Protests in Granada, Nicaragua, April 29, 2018. / Riderfoot/Shutterstock.
Managua, Nicaragua, Oct 25, 2021 / 11:11 am (CNA).
The Nicaraguan bishops’ conference called Thursday on citizens to act freely and to vote according to their conscience as the country prepares for a general election next month.
Elections in Nicaragua for president and members of the National Assembly, as well as members of the Central American Parliament, will be held Nov. 7.
The incumbent president, Daniel Ortega, has been in office since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. Ortega’s wife, First Lady Rosario Murillo, is also vice president.
The country’s major opposition party has been barred from the general election.
“Given the situation we live in, each Nicaraguan should decide and act from the interior and inviolable dignity of his conscience, freely, to do what he considers most right and appropriate at this time for Nicaragua,” the Nicaraguan bishops said in an Oct. 21 message.
“As we have expressed on various occasions, an authentic democracy is the fruit of the convinced acceptance of values: the dignity of every person, respect for human rights, the search for the common good as the goal and criterion that regulates political life,” the bishops said.
“If there is no general consensus on these values, the meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised,” they stressed.
The bishops also noted that “state institutions are not secondary in a democratic state, which is only possible with the rule of law, where the exercise of power is subject to the unrestricted observance of the law and is characterized by the independence and separation of the powers of the State.”
“These are, among others, basic and indispensable conditions for the exercise of free, fair and transparent elections,” they said.
“With the heart of pastors,” the bishops continued, “we journey in the midst of the people of God, with their lively voice in the difficult situations that we Nicaraguans are going through; we see, feel and identify with the pain of so many.”
“We are close to the sick, to families broken up by forced migration, to the unemployed, refugees, exiles, to those deprived of their freedom and their families.”
Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas’ 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship, is seeking reelection.
Many opposition candidates have been imprisoned. The Supreme Electoral Council suspended the main opposition party, the Citizens Alliance for Freedom, whose president Kitty Monterrey had to go into exile in Costa Rica. Any demonstration by a political party has also been prohibited.
The regime has arrested journalists, activists, novelists, and businessmen, and more than 100,000 Nicaraguans have emigrated.
According to Spanish daily El País, the United States is demanding the release of all such persons who have been imprisoned and does not recognize the electoral process. The European Union and Latin American countries such as Uruguay have also criticized the current situation.
On Oct. 4, Ortega again attacked the bishops, who have been critical of his government, calling them terrorists.
Protests against Ortega in recent years have led to tensions between some Catholics and supporters of the president.
Backers of Ortega have led actions against some churches.
The protests are part of a crisis which began in April 2018 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protesters were killed by security forces.
Security forces have killed at least 320 protesters, with hundreds more arrested.