Nicaraguan government closes 6 religious radio stations
MEXICO — Nicaraguan authorities on Monday ordered the closure of six radio stations owned by the Roman Catholic Church and surrounded one with riot police, church officials said.
The Reverend Rolando Álvarez, bishop of the northern province of Matagalpa, said during Mass that he had received a letter from telecommunications agency Telcor informing him of the closures.
Álvarez called the decision an “injustice” and urged Telcor’s manager to show legality.
The bishop has been one of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s most vocal critics in the church. He has called for the release of prisoners, including a number of political opposition leaders, and earlier this year went on a hunger strike to protest what he called “police persecution” in against him.
Álvarez also said on Monday that police occupied the parish house of Sebaco, where one of the radio stations operated. Sebaco is about 65 miles north of Managua.
The Diocese of Matagalpa denounced the occupation in a statement. He said the parish priest, Reverend Uriel Vallejos, also a government critic, was inside the house.
“We want to make it clear that if they affect one of our priests, they affect the entire diocese of Matagalpa,” the statement said.
Vallejos called on the faithful to come to the parish house to protect him.
“I am besieged; the police have broken the locks of the chapel to enter where the (radio) equipment must take him,” he wrote. “The police are attacking the worshipers who are inside the school (next door).”
The government has not publicly commented on the radio station closures. In recent months, Ortega’s government has shut down more than 1,000 nongovernmental groups.
In November, Ortega won a fourth consecutive term after blocking potential opponents in an election that foreign governments called a farce. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on members of his government and members of his family.
Ortega has argued that the huge street protests in 2018 were an attempt to forcibly remove him with international support. His government systematically prosecuted opposition figures and organizations considered critical.