WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Eric Schmitt sent a letter to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain regarding Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega’s widespread religious persecution and specifically, the unjust arrest and sentencing of Bishop Rolando Álvarez:
“In recent years, the Nicaraguan government has continually persecuted the Catholic community with repeated targeting, harassment, and human rights violations simply because of their religious beliefs. This includes banning more than 1,000 Catholic processions during Lent and Easter, expelling two congregations of nuns – including the Missionaries of Charity order founded by Mother Teresa – from the country, and closing the Catholic charity Caritas,” the letter reads. “The actions by the Ortega regime to arrest and sentence Bishop Álvarez – along with its widespread religious persecution of the Catholic community – are unequivocally inhumane and antithetical to the moral, ethical, and legal standards held by the United States and international community as a whole.”
- On August 4, 2022, police prevented Rolando Álvarez, Bishop of the Matagalpa Diocese, from leaving his home to celebrate mass. This incident followed Álvarez’s criticism of the Ortega regime’s closure of several Catholic radio stations and its abysmal human rights record.
- Álvarez remained under de facto house arrest as authorities investigated him for allegedly “organizing violent groups” and encouraging them “to carry out acts of hate against the population.”
- On August 19, 2022, police arrested Álvarez at his residence, and on February 10, 2023, he was sentenced to 26 years in prison after he declined to be exiled to the United States.
- Álvarez was reportedly convicted of several charges, including treason, undermining national integrity, and spreading false news. He was also fined and stripped of his citizenship.