November 22, 2019 — Following a violent clash between police forces and student protestors at the Jesuit University of Central America (UCA) in Nicaragua, international Jesuit groups jointly condemned the Nicaraguan government for escalating violence in the country. In a statement released today, the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology, Ignatian Solidarity Network, the International Association of Jesuit Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities expressed concern over human rights abuses and political instability in Nicaragua. Similarly, Canadian Jesuits denounced the growing crisis in a letter issued to the Canadian government.
In April 2018, widespread popular protests were violently suppressed by government forces — killing over 300 and injuring over 2,000. President Ortega’s government continues to jail political opponents and critics, and civil rights advocates suspect that rural opposition leaders are being assassinated on a regular basis, as “a hollowing out of resistance.”
A woman protests for the release of political prisoners before riot police (CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters).
Tensions rose this month as two groups of mothers began hunger strikes to secure the release of their children, political prisoners incarcerated by Ortega’s government. While attempting to bring water to the striking mothers, 13 activists were arrested and have yet to be released. Another group of strikers housed at Managua Cathedral was forced to flee following a siege by pro-government troops.
The Jesuit statement urges the U.S. government to support the people of Nicaragua, saying, “We call on the Government of the United States to condemn these acts of violence by the Government of Nicaragua against its own people and to support peaceful efforts to restore democracy and civil rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.”
The Canadian Jesuit Provincial similarly called on the government of Canada to denounce the continuing atrocities and review the role of Canadian mining companies that do business with the Nicaraguan government.
On Nov. 19, government riot troops suppressed a student protest at the UCA in Managua. Latin American Jesuit leaders denounced the attack, calling for the “the cessation of harassment, aggression and violation of the human and civil rights of the members of the opposition.”
The Organization of American States’ High-Level Commission on Nicaragua also released a report on the crisis, which documented “ongoing grave human rights violations and abuses of power by the Government of Nicaragua.”
A protestor stands at a memorial to the demonstrators who died in Ortega’s crackdowns last April (CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters).
The joint statement offers its solidarity with the people of Nicaragua as they seek justice. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have lost their lives or liberty as a result of this conflict. We continue to hope for a just and peaceful resolution to the current violence.”
Read the full statement here.