A Nicaraguan judge has ordered the confiscation of all assets belonging to a prestigious Jesuit-run university, the college announced, as the government’s crackdown on Catholic clergy and church-affiliated institutions intensifies. In a letter seen by Reuters and addressed to the university community, the 63-year-old Central American University (UCA) said it had been informed by a criminal court that all of its assets would be transferred to the government. The letter cited the government as saying it would guarantee all educational programs, but the university said it would suspend all its classes and administrative activities without giving a restart date.
UCA, widely considered one of Central America’s top private institutions of higher learning, said it stands accused of being a “centre for terrorism organized by criminal groups,” which it rejects as false. The Central American leadership of the Jesuit religious order based in El Salvador said in a statement the seizure was “part of a series of unjustifiable attacks” on Nicaraguans. The Catholic order called on the government to reverse what it called a “drastic, unexpected and unfair” judicial order. Ortega’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. While the UCA is not the first private university to face seizure orders by the government of President Daniel Ortega – more than two dozen others have been targeted in the same way – it is by far the best-known.
UCA is the alma mater of many student leaders active in the 2018 anti-government protests that left more than 360 dead – mostly at the hands of police and other government-affiliated forces, according to human rights groups. Last week, authorities froze the university’s bank accounts. The university had already been singled out for budget cuts and its leaders targeted, including UCA rector and Jesuit priest Jose Idiaquez who last year was barred from returning to Nicaragua after traveling to Mexico. The UCA seizure follows escalating tensions between the government and Nicaragua’s Catholic Church, whose leaders acted as mediators in the aftermath of the 2018 protests.
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