VATICAN CITY: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has ordered the closure of the Vatican Embassy in Managua and that of the Nicaraguan Embassy to the Vatican in Rome, a senior Vatican source said on Sunday (Mar 12).
Nicaragua signalled that the move, which came a few days after Pope Francis compared the Nicaraguan government to a dictatorship, was "a suspension" of diplomatic relations.
The Vatican source said that while the closures do not automatically mean a total break of relations between Managua and the Holy See, they are serious steps towards that possibility.
Ortega's administration has been increasingly isolated internationally since he began cracking down heavily on dissent following street protests that erupted in 2018. Ortega called the protests an attempted coup against his government.
Bishop Rolando Alvarez, a vocal critic of Ortega, was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison in Nicaragua last month on charges that included treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news.
Alvazez was convicted after he refused to leave the country along with 200 political prisoners released by Ortega's government and sent to the United States. Alvarez refused to board the plane.
In an interview published last week with Latin American online news outlet Infobae ahead of Monday's 10th anniversary of his pontificate, the pope pointed to Alvarez's imprisonment and likened what was happening in Nicaragua to the "1917 Communist dictatorship or that of Hitler in 1935".