From Thu May 27 13:15:12 2004
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 16:55:07 -0500 (CDT)
From: Kathy <>
Subject: Nicaragua Network Hotline
Article: 180969
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Violent Student Protests Demand 6% of Budget for Universities

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 31 May 2004

After a week of deadly student protests, it was reported that the government and the National Council of Universities were near to an agreement on the demand that 6% of the Nicaraguan budget go to the national system of higher education as mandated by the constitution. La Prensa reported that the universities had accepted US$5.3 million less than the US$62.7 million that they had calculated would constitute 6% of the national budget, based on a recent ruling by the country's Supreme Court. Meanwhile, however, it was also reported that Jasser Martinez, president of the Student Movement, had stated that the student violence would intensify this week until the government agrees to allocate the 6% to the universities. Students maintain that the neo-liberal economic model, which mandates that poor countries like Nicaragua spend the great bulk of their education budgets on primary education while de-prioritizing higher education, results in limited opportunities for young people from low income families to attend university and in these countries that remain underdeveloped.

Treasury Minister Eduardo Montiel said that on Monday, May 24, the talks between the government and the National Council of Universities would resume. Evidently the agreement would be based on the fact that, under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief scheme, Nicaragua must set aside the money saved by recent debt cancellation for poverty reduction and that money cannot be counted in the regular budget. Further money would be freed up from a more efficient collection of unpaid back taxes and from savings in expenditures on utilities such as electricity, water and telephone by government bureaus. Montiel said that the government is insisting that the universities be modernized, that they adopt a system of accreditation and keep better records of the money that they receive from the national budget.

Numerous wounded from among the students and police and one dead police officer was the toll of the week's unrest in Managua, Leon, Jinotepe and Chontales. The students used homemade mortars sent into the air by homemade launchers. In Jinotepe, one of these weapons hit police officer Roger Rodriguez in the thigh, affecting a principal artery. His heart stopped and he died in the Jinotepe Hospital. Managua Police Commissioner Horacio Rocha said that his goal was to avoid confrontations wherever possible and that he had re-routed traffic around the Central American University (UCA). Numerous students were detained by the police. Vilma Nuqez, President of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, said that the person to blame for the death of the policeman was the President, who was out spending the public's money in Madrid at the wedding of the heir to the Spanish throne while the crisis worsened. This should not continue to happen! Nuqez insisted.

Telemaco Talavera, Dean of the Agrarian University and president of the National Council of Universities, said that, The Police and the students should not be enemies; they are not the objectives of the protests. Our objective is to see that the constitution prevails and that there are resources for education. He continued, Many police officers are university students and their children are also. We don't want there to be wounded police officers. This does not contribute in any way to the protests which should be peaceful.