Hundreds of students line up in a long queue after several months living in uncertainty. They all come to ask questions about their grades, their diplomas and the continuation of their classes, but the university that receives them is very different from when they left. Strange faces, unfamiliar logos and red and black flags fly over the confiscated campus that once belonged to the Jesuits and the student community.
In its third attempt to get the stolen institution up and running, former Central American University (UCA), now called Casimiro Sotelo National University, finally opened its doors last November 20, to attend to student questions and to register students for the upcoming 2024 academic year.
After three months of arbitrary confiscation; persecution and criminalization against the Jesuits; as well as harassment and obstacles for the UCA student body; the new hosts, dressed with a red and black bandana around their necks, hypocritically smile at everyone who enters the campus and give instructions on how the new university is going to work.
Inside, however, everything is chaotic. Some students ask for their grades, but are told they don’t know when they will be delivered. Others ask for their diplomas and certificates, but they don’t know where they are. Others simply ask where the bathroom is, but they don’t know what answer to give them either, since they don’t know the place.
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Students come with doubts, and find no answer
For every student who asks a question, two or three people from the new administration have to get involved to give an answer. They don’t know the procedures that students ask about. Everything is solved with a “wait, I’m going to ask”.
“How do I do this?”, “What do I have to write?”, “What data do I have to put?”, they ask each other among the same people who now run the institution. If in any case they can’t answer a question, they ask the students for their names and phone numbers so they can call them back later.
Among the receipts they give students, unimaginable spelling mistakes are written by new workers. A photo of a bill from Casimiro Sotelo in which some employee wrote “alugno”, instead of “alumno”, went viral in social media.
“Casimiro Sotelo University started to work. And this is how we learn about the quality of its academic curriculum, for example, with this ‘alugno’,” says the person who shared the photo.
At the same time that they are trying to provide a solution for new arrivals, new workers are joining the university. The Orteguista leaders give a tour to recent collaborators, some of whom still wear shirts from the municipalities and other public institutions. “Here is academic registration”, “here is the cashier’s office”, here is this and here is that. They explain their new role and the activities they will perform.
Regime gets rid of any reference to Jesuits at UCA
Students slowly move through the long line that goes all the way around the main building, while Ortega’s workers run from one place to another because of the calls they make to each other.
Although the old UCA facilities are the same, it really looks like another university. The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo took care of removing any symbol related to the Jesuit institution and the history that the institution once had.
Political propaganda on every corner
The face of the Sandinista martyr Casimiro Sotelo covers all the walls, doors, signs, paperwork and even the new employees’ shirts. “Universidad Nacional Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro ¡Revolucionando la conciencia llegamos a la libertad!”, every corner of the university reads. “University of the people,” the corridors of this center of studies now show.
Even the sign of the UCA arboretum, a space known for housing more than 400 trees, was removed and is awaiting a new banner bearing the name of some other character linked to the propaganda of the Ortega-Murillo regime.
Meanwhile, the new cleaning staff, who previously would have worn civilian clothes suitable for their activities, now wear shirts with red and black letters alluding to the educational achievements that the dictatorship promotes. “Por más victorias” (For more victories) these collaborators, who now replace the people who worked at UCA for decades, wear on their backs.
Meanwhile, the presence of security guards, both uniformed and non-uniformed, is more noticeable than ever. Around, in the corridors, deep in the campus, they watch every person, student or parent who arrives at the university. There are also other people carrying the Sandinista flag who do nothing in particular, nothing more than guarding.
Management is limited
Most of the students with whom DIVERGENTES spoke did not come to the university to complete their registration and pre-registration, but rather to request certified grades that other universities have requested in order to be able to transfer. However, those who attend to them tell them that they are not currently providing these documents.
In fact, the only thing they are properly attending to is the payment of tuition and pre-enrollment fees for the next semester that will begin on January 15, 2024, according to official media.
They are not even processing graduate degrees, certificates from the National University Council (CNU), grades or any other type of documentation. The new university is only half functioning, but its captors promise that in a few months “when everything is stabilized”, everything will be ready.
The mystery of the money paid for UCA diplomas
Students who ask about their diplomas are told that those that were prepared in August and were just about to be withdrawn, will come out with the name of UCA. All those degrees that were not done by that time (even if they had been processed) will come out with the name of Universidad Casimiro Sotelo.
Meanwhile, some students who had already paid the 116 dollars that the degree process cost, but had not even received a date to receive it, have not received an answer as to whether they should pay again or not; since the last thing they heard is that “the Jesuits stole it”, according to what a Sandinista leader said, days after the confiscation of the University.
To the latter, the new authorities told them to leave their data so they could call them later.
So far, the only thing that the Ortega administration guarantees to the student body is the beginning of classes next year, although they do not know under what conditions this will take place.
Persecution against Jesuits and students
Central American University was confiscated on August 17, 2023, after the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship issued an official notice against it for supposedly having been “a center for terrorism”. Only days later, the legal status of the Jesuit Order, the institution in charge of the university, was cancelled by the Ministry of the Interior.
In the same context, the dictatorship also prohibited other private universities in Nicaragua, such as Universidad Americana (UAM), from receiving students from UCA. Hundreds of students enrolled in this institution after the confiscation of UCA, but their registration was cancelled under different excuses.
Currently, UCA of El Salvador and Guatemala are in the process of admission for students who requested to continue their university studies.