Nicaragua government orders seizure of top Jesuit-run university, in Managua

Nicaragua: Jesuits condemn closure of Central American University in Managua

Father Arturo de Sosa, SJ, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, expresses solidarity with the Jesuit Central American Province after the forced closure of the Central American University (UCA) in Managua by the Nicaraguan government.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Superior General of the Jesuits, Father Arturo de Sosa, SJ, has joined the Central American Province of the Society of Jesus in condemning, in the strongest terms, the closure of its Central American University (UCA) in Managua.

False accusations of terrorism

The 63-year-old prestigious Jesuit-run university, which was a hub for 2018 protests against President Daniel Ortega’s controversial reform of the national social security system, announced on 16 August that its assets have been confiscated by Nicaraguan authorities on grounds of being a “centre of terrorism.”

The UCA slammed the accusation as totally “unfounded” and called the seizure a blow to academia in Nicaragua.

The measure is the latest in a series of repressive actions by Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista regime against the Catholic Church, as a consequence of its stance during the 2018 protests.

In a letter addressed to Fr. José Domingo Cuesta, SJ, the Order's Central American Provincial, Father Sosa expressed his solidarity both with UCA staff and students and to the Jesuit province.

Systematic violations of human rights

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Curia of the Province based in El Salvador reiterated that the accusation of terrorism is “totally false and unfounded”.

The provincial Curia recalled that the “new government aggression” against the Jesuit university “is not an isolated incident”, but part “of a series of unjustified attacks against the Nicaraguan population and other educational and social institutions that are generating a climate of violence and insecurity, and exacerbating the country's socio-political crisis.”

“This government policy is systematically violating human rights and seems to be aimed at consolidating a totalitarian state,” the statement decried.

The Jesuits also urged the government to allow UCA “to exercise its inalienable right to legitimate defence” against the accusations, and to “immediately” reverse and correct the “unfair measure adopted by the judicial.”

The statement further called on Nicaraguan authorities to stop their “aggression” against the Jesuit university and its members.

Solidarity from Fr. Sosa

In his letter, Fr. Sosa joined these demands calling for “paths of dialogue” based “on truth, freedom and the right to quality education for the youth, and for all the people of Nicaragua.”

“Once again, and in a particular way at this moment of the Cross, I reiterate my support and that of the entire Society of Jesus for the mission carried out by the Province of Central America at the UCA of Managua,” the letter said.

The Sandinista crackdown on Church and opposition

Since the drastic deterioration of relations with the Sandinista regime after April 2018, the Church in Nicaragua has been the target of several attacks and desecrations, as well as harassment and intimidations of bishops and priests, some of whom have been expelled, along with some religious orders.

In 2019, Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez was forced to leave the Archdiocese after receiving several death threats.

In 2022,the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag was expelled as "persona non grata" and in April this year, the Holy See closed its nunciature in Managua, after the Nicaraguan government proposed suspending diplomatic relations.

In February, Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison for high treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news, among other charges. 

The crackdown has drawn a widespread outcry from Bishops in Latin America and across the globe.

The expulsions, closures and confiscations have not just targeted the Church. Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces clamped on the mass anti-government protests in April 2018. President Ortega argues that he protests were an attempted coup backed by the bishops and foreign powers, aiming for his overthrow.

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18 August 2023, 15:18