Press release

Nicaragua: Democracies Must Condemn Violence, Attacks on Places of Worship; Demand Return to Rule of Law

The political and humanitarian crisis in Nicaragua deserves a peaceful solution.


In response to the siege of a Roman Catholic church in Masaya where mothers of political prisoners are on hunger strike to demand their family members’ release, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“There is a political and humanitarian crisis in in Nicaragua,” said Deborah Ullmer, Freedom House’s director for Latin American and the Caribbean. “We are concerned for the health and physical security of the mothers of political prisoners who are on hunger strike and who are under siege in the San Miguel Archangel Church in Masaya. They are protesting the unjust imprisonment of their family members, while police forces and Ortega sympathizers have impeded their access to water, electricity, and medical assistance.”

“We express our solidarity with the more than 130 political prisoners and their families, and call for a peaceful solution to the ongoing political crisis. We call on democratic governments to express their rejection of violent actions committed by the government of Nicaragua and its supporters, and to demand a return to democracy.”


The election of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in 2006 began a period of democratic deterioration marked by the consolidation of all branches of government under his party’s control, the limitation of fundamental freedoms, and unchecked corruption in government. In April 2018, state forces, with the aid of informal armed groups, responded to mass antigovernment protests with violence and repression. The rule of law collapsed as the government repressed the civic movement. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the unrest left at least 325 people dead, 2,000 injured, and more than 60,000 forced into exile in Costa Rica. While more than 500 political prisoners have been released since the crackdown, the Ortega regime has continued unlawful detentions, and escalated violence and repression.

The siege against places of worship in Nicaragua intensified in recent days when a group of mothers of political prisoners staged a hunger strike in the San Miguel Archangel Church in Masaya. Thirteen activists who attempted to provide water to the mothers were detained by the police, and charged with illegally transporting weapons. Ortega supporters also have reportedly attacked churchgoers. The Masaya church was one of several churches in Nicaragua that have experienced targeted attacks and hostilities.

Nicaragua is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2019.