MEXICO CITY – A Nicaraguan priest was attacked and robbed in his parish residence, the latest aggression against Catholic clergy and those considered opponents of the Central American country’s increasingly autocratic president.
Father Abelardo Toval Ayesta, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Leon, Nicaragua, was beaten on the patio of his residence Sept. 15 at around 3:30 a.m., according to press reports. The assailants then robbed personal items and cash.
“After being beaten, they left him on the ground and took some valuables,” Father Victor Morales, Diocese of Leon spokesman, told the newspaper La Prensa. “It almost cost him his life. He was hit very hard in the face, the eyes and the ribs.”
Catholic leaders in Nicaragua tweeted that Toval risked losing an eye after the attack.
Federal police said four hooded individuals attacked Toval and stole jewels and $375. The statement said two suspects, ages 19 and 22, had been arrested and described the men as “common criminals” and “neighbors and close friends” of the priest.
The attack drew outrage from Catholic leaders and demonstrated again the deteriorating relationship between the Catholic Church and President Daniel Ortega, especially as the Nicaraguan leader unleashes police and paramilitaries on protesters and campaigns of harassment against anyone aiding the opposition, including clergy, physicians and human rights defenders.
The death toll since mid-April now tops 300, according to human rights groups. The United Nations was expelled in August after reporting widespread human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions.
Read more at Crux.