In Nicaragua, Ortega’s Crackdown on the Catholic Church Takes a New Turn

In Nicaragua, Ortega’s Crackdown on the Catholic Church Takes a New Turn
Nicaraguan Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes arrives during Holy Thursday celebrations before Mass outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, April 6, 2023 (AP photo by Inti Ocon).

The images are bewildering. A group of men wearing long tunics, carrying large crosses, are running frantically down the street, trying to stay ahead of the police officers giving chase.

This is not a scene from a movie, but rather Holy Week in Nicaragua, where the faithful in the small town of Nindiri tried to hold a procession last week ahead of Easter Sunday. This might seem utterly uncontroversial in a deeply Catholic country. But Nicaragua is a Catholic country like no other. Amid ever worsening relations with the Church, President Daniel Ortega announced in February that his government was banning most public celebrations of Easter.

Friction between the increasingly dictatorial Ortega and the Church is not new. But tense relations are reaching a boiling point, putting the devout in the middle of a power struggle between two mighty forces.

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