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The Bishop of Estelí
escapes armed attack

· Ever-rising tensions in Nicaragua despite the halt to the siege on the Church of Divine Mercy in Managua ·

In the midst of the increasingly tense atmosphere in Nicaragua, Estelí’s Bishop Abelardo Mata survived an armed attack yesterday that was said to be carried out by paramilitary forces. The prelate’s car was riddled with bullets in Nindirí, which is near the capital, Managua. The Bishop and driver escaped without injury. “Monsignor Mata’s vehicle was damaged but he and his driver were not hurt,” reported a local news source, confirming that the ambush had been planned and executed by a paramilitary gang, the so-called “turbas”, or mobs, who are closely allied with President Daniel Ortega. Former Vice President of the Episcopal Conference, Bishop Mata, 72, is considered among the most critical of the Sandinista regime. “I spoke with Bishop Mata and, following the incident at Nindirí, he is now out of danger, thank God” was the tweet posted by the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez. Images were shown on television of the cleric’s car, with its shattered windows and bullet-holes.

Speaking on the private broadcasting channel 15, Roberto Pedray, one of Mata’s closest collaborators, said that the Bishop was on his way back to Managua from Tisma, a city close to Nindirí, in the province of Masaya. It is a place he makes regular pastoral visits to on Sundays. Pedray reported that Mata and his driver were able to reach safety, taking shelter in a nearby home. He added, “He [the Bishop] is not injured and is already under police protection”. The Nicaraguan Human Rights Association has expressed its “deep concern and dismay” for the incident, and has confirmed that the act was carried out by “paramilitary gangs who have no respect for anyone”.

This attack took place as tensions remain high throughout the entire country, where, since April 18, protests by students against Ortega’s administration have prevailed. The Church is at the forefront of the movement to renew dialogue and reach a solution to the multiple crises.

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