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After raising awareness of Pope, Nicaragua’s Ortega calls Church a ‘dictatorship’

Ortega called bishops and priests ‘killers’ and ‘putschists’ working on behalf of ‘US imperialism’

Jairo CAJINA

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Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega on Wednesday called the Catholic Church a “perfect dictatorship” for not allowing members to elect the pope and other figures of authority.

In the Church, “everything is imposed. It’s a perfect dictatorship. It’s a perfect tyranny,” he said, reflecting ongoing tensions between his government and the religious establishment during the 2018 protests. .

“If they want to be democratic, let them start with Catholics voting for the pope, for the cardinals, for the bishops,” Ortega said during a televised speech on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the creation of the Nicaraguan police.

The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has come under increasing pressure from the government since Ortega accused it of supporting protests against his government in 2018. A crackdown on protesters left hundreds dead.

Ortega argues the protests were part of a US-backed opposition plot to overthrow him and accuses the bishops of complicity.

During his Wednesday speech, Ortega called the bishops and priests “killers” and “putschists” working in the name of “American imperialism.”

“I would say respectfully to His Holiness the Pope, to the Catholic authorities – I am a Catholic – as a Christian, I do not feel represented,” he said, referring to the “terrible history” of the Church. .

Ortega has criticized topics ranging from the Inquisition in Spain and South America to the abuse of Indigenous children in Canada.

“We hear (the Church) talk about democracy,” he said, suggesting that the faithful elect representatives to church leadership positions.

Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, stressed earlier this month the importance of “never stopping the dialogue” with Nicaragua.

“There is a dialogue. We are talking with the government,” the pope said. “That doesn’t mean we approve of everything the government does, or that we disapprove of it.”

In his Wednesday speech, Ortega also criticized US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols and the Chilean government, whose President Gabriel Boric recently criticized the Nicaraguan president for human rights abuses.

Earlier Wednesday, a diplomatic source said Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada notified European Union Ambassador to Managua Bettina Muscheidt of his expulsion, although Ortega did not mention it. in his speech.

The EU and US have imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials for the past four years, citing human rights abuses.

Tension between the Catholic Church and Nicaragua increased in March when Managua expelled the Vatican’s ambassador to the country.

In August, a government-critical bishop, Rolando Alvarez, was placed under house arrest for what police called “destabilizing and provocative” activities, prompting concern from Pope Francis and condemnation from the United States.

At least four priests and two seminarians were also arrested, but police did not specify the charges against them.

It came after a group of nuns were forced out of the country in July when their order, the Missionaries of Charity, was banned.

Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, after guerrillas ousted US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza.

Since returning to power in 2007, he has become increasingly authoritarian and has rolled back presidential term limits.