Nicaragua Bishops Decry Violence in Anti-US Protest

Urge Civility, Not Hostility

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua, NOV. 3, 2009 ( If a protest is to be made, let it be done civilly, the leader of Nicaragua’s bishops exhorted in response to anti U.S. protests here last week.

Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes Solórzano of Managua said this after Sandinistas attacked the U.S. embassy. The demonstrators were protesting comments from U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan.

Callahan criticized the Nicaraguan Supreme Court for its Oct. 19 ruling that President Daniel Ortega can run for re-election in 2011, despite a constitutional ban on presidents seeking a second term.
«I exhort leaders not to foment violence,» Archbishop Brenes said. «I exhort all our leaders not to encourage violence. If some request or protest is to be made about something, let it be made in a civil way. That is what is most important.»

Those who suffer

The archbishop said he spoke from his «heart as pastor» in lamenting that the «simple people of the neighborhoods» are those who end up victimized by such protests.

«The great personalities don’t appear there,» the prelate said. «Hence, when there are wounded or beaten people, it is always the poor who suffer.»
In regard to the possible re-election of the president, Archbishop Brenes said in the next meeting of the episcopal conference, the bishops will discuss the matter and decide if they will issue a statement.
«I believe states have their means to reprimand an ambassador, if they think he is out of order. Although I’m not an expert, I believe the ministry of foreign affairs has its means to call to attention a diplomat,» the archbishop said.

New society
For his part, Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega of Managua recalled that participation in political life is a citizen’s right and a Christian duty, but he urged that this be done without aggression and destruction.

«We must learn not only to respect others’ opinion but to express our opinion civilly,» he said.

The bishop exhorted his countrymen to remember the long history of pain, war and violence that Nicaragua has suffered, and to begin to build the foundations of a new society «where we can express ourselves in the most civilized way.»
In regard to the opinion of the U.S. ambassador, the bishop defended the right to have diverse opinions. «The last step we should reach is that of violent confrontation,» he said. «It is necessary to begin changing attitudes.»

Bishop Báez criticized Ortega for justifying the violence against the embassy: «I believe that violence in all its forms must be eradicated. Here everyone has the right to express his opinion and to protest, but there are peaceful ways. In a democratic society, ideological pluralism is part of the foundation. There is not need to damage buildings, burn tires, beat people. There are other more civic ways.»

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