The government trained 45,000 public school teachers on how to implement the “Live Beautiful Plan” and mandated teachers to change the focus of their civics class to promote Christian values. The government also developed activities within the community and public schools based on “Christian, socialist, and solidarity values.”
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 clergy. Catholic officials reported the government withheld subsidies for underprivileged Catholic schools based on the priest’s political affiliation, and noted increased government pressure to register school teachers as public employees. Evangelical leaders reported government pressure to decorate the grounds of subsidized schools with the governing party’s political propaganda.
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 the part of the importing groups. On occasion, customs agents held donated medical supplies, including medication, beyond their expiration dates, resulting in loss of the supplies. Evangelical leaders reported that, in most cases, donations required an approval letter authorized by the governing party’s community-based action groups. Catholic and evangelical leaders also reported that donations and social projects required the approval of government entities such as the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Education.
Catholic and evangelical leaders stated that, due to past government harassment and the threat of future harassment, they felt pressured to refrain from addressing political issues on their radio stations.
Catholic and evangelical leaders continued to express concern over the government’s use of clergy, statements, 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. Although 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 Catholic Church for political gain.
Leaders of most religious groups stated that government officials were unwilling to meet with them to discuss their concerns about religious freedom.