The Ortega and Murillo regime freezes the bank accounts of the Nicaraguan Catholic Church | International

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On the morning of this Friday, May 26, a priest from a church in the colonial city of Granada, the former capital of Nicaragua, went to the bank to withdraw money from his parish bank account. The cashier informed him that she could not give him money because the accounts had been blocked. Hours later, various ecclesial sources reported that the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo ordered the banks to freeze the accounts of all the nine dioceses of the country, as part of the onslaught that the regime is maintaining against Catholicism.

The COUNTRY was able to directly corroborate the freezing of the accounts of the Diocese of Managua, one of the main ones in the country, and whose most visible face is Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes. The cardinal held an emergency meeting with his priests after learning of the blockade of the assets, which includes the dioceses and their parishes. This newspaper also directly confirmed the blocking of the accounts of the Diocese of Matagalpa, in the north of the country; and that of León and Chinandega, in the west.

One of the parish priests of Chinandega notified the faithful of his parish on Thursday night to refrain from transferring the payment of some pastoral books to the parish accounts due to the blocking of bank accounts.

As happened with several of the 94 people stripped of their nationality by the Ortega-Murillo regime last February, the banks proceeded to block the accounts of the dioceses and parishes without informing customers about it. Until the publication of this article, the banks are completely silent.

Church sources told EL PAÍS that the freezing of the accounts may be related to the recent arrest on Thursday of this week of priest Jaime Iván Montecinos Sauceda, from the municipality of Sébaco, accused of the political crime of "undermining national sovereignty." Montecinos belongs to the Diocese of Matagalpa, one of the hardest hit by religious persecution, to the point that its bishop, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, was sentenced to 26 years in prison in February. And also the priests Eugenio Rodríguez and Leonardo Guevara, from Nueva Segovia and the Estelí Cathedral, respectively, were transferred to the police to submit them to “investigations”.

“Freezing the accounts is a serious blow to the church, because it also has commitments to pay. Even houses of formation are being affected, where there are forms to pay, receipts for basic services and other expenses," lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina, author of a study entitled Nicaragua, a persecuted church. The study shows that in 2022 Catholics suffered 161 attacks, including desecration of temples, arrests, stripping of nationality, exile of priests and police harassment. So far in 2023, more than 3,000 processions have been prohibited, especially during Holy Week. This has been the period of greatest religious persecution documented since the social outbreak of April 2018. In total, the regime has 529 attacks against bishops, temples and lay people.

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"They seek to confiscate temples"

A human rights defense lawyer said on condition of anonymity that the Ortega-Murillos are preparing the prelude to confiscate the temples in Nicaragua, just as they have done with other properties managed by Catholicism, such as associations and universities. “They can do the same thing they did with the Nicaraguan Red Cross: annul it, confiscate it and transfer its assets to the property of the State. That is, a church tailored to dictators; one that does not criticize, or in the worst case, ban the exercise of the Catholic religion in the country”, said the jurist exiled in Costa Rica.

Months after the freezing of the bank accounts of the Catholic Church, the lawyer Molina warned that one of the next repressive patterns would be the confiscation of Catholic property. Molina reported that up to then seven buildings have been confiscated and 32 nuns from various congregations have been expelled from the country. The jurist's report notes that a total of 13 Catholic-run media outlets have been closed, ten NGOs were forced to close due to legal and technical impediments caused by the authorities of the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Interior. Also, six other social projects were closed.

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