Third Campus Joins Student Protests in Managua: Students Picket at Thomas More University.

Students at the Thomas More University in Managua picketed on campus against President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, thus joining their peers at the Central American University (UCA) and American University (UAM), who staged similar protests earlier in the week.

The new round of protests was sparked by the Ortega-Murillo administration’s response a hunger strike staged by mothers, sisters, and wives of political prisoners inside the parish of St. Michael in the city of Masaya. The strike is on its eighth day and the parish has been surrounded by police throughout.

The Nicaraguan Constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. However, in September of 2018, the police outlawed protests by instituting a permit requirement and elevating the institution’s role from that of crowd control to that of final authority on who can and cannot exercise their constitutional rights in public. Accordingly, opposition groups have filed for permits on several occasions, only to be denied by the police. For example, on January 23, the police denied a permit to the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), the country’s largest private industry guild, because of their alleged “instigation, collaboration, and/or participation in the failed coup d’ etat.

Unlike COSEP and opposition coalitions like UNAB and the Civic Alliance, student protesters and the huger strikers at St. Michael’s are not asking for permission. Instead, they are protesting in Catholic parishes and campuses, which are traditionally safe spaces because of their special status.

University campuses are shielded by Law 89, which protects the autonomy of higher education institutions. Article 9, paragraph 4 of Law 89 states that, “University grounds and campuses are inviolable. Police forces can only enter with written authorization from competent university authorities.”

Thus far this week, the police attempted to forcefully breach into the UCA campus, albeit unsuccessfully. No similar action was taken at yesterday’s UAM protest.

Protesters demand the release of political prisoners and the restoration of full constitutional rights. They also called on COSEP to support a national strike.

A similar protest was also planned at the Polytechnic University (UPOLI), but was cancelled due to police presence around the campus.

Police has also deployed around the Thomas More campus.

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights requested permission to come to Nicaragua, in order to “monitor the situation of human rights” in the country, in light of the “increased gravity of the repression.”

As of this writing, the Ortega-Murillo government has yet to respond.