There were instances of anti-Semitism in government-owned and government‑affiliated media, and Jewish community leaders publicly expressed concern. During the summer conflict in Gaza, President Nicolas Maduro compared Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust in several public speeches. On July 23, President Maduro said: “The Gaza Strip has been turned by the Government of Israel into a huge Auschwitz, into a huge concentration camp.” On August 2, the President of the National Assembly and vice president of the ruling party, Diosdado Cabello, reportedly said: “In Israel, there is a smell of sulfur, the demon is there, and imperialism is sown there to finish with the people of the world.”
On July 16, an opinion piece on a government-affiliated website stated that Israeli leaders were “applying the same logistics of the Nazi extermination” and “Hitler is a baby compared to the Zionist leadership.”
Local and international Jewish groups called on the government to halt inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric comparing Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip to Nazi actions during the Holocaust. On September 29, President Maduro met with World Jewish Congress leaders in New York to discuss these concerns.
In early September Maria Uribe, a member of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), recited an altered version of The Lord’s Prayer called Our Chavez that replaced God with former President Hugo Chavez during the PSUV’s Third Congress. Catholic Church leaders criticized the alteration and its recitation, saying that “Catholic symbols, prayers, and religious elements should be respected.” President Maduro called the criticism a “kind of new, vulgar inquisition.” National Assembly President Cabello said in his influential weekly television show that the Catholic Church represented the “bourgeoisie” and should instead speak out against church representatives’ abuse of minors.
Several non-Catholic religious groups continued to express concern over government inquiries into the use of their property. They stated they perceived this government interest as a potential precursor to expropriation of their lands or facilities.
The Venezuelan Evangelical Council (VEC) stated that some evangelical religious organizations had waited several months, and in some cases years, to complete the registration process with the DJR. According to several religious groups, the DJR rejected registration applications for groups that expressly noted their social works in the application (in compliance with the statutory requirement that groups must serve their community’s social interests) on the grounds that only the state was officially allowed to do social work.
The VEC also expressed concern about the government’s insistence on dealing with a centralized body of evangelical churches, to which the VEC objected, given the independent nature of evangelical organizations. The VEC said that the government had denied registration to a large number of evangelical organizations on the grounds that only a centralized evangelical body met the government’s registration requirements. Additionally, evangelical and Jewish organizations faced restrictions in bringing religious leaders, theologians, and clergy from abroad, since waiting for religious visa approvals could take several months.
Persons displaced by 2011 flooding continued to occupy Mormon chapels in Ocumare del Tuy with government support. They continued to use the chapel as a school after their relocation, and church members did not have access to the property.
The Mormon Church announced in March that it would take precautionary measures and pulled 152 missionaries out of Venezuela for their security because of unrest in the country.
All registered religious groups were eligible for funding to support religious social services, but most funding went to Catholic groups. The government publicly criticized the Venezuelan Catholic Church’s hierarchy due to its involvement in political dialogue; however, it continued to provide annual subsidies to Catholic schools and social programs that helped the poor.
The government approved funding for the Catholic Church’s governing body, the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, at levels reduced from previous years; however, it had not disbursed funds to the group for the past six years. Other religious groups were free to establish their own schools but did not receive government subsidies.