A district court in Nicaragua ordered on Wednesday the confiscation of the Jesuit-run University of Central America (UCA) in Nicaragua over allegations that it has been used as a “center of terrorism” in the country, according to a statement from the Central American Province of the Society of Jesus. The school’s confiscation joins Ortega’s government’s ongoing crackdown on Catholic-associated institutions in the country.
The Tenth Criminal District, District of Managua of Nicaragua ordered the confiscation of the Jesuit-run university on Wednesday for transgressing against “the constitutional order, the legal order and the order that governs the institutions of higher education in the country.” In response to the order, the Central American Province of the Society of Jesus called the court’s accusations “totally false and unfounded” and called for the government to reverse the court’s decision. They also alleged that, since April 2018, the UCA has been the subject of “constant assault, harassment and intimidation by Nicaraguan government institutions” because of its stance on Ortega’s administration. The school also previously served as a hub for protests against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in 2018.
More than 28 million undergraduate students and more than 5 million postgraduate students attended the university.
On Thursday, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the US also issued a statement about the court’s decision. In it, they called the Nicaraguan government’s confiscation of the UCA “a blatant violation of academic and religious freedom” and asked the governments of Canada and the US to join them in denounce the move and find a just resolution. In response, US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel called Nicaragua’s confiscation of the UCA a “further erosion of democratic norms and a stifling civic space.” Patel also condemned Ortega’s administration of “ongoing repression of religious figures and institutions.”
The protests began in 2018 after Ortega’s administration proposed changes to the country’s pension system, and eventually evolved into a massive anti-governmental movement, backed by Catholics leaders in Nicaragua, among others. Afterwards, the Ortega government targeted members of the Catholic church and related institutions, which triggered a resolution of condemnation from the Organization of American States (OAS). Both the US and Canada joined in signing the resolution. Over the course of the 2018 protests, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), approximately 2,000 were injured and at least 355 died. Since then, Ortega’s government has continued its crackdown, closing Catholic institutions and arresting Catholic priests.