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Nicaragua: Protests in Managua Show Divisions Within Student Movements

Categories: Latin America, Nicaragua, Education, International Relations, Protest, Youth

It has been a busy week in Nicaragua. On October 19, the Supreme Court overturned Article 147 of the National Constitution, which had prohibited continuous presidential reelection. It stated that a president could not run for consecutive reelection. The ruling opened a debate whether this was a legal move by the the Supreme Court. The ruling also opened up the possibility that current President Daniel Ortega [1] from the Sandinista Party (FSLN) could run for reelection after his term finishes in 2012.

Azahálea Solís Román, from the Nicaragua Autonomous Movement of Women (MAM for its initials in Spanish) wrote in Barricada.com.ni [es] [2]

Ayer por la tarde en Nicaragua, la Corte Suprema de Justicia, por medio de 6 personas que fueron nombradas como magistrados de ese poder del estado, pero que en realidad son militantes de un partido político, declararon la inaplicabilidad de un norma constitucional porque se opone a otra norma constitucional, es decir declararon inconstitucional la Constitución.

Yesterday afternoon in Nicaragua, the Supreme Court of Justice, through the 6 persons that were appointed as judges of that Government institution, but in reality they are militants of a political party, declared that a Constitutional rule is not applicable because it opposes another Constitutional rule, in other words, they declared the Constitution unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court decision produced a minor event a few days later, when a Supreme Court judge, Francisco Rosales (FSLN militant) was being interviewed by a local news tv channel [es] [3], when he was met by a group of young people who attacked him with eggs. In addition, the United States Ambassador in Nicaragua, Robert Callahan, gave a speech where he declared the Supreme Court decision on reelection as inappropriate, undiscussed, and biased towards one party [es] [4]. As a result, protests organized by students took place in front of the US Embassy in Managua.

There was also unrest about the actual budget the universities would receive. By law, they must receive 6% of the National Budget, a budget that is itself is being reduced. However, at the same time, there a proposal to create a new governmental office called the National Council of Evaluation and Accreditation (CNEA for its initials in Spanish). This office will take over functions from the National Center of Universities, which approves all universities in the country and distributes the 6% budget to the public universities, including giving part of this budget percentage to private universities.

Gabriela Montiel wrote on this Facebook page, later reposted on Barricada.com.ni [es], a review of the first day of protest for the 6% budget (October 21st). [5]

El 6% constitucional se ha ido reduciendo a tal punto que son aproximadamente 200 millones los que se han ido recortando y se seguiran recortando. Los perjudicados, LOS ESTUDIANTES, sobre todo los de afuera de managua. Es importante retomar la lucha del 6% hay muchos que creen que por tener un gobierno frentista este 6% esta asegurado pero se han olvidado de los princpios de lucha y se han acomodado al plan del gobierno y no a las necesidades de los estudiantes, que son o deberian ser la prioridad de UNEN.

The 6% Constitutional Percentage has been reducing to approximately 200 million cordobas (about 10 million dollars) and will continue to reduce. The ones affected will be the students, especially those who do not live in Managua. Is important to retake the fight for the 6%, there are many who believe that having a Sandinista government will guarantee the 6%, but they have forgotten the principles of struggle and have relaxed to follow the government plan and not the needs of the students, which are or should be the priority of UNEN (National Union of University Students).

Two accounts have come up from the first protest of October 29th. Gabriela Montiel wrote on El Boletincito Nica [es] [6]:


Foto: Gabriela Montiel, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

Y empezaron a tirar botellas y bolsas de agua hacia la tarima, son tan inteligentes los Universitarios que demandaban que canal 2 y la UCA (Universidad Centroamericana) se fueran, que uno de los botellazos le dio directamente a Edwing Castro (diputado) mientras este declaraba en la tarima el apoyo del gobierno pàra vetar la ley acreedora del CNEA, se logró ver que en la boca de Castro habia sangre…aunque la mayoría de botellas iban directo al periodista y camarógrafo de Canal 2, también se escuchaban abucheos hacia Edwin CASTRO ya que el fue uno de los que votó a favor del CNEA y luego llega aca a estar en contra de CNEA…Incoherencia!!!! Dulce y comoda incoherencia!!!!

And the started throwing bottles and water bags, students started to demand that the television Channel 2 (TV2) and UCA (Central American University) leave the stage, and one of the bottles directly hit Edwin Castro (Congressional deputy) while he was declaring the government's support to veto the law creating the CNEA. You could see blood on his mouth…. most of the bottles were directed to the cameraman of TV2, there were also some booing towards Edwin Castro because he was one of the deputies that voted for the CNEA and now he was here against the CNEA… Inconsistency!!!! Sweet and comfortable inconsistency!!!
Foto: Gabriela Montiel, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

Foto: Gabriela Montiel, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

The student in the photo carried a sign reading “Assembly: CNU, UNEN and CNEA doesn't represent me, We are students, not ignorant! We demand respect to autonomy and a transparent use of the 6% budget”. Delni Ayala, President of Humanities Faculty of UNAN accused her of damaging the CNU and asked the crowd to repudiate her, which the crowd did with water balloons and other objects.

This shows that the Student Movement is divided because the official association, UNEN, is pro-government, but not all of the students see it that way. That was one of the reasons that Sandinista deputies were booed by the crowd when UNEN and CNU leaders invited them up the stage, while its known they voted for the CNEA law that takes over functions over CNU and 6% budget.

Gaby Castro, UCA Student, wrote on her Facebook [es] [7]:

Pero el grado de hostilidad tuvo su máxima expresión una hora después de concluida la congregación por el 6%. Frente al busto de Casimiro Sotelo, joven sindicalista que murió asesinado por la Guardia Nacional y símbolo de la resistencia en nuestra universidad, nos salimos a gritar más “en lo íntimo” por nuestras becas, en conjunto con algunos de nuestros vecinos, los estudiantes de la UNI y otros de la UNAN. Un grupo de jóvenes encapuchados – unos dicen que eran CPC (Consejos de Poder Ciudadano), otros de la Juventud Sandinista 19 de julio y hasta estudiantes de la UNAN – se bajaron de una camioneta doble cabina y nos agarrabron a morterazos ¡A quemarropa! A los que estábamos en la calle y a las instalaciones de nuestra universidad… Resultado: nueve heridos, todos de la Facultad de Humanidades y Comunicación y daños al edificio en construcción de la UCA. Todo esto a causa de rehusarnos a seguir la protesta organizada por el FNT (Frente Nacional de los Trabajadores, organización satelito del FSLN) en la Embajada Americana, en respuesta a las declaraciones del embajador Callahan emitidas un dia antes, que fueron catalogadas como “injerencistas”.

But the grade of hostility achieved its maximum expression one hour later after the 6% protest. In front of the bust of Casimiro Sotelo, young sindicalist and martyr who was murdered by the National Guard and who is a symbol of resistance in our university, we came to protest “in the intimate” for our scholarships, with some of our neighbors, students from the UNI (university) and some others from UNAN (university). A group of masked people – some say they were from the CPCs (Councils of Citizen Power), others from the Sandinista Youth Association July 19 and even UNAN students – came down the double cabin pick-up truck and starting to fire “morters” at close range! At those of us that were protesting and at the university installations… The result was nine injured, all from the Humanities and Communication Department and damages to a construction site within UCA. All of this for refusing to protest in front of the USA Embassy with the FNT (National Workers Front, a Sandinista party satellite organization), in answer to the declarations of the Embassador Callahan pronounced a day earlier, which were labeled as “intrusive”.

The USA Embassy was vandalized with wall paintings and minor destruction [es] [8], and the police had to fire tear-gas at the end of the afternoon to disperse the crowd in front of the building [es]. [9] This second protest was caused by the declarations of the USA Embassador, but only Sandinista aligned groups supported this protest.

Later, it was revealed by Twitter user Ojoz [es] [10] that a crew from TV10 news was attacked near UNAM, but there was no aparent reason for this attack.