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The generation of July 23rd and the Youth of April: “the flame never died out”

In 1959, UNAN defended its autonomy after a massacre. In 2018, universities under partisan control supported the repression by Daniel Ortega's regime

Images of a march organized by students in July, 2018, to commemorate the massacre of July 23, 1959. Photo: Carlos Herrera | Confidencial

Confidencial Digital

24 de agosto 2020


On the 61st anniversary of the massacre that took place on July 23rd, 1959, during which the National Guard murdered four students and injured more than sixty while they protested in the city of Leon, the Youth of April finds itself facing dictatorial power once again. But this time, the trail of death in the country is much greater, and the university autonomy has been trampled on by Daniel Ortega’s regime.

For the self-proclaimed “generation of July 23rd”, the loss of university autonomy, as evidenced by the Rebellion of April of 2018, implies a “repetition of history” and brings “deep pain”. However, the constant struggle of the Nicaraguan youth for achieving justice and democracy has rescued the “true meaning” of Student Day, which for many years had been reduced to “an official celebration”.

Writer Sergio Ramirez, professor Carlos Tünnermann, human rights defender Vilma Núñez, and Doctor Joaquín Solís Piura are members of that generation. In a recent interview given to the TV show Esta Noche, they explained the bond that ties them to a new generation of students struggling to regain university autonomy.

The statement published by members of this generation claims that in Nicaragua there is a continuation of “the enthronement in power of a single person and their family; (as well as) violations of the Political Constitution, the subjection of public powers to the will of that family; electoral fraud, pacts to distribute quotas of power and seats in parliament, and acts of corruption”.

“The civic rebellion that started in April of 2018, led by a courageous, determined youth full of patriotic ideals, demonstrated that the flame of the 23rd of July of 1959 never died out”, they say in the statement.

“I felt as though they were my children”

Dr. Solís Piura feels “a deep pain” seeing how the Nicaraguan universities lost their autonomy. “We invested blood, time and effort in the conquest and consolidation of autonomy. Thousands of classmates were killed over the years of fighting against the tyranny of that time. The way in which the autonomy is trampled on today hurts our soul”, he said.

However, the momentum of the students who –despite having been repressed– continue to stand up to the regime rejoices the survivors of the 1959 massacre, because it demonstrates that the ideals for which they fought more than six decades ago, continue to live on.

“I felt as though they were my children when I saw these young people speaking out, protesting and exposing themselves, dying in the streets without a weapon, but fighting for the same ideals against the new dictatorship,” said Dr. Solís Piura.

Although the ideals of the struggle are the same, the current context is different from that of 1959, highlights professor Carlos Tünnermann. In those years, autonomy allowed the critical conscience of society to be reflected in the university, “something that does not happen now because the universities are subject to the ruling party. There is no autonomy, the university does not cultivate critical thinking but, on the contrary, tries to suppress it,” he said.

“Without critical thinking, there is no development, no humanism, no social development”, pointed out writer Sergio Ramírez. Nowadays, “universities are entirely in the hands of a partisan discipline that removes all possibility of free critical thought, which impoverishes education and makes universities not play the role they should play,” he stressed.

Universities have “trampled on” the legacy of Mariano Fiallos

For Ramírez, the fact that the public universities of the country lent themselves to the repression and repressed the students of the civic rebellion of 2018, is “the best evidence” that they play a role contrary to the interests of university autonomy.

The legacy of Mariano Fiallos Gil, father of university autonomy, “has not only been ignored but has also been knocked out and trampled on by the university that he formulated in his thinking, to which he gave way as the father of autonomy. The truth is that it no longer exists, they are imitations of a university, and this is a terrible loss for the country”, stated Ramírez.

Dr. Tünnermann pointed out that the massive expulsion of students in 2018 was the complete opposite of what happened in 1959, when “the university demonstrated it was autonomous and demanded investigation and punishment of the guilty”, of the murder of its students Erick Ramírez, Mauricio Martínez, José Rubí y Sergio Saldaña.

Human rights defender Vilma Núñez, who defines herself as “one more survivor” of the massacre of the students, remembered the support the students received from the population of León and the university authorities.

According to Núñez, “the participation of women began to take shape” in the 1959 protests, and although “it was not our turn to promote the changes that are still pending in this country, we are betting on that”, with the new generation of students.
Nicaragua deserves a change

On the other hand, the survivors of the Student Day massacre called for unity among the different sectors of civil society to build “a single diverse and united political force that, through civic means, can achieve a definitive change for Nicaragua”.

“At this moment, the greatest light opening up to us as political opposition to overthrow this tyranny, is the unity of all Nicaraguans, putting aside differences,” emphasized Dr. Solís Piura.

For his part, Dr. Tünnermann, who forms part of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, highlighted that the participation of Nicaraguan youth as a result of the April Rebellion has given new momentum to the politics of this country.



This article has been translated by Ana Maria Sampson, a Communication Science student at the University of Amsterdam and member of our staff*


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Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996.