By Germán Van de Velde[This article was first published in Spanish in Cuaderno Sandinista on August 18, 2023. It was translated into English by Jill Clark-Golub.]
(Germán Van de Velde is a Belgian/Nicaraguan educator who has lived for many years in Estelí.)
The Jesuits founded the now-defunct Central American University (UCA) in the 1960s. Headquartered in Managua, it was the first private university to be created in Central America. Intellectuals from a diverse array of religious affiliations participated in this project.
During the dictatorship the UCA was not looked upon with disfavor because it was considered to be aligned with the development interests of the Somozas. The dictatorship assumed that this institution could counteract the strength of the student movement at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), which never happened because the student movement only grew stronger and stronger as the final insurrection approached.
Right after the triumph of the Sandinista Popular Revolution, the UCA had serious staffing problems. Teaching in higher education had not been consistently supported. Low salaries and limited educational resources and teaching materials discouraged the people from engaging in this revolutionary activity that was so necessary for the training of academic professionals.
In order to solve this problem, international cooperation was sought from foreign professors and through student teachers. For example, in the second year after the triumph of the revolution, approximately 60% of the instructors at the former UCA were foreigners; this figure later dropped to 25%. An attitude of solidarity and cooperation helped solve that problem.
Up until the early 1990s, the UCA held a position against imperialist power and strongly criticized neoliberalism as a political and economic model. In the early 1990s, the UCA participated in the protests against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro administration to demand that 6% of the national budget be allocated to the universities, as specified in the constitution. However, the UCA’s engagement in that struggle progressively cooled off, until it finally reached complicit silence. Little by little, it abandoned positions criticizing imperialist power, changing from a university with a preferential option for the poor to a university at the service of big money.
By the mid-1990s, the now-defunct school terminated majors in humanistic fields such as philosophy, arts, and letters, closing the Human Rights Program and Culture Department, among others. Curriculum changes began to appear, eliminating educational content that might question global neoliberalism as a system that creates injustices, inequalities, and asymmetry between states and within countries between social classes.
From 1994-1995 onwards, the leadership of the UCA focused on going after, sanctioning, and destroying the University Student Center of the Central American University (CEUUCA) and its leaders. This was aimed at obliterating the leadership of the National Student Union of Nicaragua (UNEN), which still exists and whose members are young revolutionaries.
In the second half of the ‘90s, to 2000 and beyond, the university marginalized and minimized courses in sociology and social work. These humanistic majors were disparaged, the document center was canceled, and the contracts of many Sandinista instructors were terminated. The students were sent to the worst classrooms; the majors were not promoted, and classes were moved from normal hours to unusual ones.
Many offices or programs at the UCA—which in the 1980s and early 1990s had a vocation for social service—henceforth became commodified (e.g. Nitlapan), which went from conducting research for social action to granting loans for profit—a true vampire feeding on the working class.
This was when the cost of enrollment skyrocketed, not only in terms of monthly tuition, but also fees to receive grades and degrees. They no longer charged by the month or four-month period, but for each class. All of this turned the former UCA into an institution for elites, placing it on the list of the most expensive universities in Nicaragua and Central America.
Starting in 2007, the UCA begin to operate as the ideological center of the counterrevolution. It promoted the creation of digital battle fronts which served as platforms to spread fake news throughout the country and establish opinion narratives against the Sandinista government. These facilities were used to prepare “leadership” courses and certificate programs funded by USAID and the NED, which trained the misnamed “student leaders” who were key players during the attempted coup d’etat.
The attempted coup of 2018 was incubated on the campus of the UCA, which served as the barracks and command post of the coup mongers. This academic institution became a den of criminals, cyber terrorists, and mouthpieces for chaos. At that stage, the UCA went from serving tiny groups of political actors who wanted—and still want—to destroy the model of human development being implemented in Nicaragua, to directly serving the US government.
Finally, during the last three fiscal years (2020, 2021, and 2022) the now-defunct UCA did not submit financial statements indicating the origin of its donations and the ultimate beneficiaries. The school failed to provide detailed breakdowns of revenue and expenses, balance sheets, or details on donations (source, provenance, and beneficiaries), and its Board of Directors expired on 18 March 2022 and was not renewed (with no final beneficiary identified). All of this violates the rule of law and legal framework established by Article 34, clauses 3, 7, 24, 25, 26, 26.1, 26.3, 27 and Article 35.7 of Law 1115, the General Law on the Regulation and Control of Non-Profit Entities.
Such has been the deplorable transformation of the UCA throughout its history. The government of Nicaragua, as State regulator, is responsible for enforcing the law. August 16, 2023, will go down in Nicaraguan history as the day that the Central American University became the now-extinct UCA, and took on the name “Casimiro Sotelo Public University” in honor of the distinguished student leader who took the message of revolution to young people at the Central American University in the 1960s.
The Sandinista Popular Revolution—our Revolution—is fundamentally guided by a vocation of serving the people and serving human beings; protecting peace; and promoting popular education in a spirit of solidarity and genuine cooperation to continue building a Nicaragua that is Blessed and Always Free.
References: Monroy, G. (2007). La Iglesia católica y su participación política en Nicaragua (1960-1979). Contribuciones desde Coatepec, núm. 12, enero-junio, 2007, pp. 85-105 Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México Toluca, México  Comentarios de Carlos Emilio López Hurtado (2023).
By Nan McCurdy
Avilés Highlights Actions to Guarantee Security
The Chief of the Army, General Julio César Avilés, described actions currently being promoted by the government to maintain Nicaragua as the safest country in Central American. Avilés said that in Nicaragua there are no gangs, and the country is not a haven for drug trafficking, nor are there criminal structures for hired killings.
Avilés highlighted the development of the state strategy of a containment wall that blocks drug trafficking and organized crime. He mentioned the constant patrolling of the land borders, the coastlines and the maritime and air borders to contain, divert and capture drugs that smugglers attempt to bring into Nicaraguan territory. “We have the capacity to prevent that at least 800 tons of cocaine per year do not circulate through our territory,” he said. He added that currently the attempts of drug traffickers to approach the national coasts are kept much more distant, at more than 500 nautical miles. “Logically, those shipments that are made from South to North America attempt to transit through the countries of the region, but the least affected is Nicaragua,” he said. Another important way to guarantee security is through migratory control. Those who travel unauthorized between one country (e.g. Nicaragua) and another (e.g. Costa Rica), are retained and handed over to the corresponding authorities. (Radio La Primerisima, 16 August 2023)
CNU Guarantees Continuity of Studies to UCA Students
The National Council of Universities (CNU) and the rector of higher education, in use of the powers conferred by Law 89 and Law 1114 and its reform, agreed in Ordinary Session on August 17, 2023, to cancel the authorization to operate of the Central American University in accordance with the provisions of the Nicaraguan State. The National Council of Universities, in order to guarantee the educational continuity of undergraduate and graduate students, approved the creation of the Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro National University. Likewise, the Council appointed the new authorities of the university: Rector Alejandro Enrique Genet Cruz, MA; Vice Rector Dr. Luz Marina Ortiz Narváez; General Secretary, Moisés Ignacio Palacios, MA. President of the CNU Ramona Rodriguez said that enrollments will continue at the Casimiro Sotelo University to ensure educational continuity. This way the students can start their second semester on August 28. (Informe Pastran, 17 August 2023; Radio La Primerisima, 21 August 2023)
Nicaragua Committed to Strengthening CABEI
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) announced that Nicaragua has made a US$12.7 million-dollar advance payment corresponding to the fourth and fifth of eight capital installments from the subscription of 20,400 series “A” shares within the framework of CABEI’s VIII General Capital Increase. The other four Central American countries, founders of CABEI, have agreed to do the same. Executive President Dante Mossi said “CABEI congratulates Nicaragua for having made its capital payments, demonstrating its commitment to strengthen the financial and credit profile of the banking institution of the Central American region.” The Nicaragua government and CABEI are currently carrying out a project portfolio totaling more than US$1.58 billion for development. (Nicaragua News, 17 August 2023; CABEI web page, 13 August 2023)
CABEI Highlights Advances of Potable Water Program
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) reported on advances of the “Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Sustainability Program.” This includes construction and improvement of potable water and sanitation systems in communities providing higher quality service for the population. The US$30 million-dollar program financed by the General Budget with support from CABEI, is 59% complete and will benefit 73,000 inhabitants in 121 municipalities. (Nicaragua News, 18 August 2023)
Funding for Programs that Generate Thousands of jobs Guaranteed
With the support of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Nicaragua is executing 24 public sector projects and CABEI is backing eight global lines of credit as part of its financial intermediation to contribute to economic and social wellbeing and the generation of thousands of jobs. CABEI has supported the generation of more than 113,000 jobs in the last two years in key areas of the economy such as construction, health, agriculture, tourism, among others; as well as in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MIPYMEs), which benefit from access to resources. The support of development projects has improved the quality of life of thousands of Nicaraguans with access to electricity, health, drinking water and modernized road infrastructure. Some 3,596 MIPYMEs have received loans, which, since 2020 has protected 47,649 jobs in Nicaragua. (Radio La Primerisima, 23 August 2023)
Nearly 650,000 Property Titles in the Hands of the People
The Attorney General’s office (PGR) presented a report on the Legal Certainty and Family Stability Titling Program that the government is implementing throughout the country. The report states that 647,452 property titles were delivered free of charge between 2007 and July 2023, benefiting 3,041,667 people. The report also states that 25 Indigenous and Afro-descendant territories have been demarcated, covering 38,426 square kilometers in 315 communities of the two Caribbean Autonomous Regions. The PGR is handing over 2,500 property titles weekly to guarantee access for all Nicaraguans to property legal certainty. (Nicaragua News, 16 August 2023)
Creating More Employment in Nicaragua
Vice President Rosario Murillo presented the monthly report on growth of new small business ventures. 1,315 new businesses were created between July 16 and August 15, 2023, generating 6,575 new jobs. These new small and medium size businesses are in sectors such as transportation services, sale of food products, miscellaneous stores, tourism services, mechanical workshops, real estate, and veterinary clinics. A total of 9,570 businesses have been established in 2023, creating 47,850 new jobs. (Nicaragua News, 17 August 2023)
New Farm to Develop Agricultural Technologies
In Granada the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technologies (INTA) inaugurated a new farm for the development of agricultural technologies named for the national hero General José Dolores Estrada. The objective is to work with producers to promote the productive diversification of their plots and generate technologies and varieties of vegetables, basic grains, soybeans, sesame, fruit trees, medicinal plants, pastures and forage that adapt to climate variability and produce well at all times of the year. In addition, the farm will conduct studies on technologies, varieties, and hybrids of white and yellow corn, as well as white and red sorghum to increase yields on farmers’ properties. The goal is to train 2,500 young people, women, producers and entrepreneurs annually, for which it has teaching areas and work areas for researchers. (Radio La Primerisima, 19 August 2023)
Major Road Expansion in Managua
The Managua Municipal Office announced the start of the Juan Pablo II Highway Expansion and Modernization Project, to expedite mobility and strengthen road safety. The 10km project includes expansion of lanes, construction of five overpasses and six pedestrian bridges, as well as the planting of 25,000 trees. The US$300 million-dollar expansion, financed through the General Budget with support from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the European Investment Bank (EIB), is expected to be inaugurated in 2026. See photos: https://www.canal4.com.ni/asi-son-los-disenos-de-los-pasos-a-desniveles-de-la-ampliacion-de-la-pista-san-juan-pablo-ii/
(Nicaragua News, 18 August 2023, Canal4.com.ni, 22 August 2023)