On November 14, 2023, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) honored Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, O.C.D. of Nicaragua with the Democracy Service Medal for his work for religious freedom. The award was presented at the by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart at the 40th Anniversary Democracy Awards. Read more about the 40th Anniversary event.
Bishop Báez is a Nicaraguan prelate of the Catholic Church and an auxiliary bishop of Managua, Nicaragua. Since he was named bishop in 2009, he has been a close shepherd of the poor and a courageous defender of human rights and democracy. In July 2018, Báez, along with other prominent clergy in Nicaragua, attempted to free anti-government protesters who had taken refuge in St. Sebastian Basilica. Bishop Báez and his colleagues were injured by pro-government paramilitary forces during the siege. Later, Báez participated in an effort led by the Conference of Bishops to mediate between the government and pro-democracy forces in an attempt to broker an agreement for a transition to democracy. He was accused of plotting a coup against the Ortega-Murillo government and was the target of an assassination plot, forcing him into exile in 2019. The bishop has remained vocal in his criticism of violent government repression and has advocated for the release of political prisoners. The Democracy Service Medal honors the bishop’s personal contributions while also shining a brighter spotlight on the deteriorating human rights situation in Nicaragua and the democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan people.
First awarded to Polish Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa in 1999, the NED Democracy Service Medal is presented to distinguished individuals who have demonstrated through personal commitment a unique dedication to freedom, human rights, and the building of democratic institutions. Bishop Báez joins notable past recipients such as Czech President Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama, former Senator John McCain, and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. Learn more about the Democracy Service Medal.