By Yamlek Mojica L / Franklin Villavicencio (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – A month ago, the classrooms were the ideal sites for Nicaraguan students to meet with their teachers. Today, some of the youth go out daily to demonstrate against the government, while others remain in the hallways of the universities they’re occupying. Still others have been killed during the protests. “The students of Nicaragua are our inspiration,” affirm their professors.
Nearly a month after classes were suspended in the majority of Nicaragua’s universities, the professors met with their students as part of a demonstration of Independently Gathered Teachers. “They were our students, we are their teachers,” they chanted. They had joined in to demand justice, autonomy and democracy.
Some of the teachers shared with us their reasons for attending the protests and their message for the students who continue in the struggle.
Ana Ortiz, professor of Architectonic Design in the University of Engineering
Why are you here today?
I educate my students so they can be free. I encourage them to express themselves, whatever their creed or political party. I don’t belong to any political party, I’m here because I want to support the kids. I want to support Nicaragua, so that these repressive acts don’t keep happening. They’re senseless, it’s like going backwards in time.
What would you say to your students?
I want to tell them that free expression is an unavoidable fact of life and that they can and should express themselves, no matter what type of repression is imposed. The right to free expression is one of the most precious rights, like the right to life and to peace. I think that the things that have happened are incredibly unfortunate. I know many of the young people who’ve been protesting since the very first day, for a just cause. They have the right to express themselves. What happened is regrettable, I believe that Nicaragua has to work hard for peace, tolerance and diversity of thought.
Adrian Meza Soza, professor of Labor Law at the Paulo Freire University
Why are you here today?
Because the young people and students of our country have once more set an example of how we citizens should be restoring the democratic institutions and the rule of law in our country. It’s impossible to be a professor, to give classes to the students and at the same time refuse to take this class that the students are giving their professors in all the universities.
What would you say to the students who have demonstrated?
That they must hold on to the spirit, the idea and the principles that are moving them today: they need to keep these values right through tomorrow when they’re older. The principles and the ideas that move them today must not be transitory – that’s fundamental. They need to always remain as pure as they are now. Those ideas will guide their lives and guarantee hope and a future for this country.
Hazel Lopez, teacher of religion in both primary and secondary school
Why did you come today?
To help my country. We don’t want any more dictatorship, we don’t want any more repression. We want freedom for our students, because they’re our future. They’re killing our youth, the future of our country. They’re not interested in having us educate ourselves. All dictators want us to be an uneducated people, illiterate, in order to brainwash us. They’re not going to succeed at this.
What do you have to say to the students who continue protesting?
That they shouldn’t give up. Nicaragua is a country characterized by struggle, by strength, by hardship, but at the same time by union, peace and love of God.
Donald Ortiz, professor of Finance and Accounting at the Ibero-American University of Science and Technology (UNICIT)
Why did you come to this protest today?
I’m here today supporting this just struggle for the people of Nicaragua, commemorating all the valiant students who’ve died for this noble cause.
What would you say to the young people who’ve gone out into the streets?
That we need to keep going. They, all of us – we know that this is just the beginning of something bigger. We have to go straight towards victory.
Thelma Salvatierra Suarez, researcher for the Nicaraguan Autonomous University (UNAN) – Managua.
Why did you come to the protest?
Because we want justice for our students. For all those that they’ve killed and repressed. We want the repression to end, we want to express ourselves freely, have academic freedom. So that in the universities we have the right to speak without fear. There are many professors who are afraid, that’s why they’re not here, but I’m sure they support us.
What would you tell your students?
Look, right now we have kids who’re occupying the UNAN, and I want them to know that their protest is just. They have just demands, one of them is university autonomy, and the second is for the Union of Nicaraguan Students (Student group tied to the government) to go. We support them and want them to know that their struggle is just. That – please – don’t let yourselves be provoked, don’t fall into violence. That we’re with them.
Luis Enrique Palma, Spanish professor at the Central American University (UCA)
Why are you demonstrating today?
As faculty, I’m aware of what’s happening in the country. Of this civic and civil struggle that the students have begun, a struggle that was attacked by the government repression. We the professors, add our names to the students’ demands: demands for democracy, justice for the murdered, wounded and pursued. As faculty, I put myself in solidarity with those who’ve been forced to demonstrate at the roundabouts, since their freedom of expression was cut off. We support the students, the citizens, who right up until today are struggling for those just causes all over the country. That’s why we came today.
What would you say to the students who have gone out into the streets?
They’re an inspiration to their professors. They’re the hope of this country. They’ve awakened us and made us understand that there’s still a Nicaragua to fight for. They’ve given us hope.