Nicaragua Erupts With Youth Protests
By Roger Calero, Militant, Vol.61 no.28, 25 August 1997
NEW YORK - Thousands of university students and supporters have taken to the streets in Nicaragua for more than two months. They are protesting the National Assembly's May 26 decision to authorize $9 million in university budget cuts. The students are also insisting that the funding remain at 6 percent of the budget.
On June 25 about 1,000 students protested outside the National Assembly building in the capital city of Managua where the majority of deputies approved a motion by Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Alema'n to distribute the budget directly to each individual university.
The National Council of Universities (CNU), composed of faculty, administration, and student organizations, demand that the budget be given to them directly to oversee.
Alema'n declared, "There are no reasons for the students to be protesting, because the national universities will receive the 6 percent of the general public budget, but in a direct form to each university." He demagogically added, "We want to know how that money is utilized, to then inform the people." Some administrators have been accused of using the state's money to fund activities organized by supporters of the Sandinista National Liberation Front. The Sandinistas led the revolution that established a workers and farmers government in Nicaragua in 1979, and were the ruling party until 1990.
After the police tried to clamp down on the protesters, student demonstrations escalated from daily skirmishes with the police to fierce street battles.
The avenue that runs in front of the campus of the Central American University and the National Engineering University has had the largest concentration of protests and is an organizing center, but students have built barricades with the paving stones from the streets in several points of the city. They also shut down Managua's airport for several hours.
The cops have attacked the actions with tear gas and mustard gas. On July 7, when the cops stormed 500 demonstrators in front of the Central American University, they were caught in full view of TV cameras, kicking and beating Adria'n Meza with a rifle butt. Meza, a university administrator, was looking for his daughters. The students responded with homemade mortars, molotov cocktails, and slingshots. Some 150 people were arrested at the action, and 73 students and 5 cops were injured. "We condemn this outrageous and inhuman act of repression," declared a statement issued by the CNU in response.
The transport workers union, sugarcane workers who are currently fighting for land titles, and other sections of the population have backed the students' demands. This, together with the outrage against Alema'n's repression, has forced him to back down. In late July Alema'n reportedly ordered the police to refrain from the massive arrests and violence against the demonstrators.
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