There were no reports of abuse of religious freedom. However, the government reportedly imposed restrictions on religious groups critical of government policies.
The Catholic Church reported the government dismissed its 2011 allegation of a systematic strategy of harassment, which included death threats and harassing text messages from members of organizations linked to the ruling party. Following the 2011 killing of a Catholic priest, described by the church as politically motivated, Catholic leaders reported the Nicaraguan National Police chief presented church officials with evidence they believe had been tampered with, and encouraged them to request withdrawal of the investigation.
Government officials asserted that the national police investigated reports of selective government harassment of religious workers and determined there were isolated instances of criminal harassment, handled appropriately by the judicial system.
Both Catholic and evangelical church leaders reported that the government provided or withheld financial support and tax and utility subsidies for individual churches based on the political affiliation of the church’s priest or pastor. Catholic officials reported the government withheld subsidies for underprivileged Catholic schools, and noted increased government pressure to register school teachers as public employees.
Moravian Lutheran leaders attributed a lack of government harassment during the year, in contrast to 2011, to church officials’ restraint in making political remarks and the affiliation of many new members who were also members of the ruling political party.
Catholic and evangelical leaders stated government customs agents routinely withheld or delayed clearance on imports of donations for social projects in retaliation for anti-government commentary. On occasion, customs agents held donated medical supplies, including medication, beyond their expiration dates, resulting in loss of the supplies.
In contrast to 2011, the government reportedly ceased to revoke broadcast licenses or tamper with radio stations owned by religious groups. However, Catholic and evangelical leaders stated that past government harassment, and the threat of future harassment, forced them to refrain from expressing political criticism on their radio stations.
Catholic and evangelical leaders expressed concern over the government’s continued use of religious clergy, rhetoric, and symbols to influence the population and promote its ideological and political agenda. Government-sponsored billboards throughout the country portrayed images of President Daniel Ortega with the slogan “Christian, Socialist, and in Solidarity.” A retired senior member of the Catholic clergy presided over official government events. Though officially declared retired by the Vatican, the same official appeared in full clerical dress during these events. Catholic officials complained the retired official falsely presented the image of an active representative of the church for political gain.
Leaders of most religious groups complained government officials were unwilling to meet with them to discuss their concerns about religious freedom.