On May 28, 2018, pro-government protesters and anti-riot police reportedly attacked students occupying the National University of Engineering (NUE) in Managua. At least one student was killed and 41 were injured.
Since April 2018, Nicaraguans have held demonstrations across the country to protest austerity measures ordered by President Daniel Ortega, as well as corruption in government and the electoral system, among other issues. According to estimates by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, at least 79 people have died and more than 800 have been wounded as a result of violent clashes between protesters and security forces.
On May 28, while student protesters occupied the NUE campus as part of the protest movement, a group of pro-government protesters (popularly known as “Sandinista turbas”) arrived and began to clash violently with the students. Shortly thereafter, anti-riot police reportedly joined the pro-government civilians on the scene and opened fire on the student protesters. The clashes left at least one student protester dead and 41 injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes and the use of lethal force by police in response to a campus protest. SAR offers its condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and the university community, and respectfully urges the authorities to ensure a thorough investigation into the student’s death. While authorities have a legitimate responsibility to maintain security and order on campus, their actions must be proportional to the situation and must not restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression or freedom of assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.