As the situation in Nicaragua continues to deteriorate, two of the country's bishops are traveling to Rome, where they will brief Pope Francis on the state of affairs in their nation.
Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua and Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa will “inform the Holy Father of the pain and suffering we Nicaraguans are going through and the impetus we have given to the dialogue we are participating in at the request of the government and with the trust and support of the people,” read a statement of the Nicaraguan bishops' conference.
Cardinal Brenes is going to Rome to participate in the June 29 consistory of cardinals.
The Nicaraguan bishops expressed to the people their “closeness and accompaniment especially in this painful time” in their statement.
They asked the faithful to accompany Cardinal Brenes and Bishop Álvarez with their prayers and also requested the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
Two months of protests against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega have resulted in more than 200 deaths. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.
Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.
The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints. Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout the country, and clashes frequently turn lethal.
Peace talks resumed June 25 under the Church's mediation.
But the day prior, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights charged that Diriamba, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nagarote, and Tipitapa were attacked June 24 by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.
It was reported that two people died in Managua and one in Tipitapa. In Nagarote four were reported injured.
Four people, including an 15-month-old infant, were killed in Managua June 23 when security forces fired on protesters at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua , according to activists.
Karina Navarrete, the mother of Teiler Lorio Navarrete, said she saw her son struck by a bullet fired by police while he was being taken to a babysitter. The government has denied her claim, and has blamed local criminals for the death.
On June 21 Cardinal Brenes, along with the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega; and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag went to Masaya to prevent further attacks against the population.
Bishops and priests across Nicaragua have worked to separate protestors and security forces, and have been threatened and shot.
Church-mediated peace talks had begun May 16 and were suspended May 23, and began again June 15 and were called off June 19. The latest round began June 25.
The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.
The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.
Ortega has shown resistance to calls for elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, to be held early.
Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.
He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.