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A Catholic priest negotiates with police outside the San Miguel Arcangel Church in Masaya, Nicaragua Father Edwin Roman attempts to convince the police to allow relatives of imprisoned and dead anti-government demonstrators to enter the San Miguel Arcangel Church in Masaya, Nicaragua, Nov. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Alfredo Zuniga).

Catholic Churches Are Caught in the Crossfire of Nicaragua’s Political Crisis

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019

A string of recent attacks on churches in Nicaragua, where anti-government protesters have held hunger strikes to demand the release of political prisoners, shows how President Daniel Ortega continues to violently suppress dissent, more than a year after putting down a popular uprising. Catholic churches and cathedrals have become new sites of protest for Nicaraguans still pushing for their political rights despite a government crackdown that has included outlawing public demonstrations.

On Nov. 18, an armed mob of pro-government supporters stormed the main cathedral in Managua, the capital, where seven mothers of political prisoners were waging a hunger strike to protest their detention. There are as many as 150 political prisoners in custody in Nicaragua, according to opposition activists, though Ortega’s government denies holding any. Earlier this year, the government said it released all the prisoners who had been detained during last year’s protests. After forcing its way into the cathedral, the mob scuffled with a priest and nun and committed “acts of desecration,” according to the archdiocese of Managua. The next day, the hunger strikers evacuated the cathedral “for reasons of security,” as one of them, Dulce Briceno, said in a video posted online. ...

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