicaraguan Catholic faithful take part in a mass to demand the freedom of political prisoners and to cease the attack on the Catholic Church in Managua's Cathedral, in Managua on October 28, 2018. (Photo by INTI OCON / AFP) (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)
INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images

The Archdiocese of Managua has released a New Year’s message calling for national elections to allow for a “change of course” for the country, which has suffered under “totalitarian regimes.”

“A new year opens bringing us hope in Christ, so, although life in our country takes place under constant coercion, fear, impunity, continuous threats and acts of violence, we need to be increasingly committed to achieving values and principles related to human dignity and freedom,” reads the statement, signed by the archdiocesan Commission for Justice and Peace and addressed to the Catholic faithful and men and women of good will.

In November, a mob of backers of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stormed a parish church, interrupting Mass and striking members of the faithful, amidst mounting tensions in the nation.

Soon afterward, the U.N. human rights office criticized the harsh tactics used to put down dissent.

“The government must end the persistent repression of dissent and the ongoing pattern of arbitrary arrests,” said U.N. spokesman Rupert Colville in Geneva.

Colville also called on the Ortega regime to “refrain from criminalizing and attacking human rights defenders, political opponents and any other dissenting voices.”

In its statement, the bishops have called for an end to tyranny and a return to democracy.

“Although as a nation, we have been subjected to totalitarian regimes, the vast majority of Nicaraguans identify with democratic culture,” the text states. “The church also promotes the participation of citizens in the government of the public thing and in the election of the rulers.”

“Democracy is the only one that can guarantee equality and rights for all,” the bishops note, citing Pope Benedict XVI. “Indeed, there is a kind of reciprocal dependence between democracy and justice. Nicaragua calls for a change of course, a return to the Constitution and institutionality.”

In practice, the bishops insist that Nicaraguans need elections — along with a thoroughgoing electoral reform — to return to a state of legality.

“This change requires elections,” the statement reads. “But for elections to express the will of the electorate they must be free and impartial. To this end, this election posits some indispensable conditions such as: a new impartial Supreme Electoral Council, a thorough reform of electoral law, the updating of the electoral roll, the vote of citizens abroad and an oversight of international agencies, among others.”

“In the face of such a political-electoral challenge, we consider it urgent task for all of us to be actively involved so that our society can be articulated,” they declare. “Our people ask for new faces, new elements in the electoral field, renewed leaders with a genuinely ethical vision.”

“Let us have the courage to change, to assume a new mindset marked by human and Christian values,” the bishops conclude. “This change of mindset is what motivates, inspires, and drives today’s youth. We hope that this year the Prince of Peace will fill you all with comfort, hope, and grace.”

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