Nicaragua´s Catholic Church says priest detained as crackdown intensifies

By Thomson Reuters Aug 15, 2022 | 12:15 PM

(Reuters) – A Nicaraguan Catholic priest from a northern parish was detained after celebrating Mass, the Church said, amid rising tensions between the church and the government of President Daniel Ortega.

The diocese of Siuna, around 185 miles (300 km) northeast of Managua, said in a statement on Sunday evening that priest Oscar Benavidez had been detained.

“We do not know the causes or motives for his detention, and we hope the authorities will keep us informed,” it said.

The government has shut down Catholic radio stations and banned religious processions. Nicaragua´s Catholic Church has previously acted as a mediator between the government and opponents, but relations have deteriorated since a violent crackdown against anti-Ortega protests in 2018, with tensions growing further in recent months.

Rolando Alvarez, the Bishop of Matagalpa and a government critic, has been under house arrest for over 10 days and is under investigation by the government for alleged conspiracy.

Neither the police nor the government immediately responded to a request for comment about the weekend’s detention.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said, citing unnamed sources, that the priest had been taken out of his vehicle and into a patrol car to an unknown destination.

(Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Alistair Bell)