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Prominent University Seized Amidst Ongoing Political Struggles in Nicaragua

Last week, the Nicaraguan government assumed ownership over the prestigious University of Central America in Nicaragua.  The seizure was part of a wider crackdown on the country's clerical institutions, the alleged “center of terrorism” in the eyes of the central government.


This announcement comes after the release of the Bishop of rural Matagalpa, Rolando Alvarez, who received a 26-year prison sentence back in 2022.  Alongside many of his clerical colleagues, Alvarez was found guilty of treason due to his long-standing opposition to President Daniel Ortega's government.  


The Bishop's conviction sparked a wave of international outrage against the Sandinista government.  Earlier this year, a similar diplomatic breakdown led to the closure of the Vatican embassy in Managua.

In recent years, Ortega’s administration ramped up its efforts to disempower the Nicaraguan clergy.  Many of the country's religious organizations have been long-standing critics of the post-1979 government. 


Of these, few are more outspoken than the Jesuits.  Ortega has used their support of various oppositional consortiums as justification for the ongoing crackdowns.  Over the past two years, an estimated 26 universities have closed down alongside a number of foreign institutions. 


Alongside Ortega's ongoing condensation of its ecclesiastic enemies, the Sandanista's attempts to cripple their political enemies have angered US policymakers.  Since 1979 diplomacy between Managua and Washington has been rocked by a series of crises and heightened tensions.  While the antagonisms today are no different than their predecessors, they have posed a unique challenge for the US government.


After taking office in 2020, few countries have troubled U.S. President Joe Biden more than Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua.  As recently as 2021, the re-election of President Ortega ignited a renewed effort from the US State Department to delegitimize the Nicaraguan post-revolutionary regime, spurred on by allegations of a rigged election and extensive human rights abuses. 


Following the 2021 elections, the State Department imposed heavy restrictions on a 100-plus visa held by top Nicaraguan officials.  The State Department also elected to freeze assets held by a number of top Nicaraguan officials, including military generals, judges, and Ortega's chief political allies.  

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