The United States Department of State submitted its International Religious Freedom Report 2021 where it collects a record of the siege, harassment, threats and attacks by the administration of Daniel Ortega against the Catholic Church of Nicaragua.
The document, dated this Thursday, June 2, covers the period between January 1 to December 31, 2021. In the case of Nicaragua, it details that “the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion; establishes freedom of belief, religion and worship; and establishes that no one will be forced by coercive measures to declare their ideology or beliefs.
Therefore, the Biden administration highlights that “throughout the year, President Daniel Ortega and Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo verbally harassed priests and bishops, calling them “terrorists in cassocks” and “coup plotters” and accused of committing crimes.
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Likewise, it highlights that the National Police, together with the paramilitaries and followers of Ortega, “harassed the Catholic faithful on several occasions and prevented masses from being celebrated in commemoration of the people killed during the 2018 pro-democracy protests.”
The document collects a number of attacks against the Church in Nicaragua ranging from verbal insults, persecution, harassment, death threats, theft of religious articles and illegal entry to Catholic Churches.
The revocation of the transmission licenses of the Nexus radio station and Channel 21, an evangelical Protestant television channel, stands out after the Reverend Guillermo Osorno, also a presidential candidate, denounced irregularities on election day in November 2021.
In addition, it reveals that the US Embassy in Managua requested a meeting with government officials in order to discuss restrictions on religious freedom and promote religious tolerance, but received no response.
The United States government alleges that all these repressive actions against the Catholic Church are due to the fact that religious leaders have unconditionally supported, since the outbreak of April 2018, the victims of the outrages of the Ortega regime, which has caused bishops and priests to experience government reprisals, arbitrary investigations, withholding of tax exemptions, and denial of religious services to political prisoners.
The Joe Biden administration estimates that the total population in Nicaraguan territory is 6.2 million (mid-2021). According to the 2005 census (the most recent available), conducted by the Nicaraguan Institute of Statistics and Censuses, 59 percent of the population is Catholic and 22 percent Evangelical Protestant, including Pentecostals, Mennonites, Moravian Lutherans, and Baptists.
In addition, it underlines that since November 15, 2021, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, the Secretary of State placed Nicaragua again on the Special Watch List for having participated in or tolerated serious violations of religious freedom
The report on International Religious Freedom is presented in a context where the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega has intensified the siege, persecution, harassment, death threats and attacks against Catholic leaders.