Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa
Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2023 / 09:35 am (CNA).
Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos has been sent back to prison Wednesday after negotiations between the Nicaraguan bishops and the government of dictator Daniel Ortega broke down, Nicaraguan news sources reported.
According to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Álvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, in Managua, was released on Monday but returned to custody Wednesday, July 5 after he refused to comply with the Ortega regime’s demand that he go into exile.
Following reports from Nicaraguan media and human rights activists that he was released from “Modelo Prison” on Monday night, Álvarez, an outspoken critic of the communist Ortega dictatorship, has been returned to captivity.
Since his Monday release Álvarez has been sheltered at the headquarters of the Nicaraguan Bishops Conference (Conferencia Episcopal de Nicaragua, CEN) in the nation’s capital city Managua, according to Reuters.
On July 5, the Nicaraguan news agency “Divergentes” reported that CEN and the Vatican were negotiating with the Ortega government on Álvarez’s behalf.
Nicaraguan human rights activist Bianca Jagger said in a July 4 tweet that she was informed the regime intended to exile Álvarez to Rome.
Álvarez refused to be exiled unless ordered to do so by the pope, according to exiled Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez of the Archdiocese of Managua.
In a July 5 statement, Báez said that Álvarez had told him “he would not leave Nicaragua for any reason unless the Pope ordered him to do so.”
“He added that it was a decision he made in conscience before God. Thus, there is nothing to negotiate,” Báez said. “I know Rolando and he would never bargain away a decision of conscience that he made.”
After speaking out against Ortega’s ever-escalating persecution of the Catholic Church, Álvarez, 56, was arrested in 2022 and subsequently sentenced on Feb. 10 after refusing to board a plane carrying 222 political dissidents, including four priests, who were flown to the U.S. in an agreement with the State Department.
Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years and 4 months in prison on treason charges and had his Nicaraguan citizenship revoked.
Under the dictatorship of Ortega and his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo, hundreds of Nicaraguans, including priests and religious, have been arbitrarily arrested and deported, Church assets and property have been seized, and religious freedom has been greatly restricted.
In March, after Pope Francis strongly criticized the Ortega regime, likening it to Hitler Germany, the dictatorship closed the Holy See’s embassy to Nicaragua, officially cutting off all diplomatic ties with the Vatican.