Nicaragua’s Student Movements Standing Up to Ortega’s Regime

We spoke to members of some of Nicaragua’s student movements so that they could explain their ideas to us and what their proposals are for the future. Photo: EFE / confidencial

By Yamlek Mojica L / Franklin Villavicencio  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES — When the majority of students who are protesting against Ortega’s regime today were born, Daniel Ortega had already been Nicaragua’s president and left this position. When he returned to office in 2007, the majority of these young people hadn’t finished sixth grade. Now, they form part of the generation that has stirred a whole country. After April 18th, many groups were created and organized in Nicaragua as a result of the situation. They are autonomous, independent movements with different ideas. But, they do agree on one thing: they want to fight “the dictatorship and corruption in every sector.”

Some form part of the University Coalition, which groups the main student movements together for the National Dialogue process, but they make their own decisions as groups.

They are struggling for university autonomy, democratization of the campuses and justice for those killed, as well as improvements in the education system. They were born in the ‘90s and their philosophy is to demand change peacefully. We spoke to representatives from some of these movements. These are their objectives and proposals for the future:

April 19th Student Movement

April 19th Student Movement at a press conference at the UPOLI Sitting down and wearing a black shirt, Edwin Carcache. Carlos Herrera | Niu

According to Edwin Carcache, the April 19th Student Movement (ME19) was founded in Nicaragua’s Polytechnic University (UPOLI), where young people entrenched themselves starting April 19th. The idea of organizing a group emerged from their need to publicly denounce the abuses they were suffering at the hands of National Police and government mobs.

Their aspirations include honoring the memory of the more than 100 people killed during the protests and to create a democratic system in Nicaragua. One of their goals is to see a free, just and democratic Nicaragua.

According to Carcache, the young people in this group are university and high school students, former students and ordinary citizens. “We have all been fighting from the very beginning,” the representative said.

Even though they were associated with the April 19th Student Movement, they decided to break away because of internal differences. Jeancarlo Manuel Lopez is the person responsible for representing the ME19’s needs and complaints at the National Dialogue roundtable.

April 19th University Movement

The April 19th University Movement at a press conference. Next to Valeska Valle, you can see Jeancarlo Lopez, a young man who remained in the April 19th Student Movement after both groups separated. Carlos Herrera | Niu

The April 19th University Movement was born as the response to the following question: “What do we want to do, as well as defend our campus?” student representative Valeska Valle says. Taking this as the basis, young people from different universities joined the movement so as to contribute their ideas about what Nicaraguan students really need. On April 21st, after reaching an agreement, they introduced themselves at the UPOLI.

The first time they met was on April 20th, inside the university. That day, over 500 young people had been attacked by mobs and anti-riot squads. Many of them took refuge in a building near the campus and they discussed what students needed. Nobody knew anyone else before then. “It was an urgent proposal,” Valle says. They wanted to give students a voice to prevent “opportunists from taking advantage of the situation”.

They voted for who would be the first spokespeople among them. “Everything was agreed between students entrenched at the university. We didn’t know what our first announcement was going to lead to,” the student says.

Justice is what drives them the most. “We are fighting so that the deaths of our brothers and sisters are accounted for. None of those young people thought that we were going to be attacked with so much hate. So, we can’t fight for anything without first asking for justice,” she says. They are also demanding Daniel Ortega’s resignation and “a real feeling of peace” in Nicaragua.

Within the Dialogue process, Victor Cuadras is the movement’s representative, who has stood out for his participation in the struggle. The Movement is demanding that violence and threats against its members end.

University Coordinating Group for Democracy and Justice

Young people from the University Coordinating group at their first press conference at the Managua Cathedral. Sat from left to right: Saul Verde (UAM), Enrieth Martínez (UCA) and Yaritza Mairena (UNAN). Carlos Herrera | Niu

The University Coordinating Group wasn’t meant to be a movement, it was instead meant to be a space for small university groups to come together and organize themselves. “Young people organized themselves at their own universities. The majority of these students selected their representatives in a democratic manner, by faculty. Some became representatives by taking their own initiative because nobody was chosen in their department. That’s where they all came from,” Fatima Villalta tells us, Coordinating Group member.

The majority of student roundtables were being televised in interviews and they decided that they “had to join forces” and agree on their objectives, Enrieth Martinez explains, spokesperson for the Coordinating Group at the Central American University. Days later, it was formally announced.

Representatives explain that this group wants to be the voice to communicate students’ demands. Its objectives include making universities independent in every campus and UNEN’s withdrawal [UNEN is the pro-Ortega student organization]. “We understand that this is a struggle against the dictatorship, but it is also a struggle to make our campus’s and student groups democratic and autonomous,” Villalta says.

Transparency, democracy, pluralism, autonomy and representation are their values. They want the organization to exist in the long-term, but they don’t know what will happen in the future as a result of these uncertain times. But, they do want to get rid of top-down leadership and replace it with a more inclusive and progressive system.

Their representative on the dialogue roundtable is Francisco Martinez, UNAN Leon student. However, UCA student Madelaine Caracas and UNAN Managua student Yaritza Mairena are also well-known faces from this movement.

Nicaraguan University Alliance (AUN)

AUN members – Photo taken from Facebook.

 

The Nicaraguan University Alliance (AUN) was born on April 20th inside Managua’s Cathedral. That’s where many of the organization’s members met and began to shape a movement which would denounce Government abuses, using a young voice which they identified with, movement representative Fernando Sanchez said.

Within the AUN, there are members from different universities so as to better understand the needs of all students nationwide. “We aren’t only two or three,” Sanchez says. He explains that many anonymous faces have contributed to the group’s existence. “There are people in culture, people standing up and being a face, people behind speeches. We are one,” he says.

“We’re a big family,” Sanchez explains. He insists that processes are democratic within the AUN and that they try and consult the most students they can. Their objectives include university autonomy and greater student representation. “We want the UNEN to be restructured or taken apart, depending on what’s best, because every university is different and we can’t apply a single policy to all of them,” he says.

Central American University student Lesther Aleman is the movement’s most well-known face. Aleman is the AUN’s representative in the National Dialogue process. Another objective they have is to create an atmosphere where leaders are temporary and every part of the system is democratic.

National Agrarian University Delegation

The National Agrarian University has taken a stand since April 19th. This photo is from April 19th. Carlos Herrera | Niu

Students who organized themselves at the National Agrarian University (UNA) are a little more secretive. Niu requested an interview with its leaders but it couldn’t take place. UNA has a representative on the National Dialogue roundtable and its movement also forms part of the University Coalition.

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