Nicaragua’s Agrarian University Expels or Sanctions 240 Students

for protesting the rigged student elections

Members of the Pro-Ortega UNEN students association leaving their closed door meeting. Photo: A. Cruz / La

By Martha Vasquez Larios  (La Prensa)

HAVANA TIMES – Arbitrarily, and in violation of the academic regulations for students, the authorities of Nicaragua’s National Agrarian University (UNA) expelled 45 students and canceled for a year the scholarships awarded to 195 students of the four faculties that make up this university.  Their crime was disagreeing with the politics of the National Union of Nicaraguan Students (UNEN), a student organization closely allied with the Ortega regime.

The unanimous decision of the authorities was communicated to the students on Wednesday, December 11, via letters signed by the Secretary General of the UNA, Agustina Mercedes Matus Medina.

The letter states that the decision was made in the University Council, although the sanctioned students were not asked to appear.  In some cases, the sanctions involved the total suspension of the affected students’ scholarships or other previously awarded benefits; also, their right to enroll in the next term’s modules or subjects was conditioned on their “observed good behavior”, a very subjective criteria since no definition was offered of what would be called good conduct.

Expulsions are political reprisals, with no time for an appeal

“The expulsions and sanctions are political, because the affected parties are students who oppose the current orientation of the UNEN and proclaim university autonomy.  The authorities have trampled on the students’ rights, they’ve violated the student regulations, and they did so maliciously, because they notified us two days before university activities are to be suspended for the holidays, so that we don’t have time to appeal the arbitrary resolution,” explained Bryan Somarriba, a fourth-year student majoring in Rural Development.

Somarriba was a candidate for one of the groups that opposed the Ortega-allied UNEN in the Agrarian University student elections.

University students who were in their third, fourth, or fifth year of the five-year university sequence were among the students affected.  That is, these young people were nearly ready to receive their university diplomas; the decision will cause serious damage to their academic records.

The UNA students had maintained a strong bastion of active struggle during the student rebellion of April 2018.  Their demonstrations along Managua’s northern highway contributed to deflecting the attacks on other besieged universities further towards Managua’s center.  There are even some students there who had faced legal processes for obstructing public roadways. Other students are in exile.

Denunciations of fraud sparked reprisals

The beginning of the antagonism between students in the opposition and the UNA authorities began in November, when the former group denounced a supposed fraud in the internal student elections at this university.

The elections began on November 23 for the sections that meet on weekends; on November 26, the regular student body was to follow. However, this same day they were suspended, because the students denounced the supposed irregularities in the electoral process.

In the UNA there were three student formulas participating in the disputed election for seats in the leadership of the UNEN: Formula A represented the old student union leaders, allied with the Ortega regime; the other Formulas B and C rejected the posture of the first group, denounced anomalies in the process, and demanded free and transparent elections.

In reprisal, the academic authorities sanctioned them for “acts of indiscipline, classified as very serious, committed on the 26th and 27th of November.”  These were the days when the opposition students denounced and protested the electoral anomalies.  Some of the students referred to the fact that the Electoral Council of the University assumed the task of covering up the UNEN fraud, in an effort to make sure that formula A won.

University authorities faithful to the regime’s posture

In the letter given the affected students, the authorities issue a call to “reflection, as a future professional of the agricultural sector, to take advantage of the opportunity afforded you in this educational institution that shapes professionals in an integral manner within the culture of peace,” the letter reads.

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