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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (ChurchMilitant.com) - A mob of dozens of pro-Sandinista activists stormed the most important Catholic church in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, pummeling a priest and a nun and desecrating the sacristy.
The mob sieged the Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción de María and assaulted people inside, including cathedral vicar Fr. Rodolfo López and Sr. Arelys Guzmán, a religious sister who is part of the cathedral community. Until about 7 p.m., the mobs destroyed part of the cathedral and invaded the sacristy, the baths and other places of the same, reportedly in search of weapons.
The activists sought to interrupt a hunger strike carried out by several mothers of political prisoners being held by the oppressive regime of President Daniel Ortega, who were protesting peacefully inside the Church.
#BREAKING: Reports surfacing that Marxist “militants” entered the #Catholic Cathedral in #Managua, Nicaragua—desecrating it in a similar way to what has been reported in #Chile.— Bree A Dail (@breeadail) November 19, 2019
Video shows a mob beating a priest inside the Cathedral.#CatholicTwitter pic.twitter.com/B9IhfTCIUQ
The mothers had launched their hunger strike a day earlier to demand the release of their children by Christmas. The women also sought to show solidarity with a hunger strike that had begun days earlier at San Miguel Arcángel church in Masaya, a town about 25 kilometers away. Father Edwin Roman, pastor of San Miguel, attempted to convince the police to allow parishioners into the church, but to no avail.
The two hunger strikes brought to a head tensions between Nicaragua's authoritarian government and the Catholic parish. In both cases, the police blocked parishioners' attempts to give water to those participating in the hunger strikes. Independent media reported police stood by idly as the mob moved into the cathedral.
The archdiocese of Managua posted videos of the siege and issued an official statement informing "all the people of God" of the incident.
"This afternoon violent government-sponsored groups entered and took control of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua," the statement reads. "Confronted by Father Rodolfo López and Sister Arelys Guzmán, these people responded with violence by beating the priest and the sister, who are all right but had to leave the church to seek shelter."
"Also, tonight members of this same group broke the locks of the bell tower and other padlocks of the church, desecrating our Metropolitan Cathedral," it continues. "We condemn these acts of desecration, siege, and intimidation that do not favor the peace and stability of the country."
The archdiocese of Managua also called on President Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to take "immediate action" to restore respect to Catholic churches, as well as demanding that the national police "withdraw their troops who raid and intimidate the cathedral and our parishes."
After Nicaragua's bishops expressed "profound worry" about the siege of the churches, Murillo criticized "those who claim to speak in the name of the faith." She called them "repugnant wolves who spread hatred."
Students shouting "Respect the Church" demonstrated at the Central American University in Managua on Tuesday during the siege and threw water and dirt at police blocking the entrance.
The Church has tried to play a mediating role between Ortega's Sandinista government and protesters who have increasingly demanded his resignation, but it nonetheless finds itself increasingly targeted by Ortega and his communist backers.
The Trump administration recently imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguan officials accused of human rights abuses, election fraud and corruption on Nov. 7. One of the officials is Ramon Antonio Avellan Medal, deputy director of the Nicaraguan National Police.
Hundreds of Nicaraguans have been killed and jailed and thousands forced into exile since the bloody protests against Ortega and his wife erupted in April 2018. Protestors look at Ortega and his paramilitary as assassins. Ortega officials have labeled opposition protesters "terrorists" and consider the demonstrators to be coup plotters.
The Catholic Church represents perhaps the strongest independent institution remaining in Nicaragua, which has been ruled by Ortega and his Sandinista Party since 2007. His government has grown more authoritarian over the years, cracking down violently when nationwide protests erupted in April 2018 calling for his resignation. Father Edwin has said that Ortega, the man who deposed a dictator, has now become a dictator himself.
The attack on the Nicaraguan cathedral bears comparison to the recent attack on La Asuncion Church in Santiago. In comments to Church Militant, Leo Lyon Zagami put forth that "Antifa forces" have been "set in motion in Chile by George Soros and friends to push out the center-right president."