Nicaragua closes doors to Christian missionaries as national election approaches

Nicaragua's government has shut its doors to foreign Christian missionaries ahead of its national election in November.

(Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas)A couple walks past a billboard in support of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and vice-presidential candidate first lady. August 03, 2016.

President Daniel Ortega, who wants to win for the third successive time in the November election, has required foreign Christian missionaries to submit a request detailing their purpose of entry and wait for the government's approval before entering the country. Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) said the communist leader might as well replace the Managua Airport's welcome sign with one that reads, "Missionaries Keep Out!"

Ortega currently does not have a credible opposition rival, as his administration had earlier removed the National Coalition for Democracy from the official ballot. Because he has also blocked the right to independent national observation on Nov. 6, opposition forces have slammed the upcoming polls as a "farce," Christian Today relays.

CBN says Ortega thinks the best way to control outside influence is to impose restrictions on foreign missionary activity. The Nicaraguan leader, who lost in the 2001 presidential election, reportedly does not want his re-election efforts to go to waste.

On Aug. 26, the Nicaraguan immigration office prohibited two Catholic missionaries from entering the country. The Christian ministers were supposed to offer a post-graduate Theology course in a local diocese, according to the Havana Times.

Meanwhile, Telesurv reports that the new restrictions on foreign missionaries is part of the Nicaraguan government's attempt to clamp down on money laundering and criminal activities being done by fake religious groups.

Last month, Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path founder Pastor Guillermo Osorno told local media that he agrees with Ortega's restrictions on foreign evangelical activities in the country. Osorno, who is also a legislator connected with the opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party coalition, said the new policy will help protect their people's sovereignty and security.

In addition, Pastor Osorno said the illegal activities being done by the fake religious groups are not only happening in Nicaragua but in the whole continent as well. He added that the restrictions will apply to foreign evangelical and Catholic missionaries.