A group journalists and Catholic priests were attacked by a pro-Sandinista mob inside a church in Diramba -- a town in southern Nicaragua on Monday. Among the wounded were Catholic Bishop Silvio Baez of Nicaragua and a television journalist. Baez was apparently cut with a sharp implement on his right arm, while the journalist suffered a blow that bloodied his face. The journalist’s camera equipment was stolen. Other journalists suffered beatings and theft of cameras, cell phones and other equipment.

“There are no words to describe this, they disrespected our bishops, they robbed the journalists,” said the president of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANDPDH) Álvaro Leiva, who took refuge with the group of religious leaders in the sacristy of the church. Rev. Edwin Roman, a Catholic priest, said that the attack was planned by the governing party of Nicaragua, the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional, which is led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

On Monday, dozens of hooded supporters of the Ortega government burst into San Sebastián Basilica in Diriamba at around noon. Accompanied by Vatican diplomatic representative Bishop Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag and Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the Catholic bishops went to Diramba on a “humanitarian mission” just a day after government security forces killed several citizens, while wounding and arresting others. Over the July 7-8 weekend, at least 12 persons were killed by security forces in Nicaragua. The Catholic bishops sought to visit congregations in Diriamba and Jinotepe, approximately 35 miles from the capital city, Managua, in caravan that included human rights activists and journalists.

As the caravan left Managua, the Catholic bishops’ conference of Nicaragua tweeted that its purpose was to join “the people during these difficult times that they have lived recently.” The conference added, “Let us pray for our priests and bishops so that God continues to illuminate his prophetic mission.”

Since April, Nicaragua has experienced the worst violence the country has seen since the revolution in the 1970s that overthrew a right-wing dictatorship. Violence has escalated ever since police, paramilitary forces, and Ortega supporters have fired on protesters. Independent human rights organizations estimate the dead now number more than 320 as a result of attacks by security forces. Most of those killed were young students.

Nicaragua’s Civic Alliance is joining with other groups calling for a national march on Thursday, to be followed by a national strike on Friday. Bishop Rolando Jose Alvarez of Matagalpa tweeted, "There are demons who don't speak and others who do. Jesus casts all of them out."

The Catholic bishops of Nicaragua have decided, in view of the attack at Diriamba, to suspend dialogue with the government.

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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