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Kevin ClarkeAugust 16, 2023
A student looks at his cellphone while walking at Jesuit-run Central American University in Managua, Nicaragua, March 31, 2022. (CNS photo/Maynor Valenzuela, Reuters)A student looks at his cellphone while walking at Jesuit-run Central American University in Managua, Nicaragua, March 31, 2022. (CNS photo/Maynor Valenzuela, Reuters)

The Jesuit-run Central American University (U.C.A.) in Managua, Nicaragua, was forced to suspend operations on Aug. 16, academically stranding its 9,500 undergrad and graduate students. According to local press reports, a criminal court justice in Managua ordered the university’s properties confiscated. The university’s bank accounts had been frozen by government officials on Aug. 9.

A letter issued by the judge on Aug. 15 described the university as a “center of terrorism,” accusing its administrators and educators of “betraying the trust of the Nicaraguan people” and of “transgressing against the constitutional order.”

In a statement released on Aug. 16 from La Libertad, El Salvador, the Central American Province of the Society of Jesus called the accusations against the Jesuits at U.C.A. “totally false and unfounded” and described the university’s seizure as part of “government policy that is systematically violating [human] rights…[and] aimed at consolidating a totalitarian state.”

A Nicaraguan judge described the Jesuit university as a “center of terrorism,” accusing its administrators and educators of “betraying the trust of the Nicaraguan people” and of “transgressing against the constitutional order.”

The Central American University has been a hub of resistance to the regime of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. U.C.A. students joined protests calling for Mr. Ortega’s ouster in April 2018, and the university opened its campus to protesters fleeing police and paramilitaries. The Jesuits trace the origins of official hostility toward the university to that decision. Since then, they charge, U.C.A. “has been the object of constant siege and harassment by Nicaraguan government institutions.”

“The de facto confiscation of U.C.A.,” the Jesuits said, “is the price to pay for the search for a more just society, to protect the life, truth and freedom of the Nicaraguan people, in line with [U.C.A.’s] motto: ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32).”

The Jesuits say this latest move against the university is part of a pattern of government oppression—“unjustified attacks against the Nicaraguan population and other educational and social institutions of civil society that are generating a climate of violence and insecurity and exacerbating the country’s sociopolitical crisis.”

Since the anti-government protests in 2018, the Ortega-Murillo government has been ratcheting up pressure on forces of civic opposition, arresting critics in opposition political parties, Nicaraguan media and finally the Nicaraguan church. Over the last three years, the Ortegas have closed 27 institutions of higher education in Nicaragua, seizing the assets of 12 of them, according to Voice of America.

The Central American University has been a hub of resistance to the regime of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

The university, founded in 1960 by the Jesuits as the nation’s first private institution of higher education, has educated generations of Nicaraguans, including Mr. Ortega and three of his children.

In their statement today, the Jesuits urged the government to reverse the confiscation orders and to cease its aggression against the university and its educators. “We reiterate the commitment of the Society of Jesus to the Nicaraguan people in support of an inclusive quality education, inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the Central American Jesuits said. “God is the one who has the last word in history,” they added, “and God will also have [the last word] in Nicaragua.”

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