A mob of dozens of pro-government activists stormed the cathedral of Managua, Nicaragua, Monday afternoon, repeatedly striking the cathedral vicar and a Catholic nun who protested their intrusion.
The pro-Sandinista throng sought to interrupt a hunger strike carried out by seven mothers of political prisoners being held by the regime of President Daniel Ortega, according to local reports.
“This afternoon violent government-sponsored groups entered and took control of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua,” the statement reads. “Confronted by Father Rodolfo López and Sister Arelys Guzmán, these people responded with violence by beating the priest and the sister, who are all right but had to leave the church to seek shelter.”
“Also, tonight members of this same group broke the locks of the bell tower and other padlocks of the church, desecrating our Metropolitan Cathedral,” it continues. “We condemn these acts of desecration, siege, and intimidation that do not favor the peace and stability of the country.”
The archdiocese of Managua has called on President Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, to take “immediate action” to restore respect to Catholic churches, as well as demanding that the national police “withdraw their troops who raid and intimidate the cathedral and our parishes.”
The Managua cathedral hunger strike was launched in support of a similar hunger strike begun four days earlier at the church of San Miguel Arcángel in the nearby city of Masaya.
On the night of November 14, police and paramilitary units surrounded the church, cutting off its electricity and water service and preventing anyone from entering or leaving. Officials arrested 13 activists and human rights defenders who were trying to take water to the striking mothers of political prisoners.
At a news conference Monday, the opposition coalition Blue and White National Unity (UNAB) called for additional hunger strikes around the country to demand the release of 150 political prisoners.