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Nicaragua Seizes Assets of Jesuit University Accused of Terrorism

Jesuit-run Central American University of Nicaragua announced Wednesday the suspension of all its activities after a court ordered the confiscation of its property and funds, after accusing it of being a “center of terrorism.”

“The measures are taken in correspondence to unfounded claims that the Central American University functioned as a center of terrorism, organizing criminal groups,” said the UCA in a statement, alluding to the 2018 anti-government protests that left more than 300 dead.

The university explained that on Tuesday afternoon it received a notice notifying the measure: “It is ordered that the seizure of all the described assets […] be in favor of the State of Nicaragua that will guarantee the continuity of all educational programs.”

The National Council of Universities assured in a statement that “it works to guarantee the educational continuity of undergraduate and graduate students of the now defunct Central American University (UCA)” and called to “be aware of the call” for the resumption of activities.

The government of President Daniel Ortega maintains a conflictive relationship with the Catholic Church. Bishop Rolando Álvarez has been imprisoned since August 2022, sentenced in February to 26 years in prison for undermining national integrity, among other charges. At least two other priests are incarcerated accused of common crimes.

The Nicaraguan authorities had ordered the freezing of UCA’s bank accounts last week, although there was no statement from the authorities. The government has also not issued any communication on the center’s complaint about asset confiscation.

The Central American University suspends all academic and administrative activities as of today, until it is possible to resume them ordinarily, which will be reported through the University’s official communication channels,” the academic center added.

The Central American provincial leadership of the Society of Jesus considered the accusations against the UCA to be “totally false and unfounded” and asked Managua to reverse “the drastic, unexpected and unfair measure.”

“It is a government policy that is systematically violating human rights and seems to be aimed at consolidating a totalitarian state,” the Jesuit organization based in San Salvador said in a statement.

The start of classes for the second semester of the year was scheduled at UCA for August 21.

UCA, founded in July 1960 by priests of the Society of Jesus, has some 5,000 students and defines itself as “an educational non-profit institution, autonomous, of public service and Christian inspiration.”

Other Catholic Universities

During the 2018 protests, UCA’s then-rector José Idiáquez participated as a leader of the opposition alliance in dialogue meetings with the government.

Ortega considered the protests an attempted coup promoted by the United States, while international organizations accused the executive of pushing a repression against the opposition.

The Nicaraguan authorities also recently closed two universities of the archdiocese of Managua, as well as some 3,000 non-governmental organizations as part of the hardening of laws after the protests. In addition, hundreds of opponents have been sent into exile and stripped of their property and nationality.

Several of these measures have been ordered by courts, so the international community denounces that Nicaragua’s justice system is at the service of Ortega’s government.

In March, Pope Francis said he was “worried” and “saddened” by the situation in Nicaragua, especially by Bishop Álvarez and by the deportation of 222 opponents to the United States. In addition, the Argentine pontiff considered that Nicaragua had a “shameless dictatorship.”

Ortega replied shortly after, claiming that a “mafia” was in charge of choosing popes and other Catholic hierarchs, and proposed that they be elected by popular vote.

Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

Although UCA was subject to the freezing of its bank accounts since last week, it continued its routine activities with the registration of students for the new semester.

The Jesuit university offers undergraduate degrees in Architecture, Environmental, Civil, Industrial and Information Systems Engineering, as well as degrees in Business Administration, Communication and Public Accounting.

It also offers several graduate degrees, including master’s in business administration and management, Education and Learning, and specializations in Procedural Law.

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