The World Today for April 07, 2023


Taking Out the Trash


Nicaraguan officials recently aired a prison interview with Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who in February was sentenced to more than 36 years in prison on charges of treason. Critics said the interview was staged to deflate criticism of the cleric’s conviction.

Álvarez is now living in a prison known as “La Modelo,” reported the Catholic News Agency. Human rights activists have said the prison suffers from overcrowding, inadequate medical care, violent guards, poisoned food and other problems.

The bishop had declined to live in exile in the US rather than face what critics say is twisted justice at home, the Washington Post editorial board wrote, describing him as a political dissident on a par with the men of the cloth who challenged communist leaders during the Cold War. Álvarez has become an outspoken critic of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s environmental and human rights policies, especially a new tactic for getting rid of undesirables: Throwing them out of the country.

Ortega recently cast out more than 200 political prisoners from the Central American country, flying them to the US after repealing their Nicaraguan citizenship, wrote Reuters.

Ortega, 77, rose to power as a leader of the leftist Sandinista guerrilla movement that overthrew the autocratic Somoza family dynasty in the late 1970s. After winning and losing the presidency, Ortega won office again in 2007 and has been consecutively reelected three times since. His wife, Rosario Murillo, is his vice president.

A notorious human rights abuser with dictatorial tendencies, Ortega has been accused of committing crimes against humanity, according to the United Nations. “They have been weaponizing the justice system, weaponizing the legislative function, weaponizing the executive function of the State against the population,” said Jan Simon, chair of the UN’s Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua.

A die-hard socialist, Ortega also has close ties to Russia and China. His critics say he’s committed to creating a “tropical North Korea,” El País reported. Press freedom is seriously compromised. Only half of Nicaraguans enjoy access to the Internet, and it’s limited. Political opponents are harassed, jailed or run out of the country, claimed Foreign Policy magazine. Even rock bands who sing protest songs run the risk of attracting the police, added Divergentes, a Spanish-language news website, translated in WorldCrunch.

Pope Francis has compared Ortega’s regime to the Nazis, prompting the Nicaraguan leader to propose suspending relations with the Catholic Church. The pontiff responded by closing the Vatican’s embassy in the capital of Managua, the Associated Press reported.

Ortega doesn’t care about dissidents, human rights, the afterlife or the Church. He’s content with being a law unto himself, as Confidencial noted, even offering himself forgiveness.

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