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Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

According to the constitution, the state respects and provides for “freedom of thought, spirituality, religion and worship,” expressed individually or collectively, in public and in private. The constitution stipulates the state is independent of all religion.

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination, including in access to educational institutions, health services, and employment, and protects the right of access to public sport and recreational activities without regard to religion.

The Freedom of Religion, Religious Organizations, and Spiritual Organizations Law, signed by then president Morales in April, and partially implemented by year’s end, creates a clear distinction between NGOs and religious organizations. The law continues to require all religious or spiritual organizations to inform the government of all financial, legal, social, and religious activities. The law regulates religious or spiritual organizations’ finances and labor practices by requiring they use funds exclusively to achieve the organization’s objectives, banning the distribution of money among members, subjecting all employees to national labor laws, requiring the organizations to register with the MFA, and compelling them to pay taxes. Until the complete regulations are published, the existing laws for registration and regulations remain in place.

The existing law requires religious or spiritual organizations to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and inform the government of all financial, legal, social, and religious activities. It regulates religious or spiritual organizations’ finances and labor practices by requiring they use funds exclusively to achieve the organization’s objectives, banning the distribution of money among members, subjecting all employees to national labor laws, and compelling them to pay taxes. Pursuant to a concordat with the Holy See, the Catholic Church is exempt from registration.

According to the MFA’s Religion and Nongovernmental Organizations Office, religious organizations must fulfill 14 requirements to register their organization with the government. Organizations must submit their notarized legal documents, including statutes, internal regulations, and procedures; rental agreement documents, utility invoices for the place(s) of worship, and a site map; detailed information on board members and legal representatives, including criminal background checks; an INTERPOL certificate for foreigners; and proof of fiscal solvency. They must also provide the organization chart, with names, addresses, identification card numbers, and photographs; a full list of members and identifying information; details on activities and services provided by the organization, including the location of the services; and information on their financing source(s), domestic and/or foreign.

The requirements for classification as a spiritual organization or religious organization vary slightly, but the government requires essentially the same type of information from both spiritual and religious entities. The constitution defines a spiritual organization as a group of natural, national, and/or foreign persons who organize themselves to carry out practices that develop their spirituality according to their ancestral worldview. Most spiritual organizations are indigenous in their origins. The constitution defines a religious organization as a group of natural, national, and/or foreign persons who organize themselves with the purpose of carrying out practices of worship and/or belief around a Supreme Being in order to develop their spirituality and religiosity, and whose purpose does not pursue profit.

The government may revoke a spiritual or religious organization’s operating license if the organization does not produce an annual report of activities for more than two consecutive years; does not comply with its stated objectives; carries out activities different from those established in its statute; or carries out activities contrary to the country’s constitution, laws, morality, or “good customs.” A religious or spiritual organization may also lose its operating license if it does not comply with the deadline for renewing the license.

A 2017 regulation requires religious and spiritual groups to reregister their operating licenses to ensure all documents list the official name of the country as “Estado Plurinacional.” Prior to this new requirement, organizations could carry an older version of licenses that listed the name of the state as “Republica de Bolivia.” Reregistration also requires any amendments to organizations’ bylaws to conform to all new national laws. Organizations were required to comply with these new registration requirements by the end of 2019.

The fees to obtain an operating license differ between “Religious Organizations” and “Spiritual Organizations,” with costs of 6,780 bolivianos ($990) and 4,068 bolivianos ($600), respectively.

The government reserves the right to revoke an organization’s operating permit for noncompliance with the registration requirements. The government may not deny legal recognition to any organization based on its articles of faith.

The constitution and other laws provide educational institutions the option to teach religion classes, including indigenous spiritual belief classes, with the stated aim of encouraging mutual respect among religious communities. While religion classes are optional, schools must teach ethics with curriculum materials that promote religious tolerance. The government does not restrict religious teaching in public or private schools, and it does not restrict a student from attending private, religiously affiliated schools. The law also requires all schools to accept students regardless of their religious affiliation.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights.

Government Practices

Following the resignation of former president Morales in November after massive protests against what were widely considered fraudulent October 20 elections and the installation of transitional President Anez, media reported some observers criticized Anez for taking the oath of office over a large Bible and using Catholic imagery, in contrast with Morales’ use of indigenous ceremonies. During the promulgation of the law for Freedom of Religion, Religious Organizations, and Spiritual Beliefs, media reports stated then president Morales “attacked” the Catholic Church, stating, “I am informed that a bishop from the city of Oruro celebrating Mass, said that Satan is in the [Presidential] Palace. I am not resentful, we forgive. I asked: Who is that Satan? Evo? Or the rites?”

According to leaders within the religious community, leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ and evangelical Protestants were involved in drafting the religious freedom law. Media reported some nonevangelical Protestant churches viewed the new law as an interference by the state in the fundamental right to freedom of religion and an oversight of its economic resources. By year’s end, the government had not issued specific regulations for all aspects of the new law that would detail how the government intended to implement it.

Members of the evangelical Protestant community again said several smaller religious communities had formed congregations that held services at unofficial worship locations and conducted other activities without registering. These communities continued to refuse to register their organizations because, according to sources, they preferred not to provide the government with access to internal information. Sources stated these unregistered groups still could neither own property nor have bank accounts in their organization’s name; instead money for a group was generally held in a bank account controlled by the leader’s family. According to sources, however, the Morales administration did not interfere with these organizations despite their refusal to comply with the law.

According to the MFA’s Office of Religion and Nongovernmental Organizations, there were 438 registered religious groups, an increase from 436 in 2018, after four groups withdrew their respective registrations toward the end of 2018. According to religious leaders, nearly all known religious or spiritual organizations that wished to register with the government had complied with the requirements. Religious groups stated that the registration process generally took four to six months to complete.

According to some nonevangelical Protestant groups, evangelicals received preferential access to the Morales government, which included meetings and phone calls with previous government leaders, because they were the main religious organization represented while drafting the new religion law.

According to media reports and religious leaders, then president Morales and other Movement for Socialism-affiliated government leaders continued to criticize Catholic leaders who publicly commented on political issues. Catholic representatives said the longstanding public tensions between the Catholic community and the Morales government continued through the end of the administration.

According to media, then president Morales also criticized the Catholic Church for its actions during the Inquisition and for what he said was its role in subjugating Bolivians during colonial times. Following the October 20 presidential elections, then minister of the presidency Juan Ramon Quintana stated “outside actors,” including the Catholic Church, aligned with the opposition to sow fears of fraud. Quintana said in an interview with media, “fraud is an alibi that was installed a long time ago in the media networks, through contracted opinion makers, nongovernmental organizations with foreign funding, and the Catholic Church aligned with the right.”

According to media, Luis Fernando Camacho, then chair of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and a major critic of then president Morales, launched a campaign calling for Morales’ resignation and to “bring the Bible back to the palace of government.” On November 10, Camacho entered the old Government Palace with a Bible and a resignation letter for Morales to sign; Morales was not in the palace at the time, but he resigned later that day.

On May 24, then president Morales signed an agreement with the Methodist Church to establish better communication with the government and increased cooperation for social justice programming. On November 28, Foreign Minister Karen Longaric announced at a press roundtable that the government would re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Then president Morales broke ties with Israel in 2009 over the conflict in Gaza.

On November 28, Foreign Minister Karen Longaric announced at a press roundtable that the government would re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Then president Morales broke ties with Israel in 2009 over the conflict in Gaza.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and the free exercise of worship. It states that these practices must not be “opposed to morals, to good customs, or to the public order.” Religious groups may establish and maintain places of worship, as long as the locations comply with public hygiene and security regulations established by laws and municipal orders.

According to the constitution, religion and state are officially separate. The law prohibits discrimination based on religion, provides civil remedies to victims of discrimination based on their religion or belief, and increases criminal penalties for acts of discriminatory violence. The law prohibits discrimination in the provision of social services, education, ability to practice religious beliefs or gain employment, property rights, and the rights to build places of worship.

By law, registration for possible conscription to the military is mandatory for all men between the ages of 17 and 45. Eligible candidates are first allowed to volunteer for service; a draft is then conducted for the number of positions remaining up to the force requirements identified by the Ministry of Defense. Alternative service, by working for the armed forces in a job related to the selectee’s expertise, is possible only for those studying certain fields. The law makes no provision for conscientious objection. Only ministers or priests from registered religious organizations are exempted on religious grounds.

The law does not require religious groups to register with the government; however, there are tax benefits for those that do. Once registered, a religious group is recognized as a religious nonprofit organization; religious organizations have the option of adopting a charter and bylaws suited to a religious entity rather than a private corporation or a secular nonprofit. Under the law, religious nonprofit organizations may create affiliates, such as charitable foundations, schools, or additional houses of worship, which retain the tax benefits of the religious parent organization. According to ONAR, public law recognizes more than 3,200 religious organizations as legal entities, mostly small evangelical or Pentecostal churches. By law, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) may not refuse to accept the registration petition of a religious entity, although it may object to petitions within 90 days if legal prerequisites for registration are not satisfied.

Applicants for religious nonprofit status must present the MOJ with an authorized copy of their charter, corresponding bylaws with signatures, and the national identification numbers of charter signatories. The bylaws must include the organization’s mission, creed, and structure. The charter must specify the signatories, the name of the organization, and its physical address, and it must include confirmation that the religious institutions’ charter signatories approved the bylaws. In the event the MOJ raises objections to the group, the group may petition; the petitioning group has 60 days to address the MOJ’s objections or challenge them in court. Once a religious entity is registered, the state may not dissolve it by decree. If concerns are raised about a religious group’s activities after registration, the semiautonomous Council for the Defense of the State may initiate a judicial review of the matter. The government has never deregistered a legally registered group. One registration per religious group is sufficient to extend nonprofit status to affiliates, such as additional places of worship or schools, clubs, and sports organizations, without registering them as separate entities. According to ONAR, the MOJ receives approximately 30 petitions monthly. The MOJ has not objected to any petition and has registered every group that completed the required paperwork.

By law, all public schools must offer religious education for two teaching hours per week through pre-elementary, elementary, middle, and high school. Local school administrators decide how religious education classes are structured. The majority of religious instruction in public schools is Catholic. The Ministry of Education also has approved instruction curricula designed by 14 other religious groups, including orthodox and reformed Jews, evangelical Christians, and Seventh-day Adventists. Schools must provide religious instruction for students according to students’ religious affiliations. Parents may have their children excused from religious education. Parents also have the right to homeschool their children for religious reasons or enroll them in private, religiously oriented schools.

The law grants religious groups the right to appoint chaplains to offer religious services in public hospitals and prisons. Prisoners may request religious accommodations. Regulations for the armed forces and law enforcement agencies allow officially registered religious groups to appoint chaplains to serve in each branch of the armed forces, the national uniformed police, and the national investigative police.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

ONAR worked with local authorities in communities affected by attacks on churches to rebuild the damaged churches and guarantee continuity in the services they provide.

A wide-ranging investigation into sexual abuse and cover-up within the Catholic Church, launched in 2018, continued. In July prosecutors announced they were investigating Bishop Santiago Silva, president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, for obstructing the investigation. Also in July, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in the country announced an internal investigation of abuse by the late Jesuit priest Renato Poblete found that allegations by all 22 purported victims were “plausible and credible.” The Jesuits apologized to the victims for failing to act earlier. To protect the identities of victims and witnesses, the Jesuits initially provided law enforcement with only an anonymized executive summary of the report. In October prosecutors obtained a court order forcing the Jesuits to turn over the full report.

In March an appeals court ruled in favor of three victims of Fernando Karadima, a Catholic priest who allegedly abused children for decades, in their civil case against the Archdiocese of Santiago for allegedly covering up the abuse. Karadima never faced criminal charges for his actions due to the statute of limitations; however, he was found guilty in a Church canonical trial in 2010 and removed from the priesthood.

Some religious leaders and groups continued to protest a gender identity law, which was passed in 2018 and came into effect in December, and allows transgender individuals 18 years and older (or 14 years and older with a parent’s or guardian’s consent) to change their name and gender in official records.

According to a December 2018 decision by the country’s comptroller general, municipalities do not have the legal authority to conduct foreign relations, and all public tenders must be guaranteed “equal and nondiscriminatory treatment” under the law. This decision derived from a December 2018 suit filed by the Jewish Community of Chile to block a municipal law in Valdivia that would have associated the city to the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)” movement. Jewish community leaders praised the decision on social media and in news reports.

During the year, ONAR held roundtable discussions with religious leaders in every region of the country to solicit their opinions on possible changes to law or policy regarding religious organizations and religious freedom. The roundtables replaced the previous government’s Interfaith Advisory Council, disbanded in 2018. Members of the disbanded Advisory Council formed a nongovernmental organization to continue their work, offering training and certification on religious diversity and interfaith dialogue. According to ONAR representatives, the constitutional rewrite, to take place in 2020-21 in response to large-scale protests calling for a new constitution, would likely lead to contentious debates on religious freedom and other human rights.

Costa Rica

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution establishes Catholicism as the state religion and requires the state to contribute to its maintenance. The constitution prohibits the state from impeding the free exercise of other religions that do not undermine “universal morality or proper behavior.” Unlike other religious groups, the Catholic Church is not registered as an association and receives special legal recognition. Its assets and holdings are governed consistent with Catholic canon law.

The constitution recognizes the right to practice the religion of one’s choice. By law, a person claiming a violation of religious freedom may file suit with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court and may also file a motion before the Constitutional Chamber to have a statute or regulation declared unconstitutional. Additionally, a person claiming a violation of religious freedom may appeal to the Administrative Court to sue the government for alleged discriminatory acts. Legal protections cover discrimination by private persons and entities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion is responsible for managing the government’s relationship with the Catholic Church and other religious groups. According to the law, a group with a minimum of 10 persons may incorporate as an association with judicial status by registering with the public registry of the Ministry of Justice. The government does not require religious groups to register; however, religious groups must register if they choose to engage in any type of fundraising. Registration also entitles them to obtain legal representation and standing to own property.

The constitution forbids Catholic clergy from serving in the capacity of president, vice president, cabinet member, or Supreme Court justice. This prohibition does not apply to non-Catholic clergy.

An executive order provides the legal framework for religious organizations to establish places of worship. Religious organizations must submit applications to the local municipality to establish a place of worship and to comply with safety and noise regulations established by law.

According to the law, public schools must provide ecumenical religious instruction by a person who is able to promote moral values and tolerance and be respectful of human rights. If a parent on behalf of a child chooses to opt out of religious courses, the parent must make a written request. The Ministry of Public Education provides assistance for religious education to private schools, both Catholic and non-Catholic, including directly hiring teachers and providing teacher salaries and other funds.

The law allows the government to provide land free of charge to the Catholic Church only. Government-to-church land transfers are typically granted through periodic legislation.

Only Catholic priests and public notaries may perform state-recognized marriages. Wedding ceremonies performed by other religious groups must be legalized through a civil union.

Immigration law requires foreign religious workers to belong to a religious group accredited for migration control purposes by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion, and it stipulates religious workers may receive permission to stay at least 90 days but not more than two years. The permission is renewable. To obtain accreditation, a religious group must present documentation about its organization, including its complete name, number of followers, bank information, number of houses of worship, and names of and information on the group’s board of directors. Immigration regulations require religious workers to apply for temporary residence before arrival.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In May a legislator presented a bill that would reform the constitution to make the country a secular state. According to media reports, the bill engendered significant public debate between a growing constituency calling for official secularism in the constitution and members of the Catholic community opposing the change. The bill was pending in the National Assembly at year’s end.

Some non-Catholic leaders continued to state the constitution did not sufficiently address the specific concerns of non-Catholic religious groups, in particular regarding organizational registration processes. Members of Protestant groups registered as secular associations continued to state they preferred a separate registration that would specifically cover church construction and operation, permits to organize events, and pastoral access to hospitals and jails for members of non-Catholic religious groups. In the case of the Catholic Church, the government continued to address such concerns through the special legal recognition afforded the Church under canon law.

The Constitutional Chamber received 10 claims of denial of the free exercise of religious freedom at educational institutions, Catholic institutions, or public places. The court dismissed eight claims due to insufficient evidence proving discrimination or because it found no basis for claiming discrimination. One of the claims dismissed regarded a police raid on the headquarters of the Catholic Church in search of evidence for an alleged sexual abuse case involving a priest. The court dismissed the complaint after finding the evidence did not support the claim. In the other two claims sustained, the chamber ruled in favor of the claimants. In one case, the chamber ordered the Ministry of Education to reschedule exams for a Jewish minor for her observation of the Sabbath. In the other case, the chamber ruled that a non-Catholic teacher should be excused from attending a Mass to celebrate the end of the school year.

The government again included financial support for the Catholic Church and evangelical Christian groups in its annual budget. It earmarked approximately 72.7 million colones ($128,000), compared with 20.2 million colones ($35,000) in 2018, for various projects requested by the Catholic Church and evangelical Christian groups during the year, including funds to make improvements at churches and parish buildings in different parts of the country. This funding for religious groups was included in a supplemental budget for the year. A semiautonomous government institution again sold lottery tickets and used the proceeds to support social programs sponsored by both Catholic and non-Catholic religious groups.

In April the Ministry of Education issued a directive stating that school directors should make decisions on whether to place religious images in educational institutions based on “mutual respect for the rights and liberties of all, as well as the values and principles under which the education system functions.” The director of religious education for the Ministry of Education stated he objected to the directive because the criteria were too subjective and broad and would have a chilling effect on school directors displaying any religious material.

The place of religion in the electoral process continued to be a subject of much public discussion. Representatives from political parties that defined themselves as evangelical Christian filled 14 of the country’s 57 legislative seats, and evangelical parties prepared to contest municipal elections in 2020. The president of the Evangelical Alliance instructed pastors to refrain from electoral politics, while Catholic leaders defended the right of the Catholic Church to engage in the political process.

Religious groups, including the Catholic Church and Evangelical Alliance, continued to state their opposition to same-sex partnerships, citing moral grounds. A Constitutional Court ruling published in November 2018 held that the National Assembly must pass legislation affirmatively recognizing same-sex partnerships before May 2020 or else all prohibitions against the practice would become null and void. In response, a group of legislators – including members of the major evangelical party Nueva Republica – presented a bill in September to regulate civil unions but prohibit marriage for same-sex partnerships. The bill was still in draft form at year’s end.

Abortion also continued to be a frequent topic of public debate involving religious groups. In the National Assembly, members of the ruling Citizens’ Action Party sought to legalize abortion in limited cases, including when the mother’s life is in danger. Opposition legislators presented a bill penalizing abortion as homicide. The president of the Evangelical Alliance and the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops supported these opposition-led efforts and criticized any legislation that would permit abortion.

In response to growing concern around sexual abuse cases involving priests and pastors, a legislator proposed a bill to amend the law to require clergy and other religious leaders who have contact with minors to report to the Public Ministry allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The bill stipulates fines for priests who do not report child sex abuses cases heard in confession. According to media reports, Catholic leaders opposed the bill, stating it would violate canon law and Catholic religious practices. Those favoring the bill said Catholic priests should be obligated to help protect minors in “vulnerable situations,” as in the case of teachers and social workers, who must report child abuse.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion on the condition that the practice of a religion does not violate public morality, decency, or public order. A 1964 concordat governs relations between the government and the Holy See and provides for government funding for Catholic Church-run schools. In 2017 the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which the opposition and much of the international community consider illegitimate, passed an anti-hate law criminalizing acts of incitement to hatred or violence. Individuals who violate the law face 10 to 20 years in prison. The law includes 25 articles stipulating a wide array of directives, restrictions, and penalties. The law criminalizes political party activities promoting “fascism, intolerance, or hatred,” which comprise numerous factors, including religion. It also criminalizes individual acts promoting violence or hatred, the publication or transmission of any messages promoting violence or hatred by any media outlet, and the publication of messages promoting violence or hatred on social media. Among the violations are those committed by individuals or media outlets, including by members of religious groups or media associated with a religious group.

The Directorate of Justice and Religion (DJR) in the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace (MOI) maintains a registry of religious groups, disburses funds to religious organizations, and promotes awareness and understanding among religious communities. Each religious group must register with the DJR to acquire legal status as a religious organization. Registration requires declaration of property belonging to the religious group, identification of any religious authorities working directly for it, and articles of incorporation. Religious groups are required to demonstrate how they will provide social services to their communities and to receive a letter of acceptance from the government-controlled community council in the neighborhood(s) where the group will work. The MOI reviews applications and may delay approval indefinitely. Religious groups must register any new statutes with the DJR.

The law neither prohibits nor promotes religious education in public schools. An 18-year-old agreement between the CEV and the state allows catechists to teach Christian and sacramental values in public schools in preparation for First Communion; this agreement, however, is not enforced.

The law provides for Catholic chaplains to minister to the spiritual needs of Catholics serving in the military. There are no similar provisions for other religious groups.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

On October 12, DCGIM arrested evangelical Protestant pastor Jose Albeiro Vivas in Barinas State as he delivered a prayer during the March for Jesus, an event held annually throughout the country since 2006. Vivas, also an active duty air force officer, was arrested for disobedience and improper use of military medals, badges and titles. Vivas’ prayer called for the “spiritual liberation” of the country. He remained in detention at year’s end.

Media reported armed groups aligned with the de facto government attacked churches and their congregants during the year. Archbishop Jose Luis Azuaje said that on January 27, colectivos forced their way into Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Church in Maracaibo, Zulia State during Eucharist for children receiving their first communion and confirmation. Colectivos numbering approximately 40 individuals armed with sticks, guns, and grenades attacked and injured approximately 15 worshippers inside, discharged their firearms, defaced and destroyed church property, including the altar, and confiscated other items of value. Among the injured was a nun, who was taken to a local hospital for emergency treatment. Azuaje reported police officers stationed nearby did not intervene during the attack. Church leadership announced they would close the church until the de facto government could guarantee the safety of parishioners.

The CEV reported increased repression against the Catholic Church in the wake of the April 30 uprising against Maduro and his de facto government. On May 1, a group of 40 Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) officers attacked the Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Cristobal, Tachira State, at the end of a religious service, according to Bishop of San Cristobal Mario Moronta. According to Moronta, two officers entered the church on motorcycle, followed by a contingent of 40 GNB officers and their commanding officer. Unable to gain entry, the GNB officers fired tear gas into the church, forcing the pastor to evacuate the congregation, many of whom were elderly, from the building.

On February 8, media reported the external walls of Sweet Name of Jesus Church in the Petare District of Caracas were defaced with written expletives directed at Father Hector Lunar, including “pedophile” and “terrorist.” The defacement occurred after Maduro followers blasted loud music outside the church in an apparent attempt to drown out Lunar’s Mass. According to media reports, Lunar came under attack by the city council, controlled by Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, for speaking out against the country’s humanitarian crisis. In January the city council of Sucre declared Lunar persona non grata.

On January 23, priests, seminary students, and 700 protesters remained trapped in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Maturin, Monagas State for hours while colectivos and military personnel attempted to break into the church, according to the CEV.

CEV and other Catholic Church leaders and ECV representatives said the de facto government continued to retaliate against church leaders and clergy members who made statements criticizing it, including by imposing arbitrary registration requirements, and threatening and detaining clergy.

CEV representatives said illegal armed groups supporting the de facto government also targeted members of the clergy. On April 24, CEV denounced death threats from the National Liberation Army (ELN) that Father Richard Garcia, a priest in Tachira State, received for speaking out against the humanitarian crisis and lack of public services during a homily. Garcia’s church was sprayed with graffiti, featuring the initials of the ELN. He also received a pamphlet that stated he was a “political target and public enemy of the revolution.” Media reported a second priest, Father Jairo Clavijo, also received threats that declared him a “military target.”

Church leaders reported Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) officials continued to intimidate priests who criticized Maduro in their sermons. SEBIN officers followed and harassed Catholic laity involved in delivering humanitarian aid or participating in public demonstrations and photographed their homes. Archbishop Antonio Lopez Castillo reported SEBIN officials interrogated him in an attempt to convince him to stop issuing complaints against the de facto Maduro government, which the archbishop had labeled an “oppressive regime.”

There were reports that security officials prevented clergy opposing the Maduro de facto government from holding religious services. According to the CEV, on April 7, authorities attempted to block Bishop Moronta from officiating Mass at the Patrocinio Penuela Ruiz Social Security Hospital in San Cristobal, Tachira State by locking him out of the building, despite his having a letter of authorization from the hospital board. Moronta was able to gain entry when a parishioner obtained a second key. On April 18, authorities barred Moronta, this time successfully, from holding a religious service by blocking his access to the Western Penitentiary Center in Tachira, where he was to celebrate a previously scheduled Mass with prison inmates. Maduro’s Minister for Prisons Iris Varela stated she had denied Moronta’s visit because he had “gotten into politics” by issuing proclamations against the Maduro de facto government; she added his diocese was guilty of protecting priests who abused children.

According to the Anti-defamation League (ADL), most anti-Semitic messaging on social media and other media continued to originate from Maduro and his supporters. Some members of the Jewish community stated the de facto government and those sympathetic to it used anti-Zionism to mask anti-Semitism. During the year, editorials in pro-Maduro media outlets accused Guaido and Guaido-nominated representatives as being agents or lobbyists of Zionism. A tweet posted in January by a self-described “revolutionary communicator” stated, “What a coincidence that the first gringos [U.S.] Senators who have come out to support Guaido are all members of the lobby Oil-Financial-Jew. Vultures begin to fly over Venezuela.”

In August Maduro likened U.S. government policy towards the country to Nazi persecution of the Jews in the 1940s, stating sanctions against the country were the same as Hitler’s efforts to persecute, exterminate, and prevent the Jewish people from leaving.

Jewish leaders stated to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism, the de facto government and media supporting it continued to replace the word “Jewish” with “Zionist.” In a February interview, Maduro said Interim President Juan Guaido served the interests of the Zionists. During a June 26 television broadcast, president of the ANC Diosdado Cabello stated the de facto government had disrupted an alleged Zionist coup against Maduro on June 24. On August 21, Cabello called U.S. charges of narcotics trafficking and money laundering against former vice president and current Minister of Industry and National Production Tareck Zaidan El Aissami part of a campaign of the “Zionist lobby.”

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future