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The silent resistance of Bishop Rolando Álvarez,

who for eleven months refused to be banished by the dictatorship

Bishop Rolando Alvarez's refusal to be part of the massive banishment of 222 Nicaraguans ordered by the dictatorship in February 2023, cost him eleven months in prison, harassment and isolation. However, his spiritual resistance exposed the false accusations against him and the regime's political hypocrisy, which could not break the bishop

By Divergentes (@DivergentesCA)

8 de febrero 2024

When the 222 political prisoners banished by the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship boarded the plane provided by the United States on the morning of February 9, 2023, among the dozens of questions that exploded in their heads about their future and their families, one question stood out: Where was Bishop Rolando Álvarez?

That day, Bishop Alvarez did not even arrive at the Managua International Airport. He had been deprived of his freedom in the early morning of August 19, 2022, when a police squad of the regime kidnapped him, along with other religious people, after breaking into the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa. He had become the dictatorship's most important political prisoner.

Bishop Alvarez was taken to a guarded house, and the rest of the priests and people were sent to the Judicial Assistance Directorate (DAJ), known as El Chipote.

The mystery about Bishop Alvarez's whereabouts was clarified by Daniel Ortega himself on the day of the banishment of the 222 political prisoners, in an appearance in which he criticized the bishop, whom he did not even refer to using his name or position in the Catholic Church, but called him the "Alvarez guy". 

"He was standing in line and got to the steps and started saying that he was not leaving. That first he would have to meet with the bishops and demand a meeting. I don't know what this man is thinking. That in the face of a decision of the Nicaraguan State, he will not comply. A resolution of a court of justice that is sending him to leave the country. He says he will not comply", said the dictator.

The political prisoners, now free on US territory, revealed that in reality, Bishop Alvarez was never seen at the airport terminal. What became known later, which was not mentioned by Ortega in his speech, is that after refusing the banishment, the dictator, in an act of rage, directly sent him to La Modelo prison, to lock him up in a maximum security cell, known as El Infiernillo (The Little Hellhole) by the prisoners.


The dictator's frustration became evident as he continued with his twisted story. He said that Alvarez was now "irritated, because now he is in an actual prison". He also stated that the religious man "was angry" and that is why he did not comply with "the decision by the Nicaraguan authorities". 

He added that Alvarez had "arrogant" behavior and considered himself the head of the Church in Nicaragua. "He is unhinged. He arrived at La Modelo as a madman (...) He does not accept that they put him in a cell where there are hundreds of prisoners", said the dictator.

From that day on, Bishop Rolando Alvarez began a silent resistance to the dictatorship's constant outrages and abuses. He was tried and sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison with no right to defense.

He only learned of his sentence on March 25, 2023, during a family visit scheduled by the regime to display him before the propaganda media.

Five times he was presented by the dictatorship's propaganda, in an attempt to alleviate the national and international pressure demanding his unconditional freedom, during the time he was imprisoned. 

While the regime continued to imprison and banish church members, Bishop Alvarez remained strong. Visibly thinner, he was always calm and polite to the the dictatorship's operators who participated in the farce organized by the regime.

Finally, as a result of direct negotiations between the Vatican and the dictatorship, on January 14, 2024, Bishop Alvarez joined a new group of 18 priests banished by the dictatorship. The number of religious men and women victims of this repressive measure by Ortega's regime is now over 203.

He was last seen in the Vatican, free and smiling, doing what he likes best, officiating mass, as part of his religious work. In the words of Bishop Silvio Baez, when he excitedly announced Bishop Alvarez's release, "the criminal dictatorship of Ortega and Murillo have not been able to defeat the power of God".