Absurd Charges against the UCA Rejected by Jesuits

Outside view of the Central American University (UCA). Photo from university website.

The Jesuits point to systematic attacks against the UCA since 2018. They demand that the Ortega government immediately overturn the confiscation.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Society of Jesus of Central America forcefully rejected the accusations of “terrorism, treason and violation of the constitutional and legal order” levied this Tuesday, August 15, 2023 by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo against the Central American University (UCA). The following day the prestigious 63-year-old university was summarily confiscated without the right to a defense.

“The grave accusations against the Jesuit University in Nicaragua are totally false and unfounded, (…) in which they describe it as a “center of terrorism” and charge it with having ‘betrayed the trust of the Nicaraguan people” and of ‘violating the constitutional and legal order and the regulations that govern the Institutions of Higher Education in the country’,” the Jesuits declared.

The accusations against the UCA were emitted by a Managua criminal court under the orders of Ortega. The Jesuits asserted: “the confiscation of the UCA is the price paid for the search for a more just society, and our protection of the life, truth, and freedom of the Nicaraguan people, according to the maxim: ‘The truth shall set you free’.”

The Jesuit society of Central America noted that this action “isn’t an isolated event,” but is part of a series of attacks the UCA has received for their posture “in defense of the lives of people who were repressed by state and paramilitary forces during the 2018 protests.”

As a consequence of this position, the university has been the object of siege, hounding and harassment from government institutions: first, by the failure to extend “the certifications necessary for operation, on the part of the Interior Ministry, the National Council of Evaluation and Accreditation, and the National Council of Universities.” In addition, by excluding the institution from the latter body, which distributes among its member universities the 6% of the Nicaraguan national budget that’s earmarked for higher education.

“It’s a matter of a government policy that systematically violates human rights and appears to be oriented towards consolidating a totalitarian state,” the Jesuits accused.

Ortega is responsible

The Society of Jesus also demanded publicly that the UCA be permitted to exercise its legitimate right to defend itself against these accusations.

“The UCA in Nicaragua, and the Jesuits living in that country, can count on the full backing of the Province of Central America,” they declared.

The Jesuit group holds the government of Daniel Ortega directly responsible for damages caused to the student body, the faculty, the administrative personnel, and all others who work at the UCA. In the same way, they consider the regime directly responsible “for the order to impound all of the property, furnishings and economic patrimony of the UCA, for the benefit of the Nicaraguan government.”

They demanded that Ortega immediately overturn the abrupt measures taken against the university, and that they cease the growing government aggression against the UCA and its participants, while “a rational solution be sought, in which truth, justice, dialogue and the defense of academic freedom prevail.”

National and international condemnation of the UCA closure

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship’s accusations against the university and reminded them: “your obligation before the grave measure of closing a university for supposed reasons of national security should be to justify the action according to that established in the International Pact for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

Erika Guevara, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research, Advocacy and Policy, expressed her solidarity with the closed university and recalled: “the UCA has been a bastion of progressive education and of defending the student movement.”

Monsignor Silvio Baez, exiled auxiliary bishop of Managua, noted on his Twitter feed: “the unjust and illegal confiscation of the UCA by the Sandinista dictatorship is outrageous. In that way, they demonstrate their scorn for intellectual freedom, quality education and critical thinking. Day by day, they sink further into their irrationality, their malice, and their fear.”

Poet and novelist Gioconda Belli also condemned the confiscation of the UCA and assured that this situation is an assault by the government of Daniel Ortega “on the soul of the country, by stripping away its centers of thinking, education and art.”

The Nicaragua Nunca Mas Human Rights Collective stated that the dictatorship’s aim is “to impose one sole model of teaching and thinking, as well as forms of organization that contribute to strengthening their hegemonic pretensions of nationalizing everything and contributing to their perpetuity in power…”

The group called on the international community “to take all possible measures in the face of so many violations of the human rights of Nicaraguans, who demand justice, freedom, truth and no more repetition.”

Former faculty and students lament the closure

Josefina Vijil, who at one time was part of the UCA faculty, termed [the day the closure was announced] “a devastating day of sorrow and desolation, of incredulousness at the barbarity.” She recalled that, for her, the university had been “my terra firma. It helped me understand the reality and the needs of the educator’s profession, to integrate theory and data into the classroom practice,” she wrote on her Twitter account.

Lawyer Maria Asuncion Moreno, who also was a member of the UCA faculty for years, expressed her solidarity with the current personnel, including professors, administrative and research staff, and that of the entire university. She wrote: “the confiscation of the UCA by the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship is a stone over the tomb of Higher Education in Nicaragua.”

Student activist Madeleine Caracas shared a video on her social media in which she recalled that both the university and its students have always been persecuted for their thoughts and ideals. “The dictatorship believes that with this action they’re going to have total control over the country, but they don’t know that there are still many of us who continue raising our voices, denouncing what’s happening in the country. The university resists, the UCA resists. Today, more than ever, we’re the UCA.”

Released political prisoner Edwin Carcache, who had been at student at the UCA, stressed the educational quality of the university and lamented that the regime, “is stealing and destroying it in the same way they’re destroying all of Nicaragua.”

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