Rolando Álvarez: the bishop who does not kneel before Ortega and whom civil society defends online

Rolando Álvarez: the bishop who does not kneel before Ortega and whom civil society defends online

Published on 05 Sep 2023

Ortega's persecution also includes the Church

The regime of Daniel Ortega has been furious against Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, located in the north of Nicaragua. It sentenced him to 26 years and four months in prison, stripped him of his Nicaraguan nationality, disqualified him from holding public office, declared him the perpetual loss of his citizenship rights and has tried to banish him, but has not succeeded in breaking him or breaking him. “On my knees only before God,” he has told them.

After a year of his imprisonment, the civil society does not forget the bishop and continues to support him on social media, positioning trends to denounce the abuses against him and the violation of his human rights. International organizations are also calling for his release, and he has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The story of an announced imprisonment

On the morning of August 4, 2022, Bishop Rolando Alvarez left the Curia to complain to the police for preventing the entry of priests, seminarians, choir and faithful. This was the beginning of a process that led to the deprivation of his citizenship rights.

On August 5, the Police issued a statement announcing the initiation of an investigation against Alvarez and a group of 11 people who accompanied him including priests, seminarians, lay people and a cameraman to “determine criminal responsibility” in the commission of “criminal acts”.

In the early morning of August 19, the police burst into the Matagalpa Curia and took prisoner priests José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Eugarrios -first and second vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral, respectively-, Raúl González -Rector of the Juan Pablo II University-, priest Ramiro Tijerino, seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melkin Sequeira and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas. Alvarez was transferred to Managua and kept under house arrest.

According to the police statement, the operation was carried out to recover “normality for the citizens and families of Matagalpa”, since “destabilizing and provocative activities persisted”.

No nationality or citizenship rights

After 116 days under de facto house arrest, on December 13, Bishop Rolando Álvarez was charged with the alleged crimes of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news”.

In February of this year, Bishop Alvarez refused to be deported, for this reason he was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison.

Álvarez was also deprived of his Nicaraguan nationality, disqualified for life from holding public office, and was ordered to lose his citizenship rights for life, in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Civil society responds online

Throughout 2022, ProBox registered 8 trending topics and approximately 18,523 tweets promoted by the Nicaraguan civil society to denounce the persecution by the Ortega regime towards NGOs, Universities, and Churches in the country.

With #SOSNicaragua on May 16, the second consecutive day of threats and harassment by armed civilians who were in the parish of San Juan Bautista de Masaya, in pursuit of Father Harving Padilla in a forced confinement, became digitally visible.

Four days later, on May 20, the label is used again for the persecution of Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, who denounces them and begins a fast so that the police stop “invading his personal circle”, being sheltered in the Church of Esquipulas.

During August 2 of last year, #Sébaco was also positioned due to the closing of the church stations in this city and the violence suffered by riot police to evict the churches of the place.

On August 4, people began blocking the streets of Matagalpa to besiege Monsignor Rolando Álvarez of the Cathedral of San Pedro and the hashtags #Matagalpa and #SOSIglesiaNicaragua were positioned. On August 7 #SOSIglesiaNi was positioned and on August 20 #SOSIglesiaNic in protest of the persecution and after the arrest of the Monsignor on the 19th of the same month.

In 2023 the digital citizen protest continues

During the first half of this year, 7 trends and 6,228 tweets were registered. Among which stands out the hashtag #SOSNicaragua, positioned on January 10 of this year, due to the start of the impeachment trial against Monsignor Álvarez.

Although in August mentions on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter related to the case of Bishop Álvarez multiplied, the highest peak was registered on August 4, when it was one year since he was prevented from leaving the church. The conversation reached 201 mentions, out of a sample of 2,046, equivalent to 10% of the conversation in these networks.

The second peak on the topic was generated on August 19, marking one year since his arrest.

Likewise, in the word cloud created by the mentions collected, in addition to the name of the Bishop and the churches in Nicaragua, others stand out, such as “SOS Nicaragua”, “libertad ya” (freedom now), “persecución iglesia” (persecution church) and “presos políticos” (political prisioners).

This is how the regime tries to divert attention from the bishop’s case

In an attempt to divert public attention from the first year of the bishop’s imprisonment, the regime organized between August 4 and 6, a day of praise and prayer with the Guatemalan pastor Cash Luna, whom the investigation Los Magnates de Dios of Univision, accuses of having alleged links with drug trafficking. Also, two conferences were held in which, in addition to Luna, Pastor Hugo Lopez, also from Guatemala, participated. Luna mentioned that Ortega and Murillo provided him with “the conditions” for his religious journey.

The Minister of Health, Martha Reyes, was in charge of welcoming them. The digital media Divergentes quoted: “The themes that will be shared and experienced in this evangelist crusade, Nights of Glory, will strengthen faith and hope to continue living in a country with freedom of worship, which facilitates the practice and Christian values, which in our families help to a harmonious coexistence and respect among each other”.

Reyes’ words contrast with the Ortega regime’s crusade against a critical sector of the Catholic Church which, in addition to the arrest of Bishop Alvarez and other priests, has included the expulsion of priests and religious orders, the prevention of Nicaraguan priests from entering the country, the closing of Catholic media, Catholic universities and confiscation of property.

On June 27, 2023, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), based in San José, Costa Rica, adopted provisional measures in favor of Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, requiring the State of Nicaragua “to immediately” proceed with his release and adopt the necessary measures to effectively protect his life, health and personal integrity. However, the Nicaraguan State remains in contempt and imposes its will to keep him imprisoned.

For more information on socio-political manipulation on social media, you can follow us everywhere at @ProBoxVE.

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