Nicaraguan Students Denounce Government Persecution

Nicaraguan university students on the Esta Noche (Tonight) TV program. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial


Young people are alarmed by the criminalization of the protest movement and the selective abductions.

“We’ve been in constant movement due to the siege. Others have had to leave the country due to this situation,” affirms Jonathan Lopez, a leader from Nicaragua’s National Autonomous University (UNAN)


By Maynor Salazar (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Daniel Ortega’s regime has unleashed a witch-hunt, targeting people who have participated in the demonstrations demanding an end to his dictatorship. The round-up has concentrated principally on university students who since April have been demanding that the government leave power.

Alejandra Centeno, a leader from Nicaragua’s National Autonomous University (UNAN- Managua) stated during an interview on the nightly television news program Esta Nocha [“Tonight”] that there’s huge concern about this within the student movement. Although the government is trying to sell the appearance of a return to normalcy, Nicaragua is actually suffering the criminalizing of protest, including arrests and abductions that violate all legal norms.

This past weekend, the government engaged in selective seizures in several cities around the country. In Leon, the majority of those abducted were active students from the UNAN in Managua and Leon. These young people are being held in the lock-up of the Department of Judicial Assistance, better known as the feared El Chipote jail.

“They won’t let us see them. We’ve presented several appeals for examination, but all we know is that they’re being mistreated, tortured. Last Saturday was a terrible day for the university community,” Centeno noted.

Some young people, such as Jonathan Lopez, an UNAN university leader, have to take refuge in safe houses, since they’re being persecuted by government sympathizers with an eye to their abduction.

“Several of us have experienced this situation. We’ve been constantly on the move from house to house due to the siege. Others have had to leave the country to escape this situation. In Costa Rica, they must deal with hunger; it’s a sad situation that the young people are living through. We’re being mistreated merely for saying that we’re university students. To the government, we’re criminals,” Lopez expressed.

No guarantees for returning to the classroom

The government authorities have tried to impose an atmosphere of normalcy in the country. The principal heads of the public universities have added their voices to the government proposal, and have recently announced the continuation of the university cycle.

Centeno explained that the universities where students participated in the protests against Ortega haven’t offered any minimum guarantees of security for students returning to class. That “normalcy” the government speaks of isn’t reflected in the massive dismissals of faculty that are not aligned with the regime or with the line of thinking of the authorities.

Seven students from Leon were abducted on Saturday, charged with terrorism and other serious charges.

“The universities have made lists of unwelcome students. If one of these young people presents themselves at the university, those very authorities could help the police take them unjustly to jail. Conditions for us to reintegrate ourselves as students simply don’t exist,” Centeno declared.

The university students have proposed as their method of protest, student disobedience. According to Lopez, the majority of students agree to use this measure, just as in Leon, where the students have not returned to their classrooms.

“The authorities don’t represent us. In the UNAN they were supposed to hold elections to choose the rectors and the deans, but what happened is that they just assigned themselves to these positions. In order to return to our classrooms, the minimum conditions we ask for is a true autonomy so we con choose our administrative and student authorities, and, of course, physical security,” emphasized the student leader.

Centeno is the spokesperson for the organized departments in the Ruben Dario university campus. This organization forms part of the University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice. She insisted that to understand the academic civil disobedience you have to look further than just class attendance.

“It’s not that we don’t want to study, it’s the fact that appropriate conditions don’t exist. We’re demanding university autonomy, not only economically, but in all senses. Autonomy for the faculty and symbolically; autonomy that allows the students to have close ties with the sociopolitical processes in the country. What we saw in the UNAN authorities is that at no time did they want to allow us to become agents of change within these processes. We can’t remain outside of these movements, because they’ve taught us that we’re the nation’s future. We grew up believing that we were Nicaragua’s future, but when we want to do something, they put limits on us, they lock us up and they persecute us,” the young university student affirmed.

Regarding freedom for the University Chairs and the massive firing of the teaching faculty, Lopez expressed that they repudiate the persecution and harassment of the professors who issued pronouncements in support of the student struggle for autonomy.

“A week ago, at UNAN’s Rucfa facility, we learned that four of the most capable professors on campus were dismissed. That hurts us and fills us with anger, because it’s wrong that people who should be defending our rights are attacking us. According to the autonomy law and its statutes, protesting isn’t just a student’s right, but their duty; as the country’s future we have a civic responsibility to go out and demand that autonomy and human rights in general be respected,” Lopez said.

“It should also be noted that they’re not just letting go of any professors, but of those that are the best, the most capable, the most specialized and those with the longest tenure at the universities. Those with the greatest ability to mold our future professionals. In the UNAN they’re limiting the formation of Nicaragua’s social capital, Centeno added.

The students will continue with their plan of disobedience, although they didn’t discount other forms of pressure, such as a renewed takeover of the university halls.

“In a way, this could be a risk, but there are many of us who are ready to do so. It’s not something we’re planning right now, but if it should happen there are many of us who would join in on such actions. For the moment, we’re still weighing more options – the student civil disobedience has begun and also that of not recognizing the administrative authorities,” Lopez concluded.

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