Posted: Sunday, May 28, 2023. 9:26 am CST.
By Breaking Belize News Staff: As tensions rise between Nicaragua’s government and the Catholic Church, recent reports from Reuters reveal that several dioceses are under investigation by local authorities over accusations of money laundering. This development comes after local media reported the freezing of numerous bank accounts associated with parishes across the nation.
Loyalists of President Daniel Ortega’s government, specifically the police, stated that they have uncovered substantial sums of money – in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – in numerous church facilities since May 19.
The police confirmed “the illegal extraction of resources from bank accounts which had been mandated by law to be frozen,” according to an official statement. This comes amidst the Ortega-led government’s growing antagonism towards the Catholic Church since the 2018 anti-government protests, where nearly 360 lives were lost, a result of what human rights organizations have dubbed as police repression.
The Nicaraguan government has pointed fingers at the bishops, who acted as mediators in the negotiations between the government and protestors, accusing them of a coup attempt.
According to the police, the frozen bank accounts were tied to religious personalities previously convicted of treason and other crimes. The investigation has also shed light on the irregular introduction of these funds into the country.
Moreover, the police noted that they have unearthed additional illicit activities, currently under investigation, linked to an exposed money laundering network operating in various departments’ dioceses.
“People have their bank accounts here, this is how they carried out their work,” Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes commented on news website despacho505.com. He added that the situation is currently being analyzed, and further information would be provided after a meeting of bishops.
Since the 2018 protests, the government, under Ortega’s leadership, has adopted a rigorous approach towards the Church, incarcerating and deporting clerics, imposing bans on religious ceremonies and pilgrimages, and closing down facilities run by nuns, including nursing homes and soup kitchens.
In a remarkable development last February, Bishop Rolando Alvarez, an outspoken critic of the government, received a 26-year prison sentence for treason and cybercrimes, following his refusal to leave the country amidst the deportation of 222 political prisoners.
The deported prisoners were immediately denationalized, among them six priests from Alvarez’s diocese who had earlier been found guilty of similar offenses.
Ortega’s government cut ties with the Vatican in March, shortly after Pope Francis drew a parallel between Ortega’s administration and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship.
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