Nicaragua suspends permits to 14 NGOs and private universities

The Nicaraguan National Assembly, controlled by the ruling Sandinista Front, canceled on Wednesday the legal status of 14 university associations and NGOs linked to the academic sector and the Catholic Church, legislative sources reported.

With a majority of 75 votes, the deputies suspended work permits for the Catholic Agricultural University of the Dry Tropics, the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (UPOLI), the Paulo Freire University, the Popular Nicaraguan University (UPONIC) and six development associations linked to the Church. Catholic in the northern province of Estelí.

The Michelangelo Foundation, the Association for the Promotion of Graduates, the Association for Humanitarian Studies (UNEH) and the Association of Nicaraguan Singer-Songwriters, founded by the well-known musician Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, among others, were also affected by the measure.

Several of these NGOs are associated with academics critical of the Daniel Ortega government and figures from the Catholic Church, several of whose priests supported the 2018 social uprising, which the Sandinistas described as “a failed coup.”

In the case of the UPOLI university, it was one of the epicenters of the protests by young students in April and May 2018, when the police repression left at least 355 dead and more than 2,000 injured according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). .

In its request to the Legislative Power, the Ministry of the Interior argued that all these organizations “failed to deliver the financial reports to the Department of Registration and Control of Non-Profit Civil Associations”, which affects the “transparency” required by the institution.

The same justification was presented in 2021 to cancel the legal status of almost a dozen NGOs whose directors were figures critical of the Sandinista government.

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Gonzalo Carrión, a lawyer for the Costa Rica-based “Nicaragua Never Again” human rights committee, questioned the “arbitrary and unconstitutional” cancellation of permits for NGOs. “This decision violates the constitutional order that establishes that Nicaragua is a plural society with the participation of different initiatives, including private ones,” Carrión said in a filmed statement, after recalling that several dozen NGOs have been banned in the country in the last four years. years.

“The purpose is to impose a single thought model, a vertical society to contribute to the perpetuity of Ortega in power,” he assured.

For her part, Alexa Zamora, leader of the opposition Blue and White National Unit, told reporters that Ortega “intends to stifle any academic expression that is out of his control, putting the future of education and of the students of these universities at risk. ”.

Consulted by The Associated Press, the vicar of the Archdiocese of Managua, Monsignor Carlos Avilés, said that the cancellation of permits for Catholic associations is an “unfair measure, which does not contribute to the good of the country.”

“These institutions have social and aid purposes. It is another unjust way of repressing”, affirmed the priest.

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