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European Concern over Lack of Academic Freedom in Nicaragua

The Coimbra Group, an association of 40 European universities asked centers of higher education to support to Nicaraguan students and professors

Agencia EFE

26 de abril 2024


The Coimbra Group, an international network of universities, expressed its “utmost concern for the many attacks on academic freedom at higher education institutions in Nicaragua, as well as the restrictions put on research integrity and the right to a critical education” in the country.

In a statement, the network noted that in August 2023, the government headed by Daniel Ortega forcibly closed the Central American University (UCA), a private university run by the Jesuits, and confiscated all its assets and infrastructure.“The closure was followed by the arbitrary arrest of academics and students by the police,” denounced the Coimbra group, which brings together 40 universities in 22 European countries.

“Established in 1960, UCA has consistently delivered vital critical research and high-quality education, earning a prominent status as one of Central America’s most prestigious research and higher education institutions,” the Association’s statement noted.

With an ample campus in the center of Managua, the Jesuit-run UCA was considered one of the last bastions of open, critical thinking in Nicaragua. The university was shuttered and its campus expropriated, including all facilities, on August 17, 2023, immediately following the Public Prosecutor’s accusation of being a “center of terrorism.”

Coimbra group cites the 1988 Lima Declaration

Citing a report from Human Rights Watch, the Coimbra group recalled: “the Nicaraguan government has closed 28 universities in the country since 2018 as part of the crackdown on organizations created by and representing civil society,” as well as shuttering over 3,000 non-governmental organizations in Nicaragua.

As a result: “We hereby evoke the 1988 Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education which states that “Institutions of higher education should be critical of conditions of political repression and violations of human rights within their own society,” the network advocated.

The Coimbra Group urged the government of Nicaragua, and all the governments of the world, “to do everything to protect, safeguard, or immediately restore academic freedom and the autonomy of higher education in their own countries.”

In addition, they “call upon the competent authorities to ensure the protection of human rights and the safety of students, teachers, and staff at all former, and present, higher education institutions in Nicaragua.”

Statement includes a call for solidarity

The statement concluded with an appeal to the good will of all the institutions of higher learning across the globe, asking them to offer their support to the students, faculty, and personnel of the Nicaraguan universities, “and where possible to offer them opportunities to finish their studies and continue work either by way of online arrangements, special rules of admission, or other forms of support.”

The Coimbra statement also expressed solidarity with Nicaragua’s remaining independent institutions of higher learning “in these difficult times,” and called on “all university networks worldwide to firmly support academic freedom and university autonomy in Nicaragua and everywhere in the world.”

The Coimbra group is an international network of universities focused on promoting academic and scientific cooperation amongst its members.

Founded in 1985 in Coimbra, Portugal, the group lists as its principal aim facilitating all forms of interchange of knowledge, experiences, and resources among the member universities, as well as facilitating the mobility of students, professors, and researchers.

The group is comprised of over 40 European universities which collaborate in Latin America, Asia and Africa in a variety of areas, including research, academics, student exchange programs and joint projects.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Agencia EFE

Agencia EFE

Agencia de noticias internacional con sede en Madrid, España. Fundada en Burgos durante la guerra civil española en enero de 1939.