Bishop asks Nicaraguans not to take justice into their own hands

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 2, 2019 / 06:37 pm (CNA).- Bishop Silvio José Báez, auxiliary of Managua, Nicaragua, called on people of the country not to take justice into their own hands, following violence last week by paramilitary and police forces against peaceful protectors.

“With violence we kill the future, and when there are people who pick up a rifle to take away another’s life, they are tearing away a piece of Nicaragua’s future,” Báez said during Mass on Sunday at St. Joseph’s church in the Sabana Grande area.

“But take care, neither should we fall into the temptation of wanting to take justice into our own hands,” he continued. “We would be entering into a spiral of violence in which we would all perish. The price of pain and death would be very high, we have to avoid that.”

Anti-government protests in Nicaragua began in April 2018. They resulted in more than 300 deaths, and the country’s bishops mediated on-again, off-again peace talks until they broke down in June.

A new round of dialogue began Feb. 27 at the INCAE Business School in Managua.

On March 30, paramilitaries and police attacked a group of people who were demonstrating against the government. One paramilitary member entered the local shopping center and began shooting protesters. The local press reported there were at least three wounded.

The incident occurred after accords signed March 29 between the government and the opposition Civic Alliance allowed for peaceful protest.

The police justified their actions in a statement blaming “violent groups” that had invaded “private property” and “disrupted the public order.” However, the Civic Alliance denounced the “new repression” and asserted that the regime had violated the accords.

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the archbishop of Managua, lamented the violence in a March 30 press release. He called on the faithful to pray diligently for peace in the country.

Regarding the accords, Bishop Báez said “the documents which stipulate the agreements are pieces of paper which have no life. We have to give them life ourselves with political will, personal integrity, and the responsibility of fulfilling what was agreed upon.”

Meanwhile, debate continues over the fate of hundreds of political prisoners in the country.

The Blue and White National Unity opposition group called for “flash pickets” and honking car horns this week to “blow the whistle” and demand from the government justice and freedom for the prisoners.

The AP reported March 29 that the government had agreed to the “definitive” release of hundreds of people considered political prisoners and the cancellation of judicial proceedings against them. The International Committee of the Red Cross is to facilitate the release and propose to both parties an updated list of prisoners.

Nicaragua’s crisis began last year after President Daniel 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 protestors were killed by security forces.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega’s authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.


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