MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Nicaraguan officials evicted a team of Jesuits from their home in the capital city of Managua shortly after seizing a prestigious university from the religious order -- an act the Society of Jesus called a "spectacle."
The Jesuits, who worked at the Central American University, known locally as UCA, prior to its confiscation Aug. 15, were notified of the eviction in the early afternoon of Aug. 19, according to a statement from the Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean.
"After the Jesuits showed them the title, which proved the property did not belong to the university, the agents didn't accept the documentation and ordered them to vacate the house," the statement said.
"This is one more spectacle in which truth, justice and respect for the inalienable rights of human beings confront measures seeking to silence the voices that rise up and support the struggle for a country where the rights of everyone, their integrity and their desire to live freely ... is respected."
The six Jesuits left the home with only a few personal possessions each and headed to the residence of another Jesuit community in Managua, according to a statement from the Jesuit province in Central America.
The eviction highlighted the latest indignity for Catholics in Nicaragua, where the regime of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, has branded Catholic Church bishops as "terrorists," imprisoned and exiled clergy and expelled religious orders – including the Missionaries of Charity.
The seizure of UCA sparked outrage across the region – with Catholic leaders and organizations sending statements of solidarity.
The U.S. government imposed visa restrictions on 100 Nicaraguan officials, "who participated in efforts to repress civil society organizations, close civic spaces like that of the Universidad Centroamericana, and unjustly detain courageous individuals who support a free civil society, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez," according to a statement Aug. 19.
Bishop Álvarez marked the one-year anniversary of his Aug. 19, 2022 arrest in a raid on the diocesan curia in the city of Matagalpa. Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 4, police surrounded the curia building and prevented Bishop Álvarez from leaving it. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison after a sham trial in which he was unable to choose his own defense counsel.
The Ortega-Murillo regime closed UCA after a court accused the 63-year-old institution of "terrorism" and "organizing criminal groups," and ordered its assets seized. The regime wasted little time in renaming the school, appointing new leadership and flying the Sandinista party flag outside the campus.
At least 27 universities – including other Catholic institutions – have been seized in Nicaragua, according to a statement from the Association of Universities entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America.
Observers accused the regime of holding a grudge against the university for its role in the 2018 protests, which called for Ortega's ouster. School officials opened the campus to wounded protesters fleeing police and paramilitaries.
"It's been a critical voice in the face of Ortega’s authoritarianism and … they wanted to punish the UCA because at times they supported the victims of the Nicaraguan repression," Jesuit Father José María Tojeira, former rector of the UCA's sister school in El Salvador, told local media.
"Certainly, the Society of Jesus is going to outlive the Sandinista government … and one day we will return to Nicaragua," Father Tojeira added. "But, lamentably, they’re fighting against intelligence, education and knowledge, and proceeding in a very authoritarian way."