Church in Central America urges rulers to work for justice, rule of law

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ROSARIO, Argentina – As President Daniel Orega continues his crackdown on Nicaraguan’s freedoms, the Catholic bishops continue to speak up, while in Costa Rica, the bishops call for unity during the national elections. 

Nicaragua

Simon Bolivar, the 19th century independence leader known as El Libertador in Latin America, used to say that “an ignorant people is a blind instrument of its own destruction.”

Instead of heeding this as a warning, Ortega is putting the idea to use. Continuing his crackdown on the opposition, he has closed 14 universities and NGOs, most of which have ties with the Catholic Church, or intellectuals who have been critical of the regime.

The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Baez, said that Ortega intends to “strengthen irrational power, subjugate the people, and rob the youth of their future” by demanding the closure of private higher education centers and those linked to the Catholic Church.

“Neglecting the quality of education, preventing critical thinking and taking over universities are means to strengthen irrational power, subjugate the people and rob them of their future,” he wrote on Twitter after the cancellation of the legal status of universities last Thursday.

Although it particularly affects young people, sources consulted by Crux confirm that this is a new attack against the Catholic Church. Despite being subjected to attacks from the regime, the bishops are among the few opponents who can speak out without being imprisoned.

The latest move impacts mostly the diocese of Esteli, historically among the most critical against the government. Projects that will be forced to close include an association of parochial schools, an agricultural institute, a Catholic cultural association, the diocesan justice and peace commission and the diocesan chapter of Caritas. The Universidad Católica Agropecuaria del Trópico Seco also lost its legal status.

The country’s Interior Ministry said in a report that the targeted universities and non-profit organizations thwarted oversight attempts by the government, failed to adequately disclose financial details and did not identify their directors, according to Nicaraguan daily La Prensa

Ten days ago Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s wife and Nicaragua’s vice president, said the bishops “are backward retards,” who use the Word of God “twisted for their own benefit.”

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Managua issued a Feb. 4 statement, in which they call on Christians to “live the realities with faith and hope in God” in the midst of a dark and discouraging panorama due to the serious economic and social problems that “afflict Nicaraguans.”

They also write they trust God will enlighten the minds and touch the hearts of all Nicaraguans, “especially the authorities who can have an impact on the solution of these problems.”

The Justice and Peace Commission also claimed that the positive figures issued by financial entities in the country do not match reality, which includes “uncontrolled” inflation and a majority of families facing unemployment, lack of food and medical assistance, and social and legal insecurity.

“Although we read about positive macroeconomic data, the family microeconomy of the majority of the people does not perceive this reality, providing the increase in migration of Nicaraguan compatriots,” reads the document.

During his Sunday homily, Baez, who is now living in Miami, said that there are also failures in the struggle to build just and democratic societies. He said too high a price has been paid in human lives – in suffering, in exile, in poverty – and there comes a moment “when everything can seem useless to us.” 

The “nothingness” of emptiness, which eats away at the heart, and “the night”, which terrifies with its darkness, can “weaken the noblest social struggles,” he said. When the dark forces of “tyrannical powers” seem to triumph, it is easy to succumb to the temptation to accept subjugation and feel “defeated.”

However, he warned, the worst thing that can happen to a people is to think that nothing can be done anymore: “If we trust in Jesus, something can always be done. Sooner or later new horizons of freedom will open up for subjugated peoples.”

Costa Rica

The former president of Costa Rica, the centrist José María Figueres, and former World Bank official, center-right Rodrigo Chaves, made it to the second round of the presidential elections, scheduled for April 3, according to preliminary official results of Sunday’s first round elections.

Figueres, 67, led a turbulent and unpopular government from 1994-1998, but now extols that he paved the way for Costa Rica’s current technology industry by bringing in microprocessor giant Intel in 1997.

On Sunday, during his morning Mass, the Archbishop of San Jose, José Rafael Quirós, centered his homily in the Gospel’s priority towards the poor, and also the thousands of Costa Rican families that are perishing due to the pandemic.

“Undoubtedly, the new governors must respond to the fiscal problem, but with social justice and solidarity,” said the prelate, who pointed out the great differences in income in the country.

Quirós asked those in power to “fix their gaze on the poor and needy”, on the farmers who today are “suffocated in their debts” and not to forget that “all capital has an enormous social debt.”

Among the faithful were three presidential candidates, including Figueres.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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