Source: Nicaraguan Catholic Bishops Conference
The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has strongly condemned an attack by pro-government paramilitaries on three leading members of the local church. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Central American nation and the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Jose Silvio Baez were beaten up yesterday (Monday 9 July) by pro-government paramilitaries.
The attack took place as the three prelates, priests and a delegation of journalists arrived outside the San Sebastian Basilica in Diriamba, south of the Nicaraguan capital to help anti-government protesters trapped inside the besieged church.
Bishop Silvio Jose Baez was punched in the stomach, sustained an injury to his arm and his pectoral cross was snatched from him during the melee. One of the priests accompanying the Bishops had his mobile phone stolen from him whilst some of the journalists were also punched and shoved and had their equipment stolen. A message posted afterwards by the Nicaraguan Catholic Bishops Conference condemned the violence and reiterated that the Bishops were standing on the side of the suffering people in the nation.
Tensions have been rising in Nicaragua since the government announced cuts to social security in mid-April. The changes were quickly reversed but daily street protests took on a wider call for President Daniel Ortega to step down. More than 250 people have been killed in violence.
On Saturday, President Ortega announced that he would not move up elections scheduled for 2021. Bringing forward the date of the elections had been one of the requests made by the Nicaraguan Catholic Bishops in their role as mediators between the government and the opposition.