The auxiliary bishop of Nicaragua’s capital, in one of his final sermons before Pope Francis transferred him to Rome, called on citizens Sunday to “fight” against the “repression” by the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.
Bishop Silvio Báez, a vocal critic of the Ortega administration, urged Nicaraguans to “fight for freedom,” the Associated Press (AP) reports.
“We cannot forget nor be indifferent to today’s crucified victims: the political prisoners, the exiles, those who still hide in fear, the mothers who mourn those killed by repression,” the bishop declared.
AP points out:
Pope Francis recently told Báez that he is needed in Rome but didn’t say whether the decision was related to an alleged assassination plot, which Báez has said the U.S. government warned him of several months ago. The announcement of his indefinite transfer has shaken opponents of Ortega.
Since the unrest in Nicaragua began in April 2018 over now-rescinded social reforms, Báez has received multiple death threats.
He suffered a cut on his arm when he and other church officials were attacked by a pro-government mob in the town of Diriamba. Drones hover over his home, and men on motorcycles have entered the parking area. He has had to change his phone number four times because of the threats.
Last year, the Catholic Church in the country abandoned its “traditional solidarity” with the left — Ortega’s communist Sandinista Revolution — to support the oppressed opposition in Nicaragua, Deutsche Welle (DW) acknowledged.
At times, the Catholic Church has taken the role of mediator between anti-government protesters and the Ortega administration. However, the leftist government, which reportedly invited the Catholic Church to mediate last year, has dismissed the country’s bishops as coup-plotters.
Late last month, Pope Francis appealed to mediators involved in negotiations in Nicaragua “to find a peaceful solution to the socio-political crisis enveloping the nation,” Vatican News reported.
“Since 27th February, Nicaragua has been holding important talks to resolve the serious socio-political crisis in which the country finds itself”, the pope told the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer on March 24.
The pope encouraged the parties involved “to find a peaceful solution as soon as possible for the good of all.”
Bishop Báez denounced a recent outbreak of violence against anti-government demonstrators, which came 24 hours after an agreement to allow protests, according to Vatican News.
Nicaragua is still “caught up in a spiral of violence,” he said, adding, “It is outrageous that once again in Nicaragua police and violent civilians attack, arrest, and injure civilians who are demonstrating peacefully.”
Since April 2018, clashes between Ortega forces and civilians demanding his exit have reportedly killed at least 325, injured about 2,000, and led to the imprisonment of more than 640. The violence has also forced an estimated 50,000 to flee their homes, human rights group say.
Protesters accuse the Ortega regime of oppression. Meanwhile, the dictator has dubbed the demonstrators “terrorists” bent on overthrowing what he believes to be a legitimate government. Recent peace negotiations have failed.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has denounced the violence in Nicaragua and slapped sanctions on Ortega government officials over human rights abuses, corruption and ordering attacks on peaceful demonstrators.