Nicaragua sues newspaper for reporting expulsion of nuns

MEXICO CITY — After ordering the expulsion of the Missionaries of Charity established by Mother Teresa, the Nicaraguan government is now going after one of the few local newspapers that dared to report the expulsion of the nuns.

Two drivers of the independent newspaper La Prensa were jailed and police searched the homes of two reporters, according to a newspaper employee.

Journalists had covered the Thursday expulsion of 18 nuns from the Missionaries of Charity after the government of President Daniel Ortega ordered the organization to close in late June.

This came amid a crackdown by Ortega’s government on opponents and nearly all civic organizations not allied with his regime.

The La Prensa employee, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons, said on Friday that the two drivers were taken to the notorious El Chipote prison, where many political figures are detained and media.

The government has imprisoned nearly 190 people considered political prisoners by human rights groups and the US State Department, including seven people who may have challenged Ortega for president when he was re-elected last November. .

Renata Holmann, daughter of imprisoned La Prensa director Juan Lorenzo Holmann, said Thursday that her father suffered from chronic illnesses and additional health problems acquired in prison since his arrest last August.

Holmann was arrested when police raided and took over La Prensa’s offices. He was later sentenced to nine years in prison for alleged money laundering – a charge often leveled against government opponents or journalists.

The closure of the local branch of the Missionaries of Charity brought to 758 the number of non-governmental organizations closed in Nicaragua over the past four years. The government says the groups have failed to comply with the 2020 requirement to register as “foreign agents”.

While Ortega began by canceling groups he saw as having links to the opposition, the government now seems determined to wipe the landscape of any organization it doesn’t control.

The Missionaries of Charity had been in Nicaragua for 34 years, running a children’s center, a girls’ home, and a facility for the elderly. The missionaries provided children with music and drama lessons as well as vocational training for child victims of violence.

The closures targeted a wide range of groups, including the Pediatric Society, the Nicaraguan Development Institute, the Confederation of Nicaraguan Professional Associations, and the Nicaraguan Internet Association.

The Cocibolca Equestrian Center, the Rotary Club of the western town of Leon and the Operation Smile Association which funded free surgeries for children with cleft lip and palate were also already closed until it was canceled in March. A prominent businessman associated with this group had taken part in anti-government protests in 2018.

Many organizations were dedicated to helping the most marginalized people in an impoverished country.

Ortega has accused nongovernmental groups of working on behalf of foreign interests to destabilize his government.

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