Academic Freedom Being Killed in Nicaragua

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThe Nicaraguan government under President (dictator) Daniel Ortega has seized the private Jesuit-run University of Central America in Nicaragua for “fomenting terrorism.” The shuttering of this university is just the latest salvo in the Nicaraguan government’s war against academic freedom in the country. In fact, this has been the most recent university that the Nicaraguan government has shut down. Since 2021, the government has shut down 26 universities in the country. Daniel Ortega has ruled Nicaragua since 2007, and has no intention of giving up power. His government has now taken on a more extreme direction; kill any and all opposition no matter where it is. This now includes shutting down whole universities.

What does this mean for all of the students who attended the universities the government has shut down? It means that they are effectively no longer students, and have no chance of receiving higher education. For the professors and staff it means they are out of jobs and are effectively banned from teaching. The result is that academic life has come to a stand-still in Nicaragua if one is no longer free to speak their minds or protest. Many of the universities were where many protests against the Ortega dictatorship had taken place, and so to Ortega and the Sandinista ruling government many of them had to go. Those universities which remain open have to be especially careful they do not “get out of line” with the government.

But Ortega’s shuttering of universities is not just an attack against academia; it is also a war against the Roman Catholic Church in Nicaragua. The Jesuit order, the Society of Jesus, is part of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, and government’s confiscation of the university’s property and assets is the government’s means of trying to cut down the Church’s influence in the country. It is very clear that the Ortega regime sees the Catholic Church along with the country’s press as a threat to its power. Effectively academic freedom is dead in Nicaragua, and with it the country’s future of not only constitutional freedoms but any innovation which might benefit the country. The government has killed the social, political and physical sciences that could help improve the country’s agriculture, its technology sector, its future infrastructure projects, and most important any political reform that could create a healthy civil society. Nicaragua is paying an insanely high price for Ortega and the Sandinistas staying in power.

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