The Vatican has expressed “surprise and pain” at Nicaragua’s expulsion of the papal nuncio, which comes at a time of mounting pressure on opposition figures in the Central American country.
MEXICO CITY — The Vatican on Saturday expressed “surprise and pain” at Nicaragua’s expulsion of the papal nuncio, which comes at a time of mounting pressure on opposition figures in the Central American country.
The church said in a statement that Nicaragua‘s action against Polish Bishop. Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag was “serious and unjustified”.
He said the action was “incomprehensible” because Sommertag “has worked tirelessly for the good of the Church and the people of Nicaragua,” while “always seeking to promote good relations” between the Vatican and the Nicaraguan authorities.
He noted that he served as an official witness during government talks with the opposition.
The Vatican office in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, announced Monday that Sommertag had left the country on March 6, but did not specify why. His place was taken by the charge d’affaires, Mgr. Marcel Mbaye Diouf.
The government made no statement on the departure of the nuncio.
Sommertag arrived in Managua in 2018 amid a wave of protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega. At least 328 people were killed, 2,000 injured, hundreds arrested and 88,000 fled into exile, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Ortega had tried to maintain cordial relations with the Roman Catholic Church years before the protests, but those ties increasingly soured afterward.
The nuncio participated in mediation efforts in the conflict and secured the release of detained opposition figures.
Late last year, a relative of 46 detained opposition figures asked Sommertag to intercede with Ortega, but that effort came to nothing.
In a November interview with The Associated Press, Sommertag said his office had not received a formal request to intervene, but said it had worked “on behalf of the most vulnerable, among inmates of all categories, including political ones”.
“I think intercession is more than just and necessary…” he said. “But in the end, we know very well that things depend on the government.”
Ortega’s government intensified its crackdown on opposition leaders ahead of last year’s presidential elections, arresting potential candidates against him as well as dozens of prominent journalists, leaders of nongovernmental organizations and other reviews.
On Friday, a judge convicted journalist Cristiana Chamorro, a potential presidential candidate and daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro – who beat Ortega in an election in 1990 – for money laundering and other crimes.
The Confidencial news site, run by Cristiana Chamorro’s brother, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, reported that she, two members of her mother’s foundation, a driver, as well as a former lawmaker and another Chamorro brother, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, were all sentenced on Friday after a seven-day trial.
Ortega targeted nongovernmental organizations in Nicaragua, cutting off their foreign funding, seizing their offices, and rescinding their charters. He alleged that they were working with foreign interests who wanted to see him removed from office.
Cristiana Chamorro, 68, was previously editor-in-chief of La Prensa, Nicaragua’s largest newspaper. His father, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro had been its editor until his assassination in 1978.