Pronuncement against the cancelation of the legal status of univrsities in Nicaragua - Today on your behalf... we mobilize!

Today, on your behalf... we mobilize!  

Pronouncement regarding the cancellation of the legal status and confiscation of the campuses of 13 universities in Nicaragua  

Between February 2 and 3, Nicaraguan National Assembly members, most of whom belong to the ruling party, approved the cancellation of the legal status of thirteen universities and several not-for-profit associations. A week later, they closed down another six organizations, among them several associations that promote culture, women’s and girls’ empowerment and human rights, and the "María Elena Cuadra" Movement, that actively defends the labour rights of women who work in the textile industry and who are unemployed.  

The universities that have been shut down are the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (UPOLI); the Catholic University of Dry Tropic Farming and Livestock (UCATSE), located in the city of Estelí; the Popular University of Nicaragua (UPONIC); the Nicaraguan University of Humanistic Studies (UNEH) and the Paulo Freire University (UPF). Seven international universities were also closed down: Florida International University; Michigan State University; Wake Forest University; Mobile University Corporation; the Thomas More University Association (UTM); the Central American University Association of Business Sciences (Ucem) and the Private Foundation University of Market Sciences.  

Although the procedures adopted to cancel the status of universities were introduced "as a matter of urgency", several worrying signs had already preceded the current attack on them. The Central American University (UCA), for example, has been facing an ongoing financial, political, police and media siege and several weeks ago, had warned about budget cuts to the constitutionally allocated 6%, (Art. 125 of the Constitution) that goes to universities to finance scholarships for low-income students, many of whom are from the regions.

It should be remembered that the State’s obligation to allocate 6% of the national budget to public and subsidized universities was a victory secured in the 1990s, by the mobilization of the student community. Ironically, among those who today actively promote these cuts are former student leaders allied to the ruling party who, in the 1990s participated in the struggle for the 6% (and were even criminalized for it).  

Liberticidal legislation (laws on foreign agents, cybercrimes, among others...) approved at the end of 2020 has striven to dismantle organizational spaces, institutions that promote community development, the defence of human rights, freedom of expression, the exercise of critical thinking and access to quality education. The Interior Ministry has operated as a repressive structure whose strategy is to block administrative procedures and deny the paperwork that civil society organizations, including many of the recently cancelled and expropriated universities, require to operate. In addition to trampling on university autonomy, the closure and subsequent confiscation of university campuses has abruptly disrupted the careers of thousands of students. Likewise, the rector of the Paulo Freire University (UPF) – which trained many trade unionists and social leaders in labour law – has had to go into exile for fear of being arrested and subjected to the same inhumane prison conditions faced today by 176 political prisoners. The torture to which unjustly imprisoned people are being subjected has caused the deterioration of their physical and emotional health, as well as that of their families and, on the February 12 led to the death of former guerrilla Hugo Torres, a key figure in the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship (in 1979) and during the revolutionary period of the 1980s.  

As researchers, teachers, students and the general public that make up the academic community, we are committed, together with our Nicaraguan colleagues, to the defence of university autonomy, to the defence of the right to live, work and transmit knowledge in an environment free of impositions, intimidation, indoctrination and repression, as proclaimed in Article 125 of the Nicaraguan Constitution.  

Today, due to the urgency of the current situation, we denounce the attacks against universities in Nicaragua and we unite in solidarity with our colleagues who are deprived even of their right to protest. We have done the same with our colleagues who have suffered or are suffering trials, imprisonments, threats, exile and even murders, as has happened, in recent years, repeatedly in Turkey, Brazil, Iran, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador... and also in other countries, where, even if the attacks are less systematic, the abuses that are registered show the always latent temptation to "be inspired" by the most authoritarian practices to control centres of education.  

Because we are conscious that keeping silent only emboldens those who, from their position of power, have tasked themselves with suffocating freedom of thought and terrorising the people, today, on your behalf... we mobilize!  

February 14, 2022