The objective of Daniel Ortega’s regime, with the unconstitutional and arbitrary confiscation of six private universities in Nicaragua, is to impose a partisan control on higher education institutions. In doing so it puts at risk the future of the country, warn members of University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice and Nicaraguan scholars.
The rector of the cancelled Universidad Pablo Freire (UPF), Adrian Meza, recognizes that the quality of education in Nicaragua “has been in crisis for some years.” However, he assures that with the confiscation of the private universities this situation “is deepening,” because the criteria with which the public education system is conducted “are not academic criteria, they are not educational criteria, but criteria of political subjection.”
With the nationalization “they intend to turn the university into a platform of support for a political model that is against society. A political model of a hegemonic party that controls everything,” warned Meza during a virtual forum organized by the University Coordinator. Such a situation “practically leaves the university in Nicaragua turned into a caricature,” he noted.
The former rector of the Universidad Americana (UAM), Ernesto Medina, assessed that higher education in Nicaragua is experiencing one of the darkest moments of its history, since the entire system is “in the hands of people who do not have technical capacity, nor the experience, and even less the vision” to seek solutions to the problems that burden society.
“At this moment, those who oversee the different levels of education are political commissaries, political agents. People who are only in charge of ensuring that in all stages of the (educational) system people only obey the orders of the government officials,” Medina pointed out.
“An illegal and arbitrary act”
Through a statement, read by Yaritza Mairena, the members of the University Coordinator also denounced that “the criminalization and political control exercised (the regime’s operators) in Nicaragua’s public universities constitute an illegal and arbitrary act,” so that “we remind the State of Nicaragua that access to education is a human right” established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“All actions taken by the Nicaraguan State, led by the Ortega-Murillo regime, are intended to invalidate citizen participation in public affairs, eradicate any critical thinking. We urge the national and international educational community to be in solidarity and to continue defending academic freedom, university autonomy, human rights and democracy,” read Mairena.
Professor Alberto Cortés, of the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), commented, “when a state rages against freedom of thought it becomes evident that it is an authoritarian regime, which does not tolerate criticism, opposition, free questioning of its society” and the confiscation of universities is nothing more than “an attempt to crush” any type of social mobilization.
What happened in Nicaragua “is not a struggle that seeks to deprivatize access to higher education, but rather they are trying to curtail the possibility of teaching, education and social action that can generate critical thinking. They are afraid of the student movement, which is a catalyst for social transformations,” stressed Cortes.
Uncertainty among students
The universities cancelled and confiscated five days ago were: Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua (UPOLI), Universidad Católica Agropecuaria del Trópico (UCATSE), Asociación de Estudios Humanitarios (UNEH), Asociacion Popular de Nicaragua (UPONIC) and Asociacion Universidad Paulo Freire (UPF). Two months earlier the same thing had happened to the Universidad Hispanoamericana (UHISPAM).
The confiscation of assets is prohibited by the Nicaraguan Constitution, but, in an effort to appear legal, the National Assembly created the state universities: Francisco Luis Espinoza Pineda, Universidad Nacional Politécnica (UNT) and the Universidad Nacional Multidisciplinaria Ricardo Morales Aviles through which the assets of the cancelled universities are transferred to the State.
No academic authority has clearly explained to the students of the six confiscated universities what will happen to their future. They have been feeling uncertainty, anguish, and frustration since February 2, when their study centers were cancelled, and as the days have gone by, they have been accumulating questions that so far no one knows how to answer. Even the students of UHISPAM, cancelled two months earlier, have no clarity about the changes imposed.
In Nicaragua there is no official registration of enrollment of the six confiscated universities, but an estimate made by CONFIDENCIAL, based on newspaper reports and statements of officials in these universities, indicate that there are more than 18,000 students affected in several departments of the country.
The data gathered indicate that the Universidad Politecnica de Nicaragua (UPOLI) housed 8,500 students, followed by the Universidad Catolica del Tropico Seco (UCATSE) with 3,200, the Universidad Pablo Freire (UPF) with 1,200 and the Universidad Nicaraguense de Estudios Humanisticos (UNEH) also with 1,200. Meanwhile, the Universidad Hispanoamericana (UHISPAM) cancelled in December, had 3,980. There are no records for the Universidad Popular Nicaraguense (UPONIC), although some report 2,000 students, with could raise the number of affected students to 20,000.