Ortega-Murillo’s hunt against students

Ortega-Murillo’s hunt against students

Published on 29 Aug 2023

Nicaraguan youths have no universities left where they can study in freedom

“Outside the house there are two people and I guess I’m going to be arrested,” said social communicator, Adela Elizabeth Espinoza Tercero, in a video shared on Facebook by her mother, Flor Tercero.

Adela Espinoza, who graduated as a social communicator from the Central American University (UCA), was arbitrarily detained on August 19, 2023 by the Nicaraguan Police, one day after the cancellation of the legal status and confiscation of the UCA was finalized. Espinoza’s detention was also denounced on social networks by the Student Defense Movement of the UCA to which she belongs.

Knowing where her daughter was taken to became an ordeal for Flor Tercero. On August 21, Flor posted on Facebook: “Today we asked for information in District Three (Managua Police) because they are receiving our food there and they sent us to Chipote (maximum security prison) and there they told us that they did not have anyone in prison”.

At noon on August 22 when she went to Police District Three, by mere chance, Flor confirmed that her daughter Adela was detained there. She could not tell him anything. “At least I know she is alive. It was very hard to see her in a blue suit. I cried like never before, I have to admit,” she posted on Facebook.

In addition to Adela’s arrest, the August 19 police raid included Gabriela Morales, a student at John Paul II University. The complaint was made on Facebook by the Movimiento Universitario 19 de Abril (MU19A). On August 21, Acción Universitaria denounced through this same social network that the student and human rights activist, Mayela Campos, was detained by civilians. Similarly, the Unidad Juvenil y Estudiantil denounced the detention of young Josseph Rodríguez.

In its police report for the period from August 14 to 20, the police report the detention of 31 people. However, the cases of Adela and Gabriela do not appear. Nor has the Public Prosecutor’s Office reported whether it has opened any case against the detained university students.

Was this discussed on social media?

At ProBox we conducted a keyword search related to these events through the BrandMentions tool, specifically on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Instagram due to the relevance of these platforms in the Central American country.

We managed to recover 1,178 mentions linked to #SOSNicaragua, Central American University of Nicaragua, Nicaraguan students, student protests, student defense movement and Caritas Nicaragua.

An increase related to this conversation is registered between August 16 and 19, with the highest activity on August 18, dates that coincide with the confiscation of the regime to the UCA and the official gazetting of the same.

We were able to identify how civil society had the highest number of mentions around the topic, mainly the account of Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco on Facebook with 48 mentions registered in the analyzed sample; reaching 50,813 unique accounts and 2,439,024 total views. However, the fourth account with the most mentions was Soy Sandinista, also on Facebook with 27, but this one obtained a reach of 116,977 individual accounts generating 3,158,379 total views.

That is, with almost half of the mentions registered by civil society, the Sandinista account linked to the regime obtained more than double the reach of users and 719,355 more views, which reflects how the communicational machinery of the Nicaraguan regime has greater reach in the country’s digital conversation.

Among the most used words in the analyzed sample, the following stand out: Universidad Centroamericana, UCA, Daniel Ortega, Confiscación Universidad, Movimiento Estudiantil, Pinta Caritas, among others.

It is not the first time that the regime opaques civil society online

Since we included the study of socio-political conversation in Nicaragua’s trends in X, we have detected how trends linked to the Ortega-Murillo regime have almost completely dominated the digital conversation.

In 2022, 90.15% of the messages in Nicaragua’s national trends came from State sympathizers, rendering invisible the denunciations made by Nicaraguan civil society represented by the remaining 9.85% of the tweets registered throughout the year.

In the first semester of 2023, this situation has not improved; on the contrary, the regime has promoted 92.56% of the messages registered in the socio-political trends of Nicaragua in X and the civil society has only generated 7.44% of the messages; that is, for each message generated by the civil society, the coordinated users of the regime called “Sandinista troop” generate 12.

A large part of the accounts linked to the Nicaraguan regime are automated or groups of people operating in an organized manner and even state institutions are used to operationalize this practice. In October 2021 Meta eliminated a “troll farm” with more than 1,000 Facebook and Instagram accounts administered by the regime of Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party, through the Nicaraguan Telecommunications and Postal Company (TELCOR). This is “part of a coordinated effort to manipulate public discourse using fake accounts” and “amplify pro-government and anti-opposition content,” the platform’s report states.

Opposing the regime pays with jail time

Imprisoning those who think differently is another method of repression by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo in Nicaragua. On February 9, 2023, Ortega released and expelled 222 political prisoners, including Lesther Alemán, Max Jerez, Miguel Flores, Mildred Rayo and Samantha Jirón, members of university movements. At least 35 political prisoners were not released, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez. Those released were banished to the United States and their Nicaraguan nationality was taken away. Subsequently, their property was confiscated.

However, detentions have not ceased. As of July 31, the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners registered 78 political prisoners: 12 women and 66 men. This list includes the cases of Anielka Lucía García Zapata and Jasson Noel Salazar Rugama, whom the police arrested on April 4, 2023, the latter being a university leader and member of the University Movement April 19 (MU19A).

Nicaraguan youth have no universities left where they can study in freedom and organize their student movements. Those who try to do so go to Daniel Ortega’s prisons. There their rights are violated, they are not allowed lawyers of their choice, regular visits from their families, nor do they have the right to due process. Justice is also imprisoned in Nicaragua.

For more information on socio-political manipulation on social media, you can follow us everywhere at @ProBoxVE.

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