Ortega’s regime celebrates university closures on social media

Ortega’s regime celebrates university closures on social media

Published on 11 Sep 2023

The closing of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) and its implications for academic freedom in Nicaragua.

On August 16, 2023, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, consummated the confiscation of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), the most internationally prestigious university in Nicaragua, which constitutes a hard blow against academic freedom and the formation of critical thinking in the country.


The university authorities announced that they were suspending their academic and administrative activities, asking the staff to go home. In the corridors of the institution there was crying, hugs and a huge goodbye, because there is hope that the UCA will return.


While this was happening, the Ortega regime was pushing narratives on networks to celebrate the takeover of the UCA and its change to the University of Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro.


What happened?


On August 15, 2023, Gloria María Saavedra Corrales, judge of the Tenth Criminal District Court of Managua ordered the confiscation and seizure of the UCA’s real estate, after processing an accusation of terrorism. Days before, it had become known that the UCA’s bank accounts had been frozen.


Hours later, on August 16, the National Council of Universities (CNU), controlled by the Ortega and Murillo regime, published a statement informing that “it is working to guarantee the educational continuity of undergraduate and graduate students of the now defunct Central American University (UCA)”.


The same day that the regime consummated the confiscation of the UCA, this entity held the General Assembly of the Higher Education Institutions (IES) with the objective of making known the normative compendium of the higher education subsystem which contemplates values and principles of this educational level, norms, and procedures for the actions of each university entity in the academic and administrative fields. The following day, the CNU renamed it as Universidad Nacional Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro, hero of Sandinismo and former student of the UCA.


UCA, a refuge from the repression of the Nicaraguan regime


The Central American Province of the Society of Jesus, owner of the UCA, stated in a statement that “the serious accusations” in which it is described as a “Center of terrorism” are “totally false and unfounded”.


This university served as a refuge for thousands of demonstrators fleeing repression. The most emblematic case occurred on May 30, Mother’s Day in Nicaragua. The most gigantic march in the recent history of the country, which was attacked by police and paramilitaries. The UCA opened its gates so that people fleeing the bullets could take refuge.


Adding that, this new government aggression is not an isolated event, but is part of a series of unjustified attacks against the Nicaraguan population and other educational and social institutions of civil society.


The Company also detailed that, since April 2018, as a result of its stance in defense of the lives of people who were being repressed by state and parapolice forces, the UCA has been subject to constant siege, and harassment by government institutions.


The narrative of the Nicaraguan regime online


To investigate the role of the Nicaraguan regime in this digital conversation about universities, ProBox used words such as Universidad Nacional Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro, Universidad Nacional Francisco Luis Espinoza Pineda, Ley de Autonomía de las Instituciones de Educación Superior en Nicaragua, Unión Nacional de Estudiantes UNEN, Consejo Nacional de Universidades CNU Nicaragua, Universidad del pueblo Nicaragua and #4419 Frente Estudiantil Revolucionario.


Under this study we obtained a sample of 1,565 mentions on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, where we could observe that the conversation around these keywords was concentrated between August 17 and 18, after the seizure of the UCA.


Likewise, some words stand out in the following cloud due to their repetition in the conversation such as “universidad pueblo”, “cruzada nacional” (national crusade), “alfabetización nacional” (national literacy) and “continuidad educativa” (educational continuity).


The push for the regime’s narratives on universities was evident in the accounts of channel thirteen Viva Nicaragua and Channel 2 on Facebook. Posts on this topic between the two channels achieved a range of impressions of 23,151,188 impressions. These accounts celebrated the takeover of the UCA and its change to the University of Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro, in addition to inviting people to support this process.


Additionally, the Ortega regime managed to position hashtags such as #Universidaddelpueblo, #4419siemprevictoriosos, #4419siempremasalla and #Unidosenvictorias on Twitter, in order to contaminate the digital conversation and make it difficult for civil society to position narratives of denunciation.


A crusade against universities in Nicaragua


With the UCA, 30 private universities have been cancelled and confiscated by the Ortega and Murillo regime. This repressive pattern began on December 13, 2021 when the National Assembly, controlled entirely by Ortega and Murillo, cancelled the legal status of the Universidad Hispanoamericana (UHISPAM).


The request for the cancellation of UHISPAM was made by the Ministry of the Interior. The argument was the same one that has been used to eliminate almost 3,500 civil organizations. It alleged that UHISPAM did not report financial statements for the year 2020, so -according to the regime- it transgressed the “Law against money laundering, financing of terrorism and financing for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”.


International universities did not escape the vortex of the Ministry of the Interior. On February 3, 2022, it canceled the registration of four universities from the United States, one from Panama and two from Costa Rica.


During 2022 and so far in 2023, the closing of private universities has been massive and they all pass into the hands of the Nicaraguan State.


Ortega and his plan to put an end to free thought


With the closure of the UCA, Daniel Ortega’s regime concludes the configuration of a controlled university higher education system that seeks to crush any attempt at rebellion.


Historically, Nicaraguan universities have been bastions of youth struggles against the injustices of dictatorial regimes. The remaining private ones, for the most part, are either affiliated with or beholden to Sandinismo, the army and front men of the presidential family.


The universe of students of the cancelled universities is subjected to a state structure of education aligned with the imposition of a single thought that eliminates any dissent. This happened with the more than 200 university students expelled in 2018 and with those who have been deprived of their lives and freedom for exercising the right to protest.


In a statement, the Jesuit congregation accused Ortega of promoting “a government policy that is systematically violating human rights and seems to be aimed at consolidating a totalitarian state.”


The closure of the UCA is another step in Daniel Ortega’s strategy to put an end to free thought. Mariano Fiallos Gil, former rector of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN – León) and considered the father of university autonomy in the country, defended the idea that the university should teach people to think, to create effective, critical and sensitive professionals.


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

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