The Ortega-controlled deputies in Nicaragua’s National Assembly abruptly cancelled the legal status of 16 non-profit organizations this Wednesday, February 2. Among them are the Nicaraguan Polytechnical University, which in 2018 was occupied by students protesting the regime of Daniel Ortega.
The legislative ruling, which caught students, teachers and administrations by surprise, alleged that these educational centers had failed to comply with the Law for Legal Non-Profit Status, and the Law against Money Laundering, Financing Terrorism or Financing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The shuttered organizations, nearly all of them educational institutions or associations, join a growing list of over 60 groups whose legal permission to operate was unilaterally cancelled in Nicaragua.
The decision to strip these groups of their legal right to exist was preceded in the National Assembly by a decree outlawing the Nicaraguan Association of Singer-songwriters and the Association of Orthodontists in Nicaragua. The Sandinista-dominated legislators then introduced a second decree that had not been on the day’s legislative schedule, in order to close the 14 educational organizations.
Among the groups summarily losing their legal permission to operate are: the Nicaraguan Polytechnical University (UPOLI), the Catholic Agricultural University of the Tropics (UCATSE), the Association for Humanitarian Studies (UNEH), the Popular Nicaraguan University Association (UPONIC), and the Paolo Freire University Association (UPF).
Also stripped of their legality were the Association for the Agricultural Institute, the Association of Parochial Schools, the Catholic Cultural Center Association of the North, and the Commission for Justice Foundation, all programs of Esteli’s Catholic dioceses; the dioceses’ branch of Caritas; the Father Fabretto Family Association; the Michelangelo Foundation; the Association for the Development of Esteli; and the Association to Promote the Graduation of Business Owners.
Although such decisions always come from “above”, the face used to cancel these organizations was Franya Urey, head of the Interior Ministry’s department for registration and control of civic nonprofit associations. She accused them of “little transparency in the administration of their funds.” Supposedly, the Ministry is unaware of “the form in which these [funds] were executed, and whether it was in accordance with the goals and objectives for which the National Assembly granted them non-profit status.” Urey didn’t mention that for several years her Ministry refuses to receive the documentation of NGOs.
In addition, the Ministry accused the organizations of having incomplete directive boards. This “has made it impossible for the regulating entity to identify who the organizations’ representatives and associates are, thus infringing the laws that regulate civil non-profit associations in Nicaragua,” Urey stated. Once again, the Ortega official omitted that when the organizations have submitted the required information, the Ministry refused to accept the paperwork.
Up through January 2022, 61 NGOs had been summarily cancelled, the most recent of them being the Foundation for Mobile University’s Latin American Campus; the Association for the Agricultural University of the Fifth Region; and the Pro-University Association of Jinotega. With the 16 new closures, the list totals 77 organizations, all of them abruptly closed by decree, with no warning or chance to appeal.
National Council of Universities says they will absorb the displaced students
The National Council of Universities (CNU) issued a statement on February 2, assuring that despite the sudden closure of the five universities – the Upoli, Ucatse, Uneh, Uponic and UPF – they would “guarantee” the students’ academic continuity. The statement, however, gave no indication of how they planned to do so.
The CNU “will guarantee the academic and administrative responsibilities left pending by … these organizations of higher education, as a consequence of the cancellation of their respective non-profit statuses due to their failure to comply with their obligations and their continued violations of the established legal norms,” the statement read.
On December 13, the Hispanoamericana University was also shuttered, and the CNU issued a similar assurance, without details, that it would respond. A month and a half later, students were notified that they could resume their classes beginning January 31, 2022. The university is now being administered by the CNU and the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN).
“Everything that was part of the Uhispam will continue functioning under the concept of educational continuity. The CNU will be at the head, and there’s a team committed to working with enthusiasm,” the authorities of the new rector organization, now controlled by the governing party, stated.