Nicaragua tightens grips on universities to suppress dissent

His government has taken control of 12 private universities, closing them down or giving the state control.

Muhammed Kayan
Muhammed Kayan
22 April 2022 Friday 06:37
197 Reads
Nicaragua tightens grips on universities to suppress dissent

This is four years after students protested against Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's President.

Students who took part in the protests of April 2018 saw their education disrupted. Many were forced to hide, jail or exile after Ortega's police crackdown. Others who were able to return to school fear they won't have the ability to finish, or that they haven't been able to find work due to lack of diplomas from the state-run schools.

Ortega is relentlessly seeking out those he believes conspired against him to overthrow his government, as evidenced by the recent seizure and passage of education reforms increasing state control.

Ernesto Medina, who was in exile in Germany and led American University Managua for 11 year until 2018 said that the regime "took the repression beyond limits in April 2018." "That was when we realized Ortega would not stop punishing the universities and students.

Rosario Murillo is the first lady and vice president of Argentina. She was also the government's spokeswoman.

Numerous opposition leaders were convicted and sentenced earlier this year for allegedly trying destabilize Ortega’s government. The government closed 25 nongovernmental organizations working on a variety of issues, along with independent media outlets.

The Sandinista-controlled congress in late March passed reforms to two education laws that reduce university autonomy and increase government control, experts say. These changes also reduced government funding for the Jesuit-led Central American University (Managua), another site of protest in April 2018. These funds were used to provide scholarships for students with low income.

Medina stated that Ortega sought "revengeance" against the schools. "Ortega's goal is to consolidate government and Sandinista Front political control over universities."

Ortega is aware of the potential for social upheaval on university campuses. Many of the Sandinista guerrillas that fought alongside him in the overthrow of dictator Anastasio SOMOZA in 1979 were graduates of universities, as have leaders of similar movements around Latin America and the world.

The revolution resulted in Nicaraguan universities losing their autonomy temporarily. In addition, the transition was governed by the junta which appointed university administrators.

Medina, who was at the time a Sandinista supporter, said that "we were responsible for that abuse" and that they are now paying for it.

Seven of the twelve universities seized are located in Nicaragua, while five are virtual campuses for foreign universities. Each case was based on allegations of financial fraud and administrative failures by Congress.

The state acquired the property of the universities and created three large universities that have a combined enrollment totaling 18,000 using this infrastructure.

In Managua for several weeks, students occupied Nicaragua Polytechnic University. They feared they would be murdered if they fled. Regular skirmishes occurred with Sandinista youth and police. They helped their injured while trying to coordinate with other students from other universities.

The school was previously known as UPOLI, with a student enrollment of 8,000. It has now been renamed National Polytechnic University (UNP). There are many comments on the Facebook page of the new university from recent graduates and students concerned about getting the necessary paperwork to get jobs in their chosen fields.

One of the recent nursing graduates, who requested not to be identified out of fear of retaliation, stated that despite having graduated in November, she was still waiting for documents to help her find a job.

After visiting public hospitals, private clinics, and the medical workers union, she was told that she couldn't be employed until she received her degree and a code.

It has been frustratingly slow for her to get answers from university administrators.

"One week went by, then two more. She said that she had not received an answer when we went to the nursing school. "They told us they were changing the leadership.

She took care of COVID-19 patients in their homes to get by during a time when cases were increasing. She now cares for an older patient.

Paulo Freire University was another university that was seized. It was founded by Adrian Meza in 2007, a well-known Sandinista militant who later distanced him from Ortega.

Meza moved to Costa Rica in February after his university was seized by the government. He claimed that he was being held without warrant. He said that the government was hostile to the university for its defense of human right, particularly after Meza condemned the arrest of one of its students late last season.

Meza stated that it is not clear what will happen to 1,500 university students despite promises of continuity from the government. Since the takeover, classes in the school's political science division had not been allowed to resume.

He said that the seizures had regressed the country's education system for decades.

He stated, "In reality, we're already at the Middle Ages when any expression of nonconformity leads you to jail."


 

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