This article appeared in La Prensa on Oct 26th. It puts the denouncement of Rafael Valdez of the St Paul Christian Community within the context of an ongoing campaign by the government to discredit the bishops, and one of the most outspoken, Silvio Báez. Here is the other side to the previous post.
Ortega Dictatorship behind the threats against bishop Silvio Báez
Brother of bishop Silvio Báez declares the Ortega Murillo family the “intellectual authors” of the threats against the religious who denounced harassment in his home.
By Emiliano Chamorro Mendieta in La Prensa, Oct 26, 2018
While the US State Department this Thursday warned the regime of Daniel Ortega that “the Church should be protected, not the target of shots”, Mons. Silvio Báez denounced this Thursday that he was being harassed in his home by people on motorcycles in the framework of a campaign of repression, disparagement and harassment that the dictatorship is promoting against him.
Javier Báez, the brother of the Carmelite, blamed “the Ortega Murillo family and their circle of followers for all the death threats” against Silvio Báez.
“I publicly denounce that my brother Mons. Silvio Báez is being harassed by sympathizers of the Ortega dictatorship, motivated by the manipulation of the convictions of Mons. Báez. Now I declare them the intellectual authors of these threats”, denounced the brother of the religious.
For his part, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, said in his Twitter account: “I denounce that I am the victim of a campaign of repression, disparagement and harassment that is made evident not just by manipulated audio recordings, but also by hundreds of messages to my Whatsapp with insults and threats, in addition to people on motorcycles surrounding my home. I will continue committed to my episcopal ministry.”
The presence of motorcycle drivers in the home of Báez is the same tactic of repression and harassment that the dictatorship has been employing to persecute any Nicaraguan who tries to raise their voice against his power and that demands democracy in Nicaragua.
Mons. Silvio Báez, with a doctorate in Sacred Scriptures, who so far has not offered declarations to the communications media, expressed in one of his tweets that he is not responsible for any crime nor conspiracy as the Ortega dictatorship wants to make him seem to be, and stated that very soon he will present the proof and will share it in his social networks and with the communications media.
The threats against the Carmelite religious emerged after the Ortega regime on Tuesday published through their state propaganda apparatus an audio recording for the purpose of framing him in a supposed coup attempt and pressuring him to go into exile or be tried. This action was rejected by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, that expressed their complete support for the religious leader, a critic of the abuses of the dictatorship.
Báez has responded that he will continue in Nicaragua, and will continue being faithful to the ministry that he has been entrusted. “My conscience does not reproach me for anything before God”, stated Báez.
The escalation of violence against priests and bishops of the Catholic Church has been incited by the dictator himself, who last July 19th in a public party event accused the Catholic hierarchy of being behind a coup plan to remove him from power. In addition Ortega stated that the bishops were using the parishes to store weapons and provide refuge to torturers. There Ortega declared war on the Catholic Church.
In spite of the fact that the bishops are mediators and witnesses to the National Dialogue, they also have been victims of the Ortega repression. Last July 9th, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, bishop Báez along with the Apostolic Nuncio and several priests, were physically attacked by mobs and paramilitaries in the San Sebastian Basilica in Diriamba. In that violent scene, Báez ended up wounded in his left arm. In addition to the aggression, the Ortega hordes took his episcopal insignia from him.
In the face of the escalation of violence against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, the ambassador for Religious Freedom of the US State Department demanded from Ortega protection for the Church. “The Church should be protected, not the target of shots”, said the US official Samuel D Brownback. Brownback made these statements in a press conference where he took a position on the situation of religion in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. “This is not an acceptable situation for religious freedom or religious tolerance. It seems that there are people, a number of individuals, shooting at churches, persecuting the churches,” stated Borwnback. “We do not agree with this treatment, the church should be protected, not the target of shots,” added the official from the State Department.
Brownback said that the United States feels “deeply concerned” about the situation in Nicaragua and stated that his government has detected an “increase in persecution” in that country and in Venezuela against the Church.
Concerning the audio recording where the regime tried to incriminate Báez as “coup monger, murderer” as Laureano Ortega, the son of the dictator, called him, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said to Channel 100% Noticias that indeed an audio recording had been made of a private conversation, but that its authenticity has still not been verified.
The ruling party this Thursday once again manipulated the statements of Brenes, by just publicizing the part where the religious admitted that there was a meeting where Báez had participated, but did not put the part where Brenes clarified that they were verifying the authenticity of the recording disseminated by the regime.
In Spain a sound engineer stated to a digital daily that that recording had been manipulated. He pointed out that it was an audio file edited with “important technical errors” that showed the “union and editing of several different recordings” of the voice of the Catholic prelate.
The ex-president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, also spoke out in favor of Báez in her Twitter account. “Let us not allow a tragic action to be done against @silviojbaez, the voice that is most heard denouncing the abuses of the regime of #Nicaragua. Let´s call the attention of the international community”, she said in support.
According to a document that the Saint Paul base community released, where they accused Mons. Báez of promoting hate, the audio was recorded in an encounter that the religious man had with peasants from the Anti-canal Peasant Movement.
Lesner Fonseca, one of the peasant leaders in the area of El Tule, confirmed that indeed they met with Báez and that someone recorded the meeting, but he did not venture to identify the person responsible for the recording and leaking. “I am deeply sad, hurt and sorry for Mons. Báez, with this situation that has happened,” stated Fonseca to La Prensa.
The peasant explained that seven people accompanied him in the entourage, but that the author of the recording was still not investigated.
“For now we cannot reveal the name, it is assumed that we are trustworthy people who met with Mons. But yes, we are investigating, and when the person responsible is found, we are going to expel him from the movement, and we will make his name public,” clarified the peasant.
Mons. Silvio José Báez stated in one of his tweets this Thursday that very soon he will make public the truth of the audio recordings where the regime of Daniel Ortega and his communication media present him as a coup supporter. “Very soon I will present the proof of all this in my social networks and in the communications media,” clarified the Carmelite religious and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua since 2009, after his return to Nicaragua.