May 31, 2018 — The Jesuits of Canada and the United States join our brother Jesuits and the Nicaraguan bishops in denouncing recent violence in Nicaragua and calling for justice.
On May 27, Fr. José Alberto Idiáquez, SJ, president of the Central American University (UCA), the Jesuit university in Managua, Nicaragua, denounced a violent attack in which guards at the university’s front gates were targeted by para-police forces. On May 30, the UCA again denounced violence that erupted during a march as it neared its conclusion at the gates of the UCA. There, shots broke out and many were wounded. More than 5,000 individuals took refuge on the university campus, where they received medical attention from volunteers and were gradually transferred for medical care. Despite continuing unrest, many chose to leave the university campus because of recent attacks and threats directed at the university.
The attacks come in a broader context of civil and political unrest. Last month, widespread protests, led in large part by Nicaraguan youth and university students, broke out in objection to proposed changes to the social security system. Police and para-military forces responded with violent repression. More than 75 individuals have reportedly been killed since that time, including a student from the Jesuit high school in Managua and the parent of a student from a Jesuit-affiliated school. A significant portion of those killed, wounded and disappeared are young people.
In its preliminary report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported over 850 individuals wounded, in addition to illegal and arbitrary detentions, torture, attacks against the press and other forms of intimidation. On May 22, the Chair of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua issued a statement informing that bishops and priests have been receiving death threats and other forms of intimidation connected to the “exercise of prophetic ministry,” including its denunciation of repression by the Nicaraguan government and calls for dialogue and democracy.
While the recent levels of protests and violence seem sudden to many, they arise in a broader context in which the current government has been consolidating power over several years. In 2011, the Supreme Court controversially ruled that President Ortega could run for reelection, and in 2014, a constitutional amendment eliminated limits to the number of terms a president could serve, as well as minimum vote requirements.
The UCA denounced the recent acts of violence and repression, as well as the irresponsibility of the current government that has allowed these groups to “intimidate and kill innocent citizens.” Similarly, the Nicaraguan bishops denounced threats against bishops and priests in the broader context of “one of the worst crises in (Nicaraguan) history with the brutal repression of the Nicaraguan government, which has tried to evade its responsibility as the principal actor in the many aggressions.”
Both the university and the Bishops’ Conference reiterate their commitment to standing with the Nicaraguan people in their demands for justice and democracy. Following yesterday’s escalation of violence at its gates, the UCA calls upon human rights organizations, and the international community more broadly, to intervene.
On April 22, as protests erupted throughout Nicaragua, Pope Francis voiced his concern for the country, saying, "I am united with the bishops in asking that every form of violence end, that a pointless shedding of blood be avoided and that open issues be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility."
The Jesuits of Canada and the United States join our brother Jesuits and the Nicaraguan bishops in denouncing this recent violence and calling for justice. We are deeply pained to witness these acts of repression and intimidation against the UCA, the Catholic Church and those they accompany. In the midst of this crisis, we are heartened by their firm commitment to stand with the Nicaraguan people who have experienced oppression and demand justice and to call for the building of peace through dialogue and democracy.
Today we reaffirm our solidarity with them and join in calling for an end to violence and intimidation and for the respect for human rights. Specifically, we call for an end to repression by state and para-military forces; for the protection of universities and other spaces essential for freedom of thought and expression, as well as of those gathered in them; the investigation of violations of human rights in the recent crisis and prosecution of those responsible; and for a true dialogue in which the voices of the oppressed are represented and can contribute to the building of just systems that are foundational for lasting peace.