On July 23, 2018, Raynéia Gabrielle Lima, a Brazilian medical student at the American University in Managua (UAM), was reportedly shot and killed by suspected paramilitary troops amidst an ongoing nationwide student protest movement.
Since April 2018, students across Nicaragua have led demonstrations protesting austerity measures, demanding democratic reforms, and calling for President Daniel Ortega to step down. At least 317 people have been killed and more than 1,870 injured during violent clashes between state security forces, paramilitary forces, and protesters.
Lima was a sixth-year medical student and a resident at the Carlos Roberto Huembes Hospital in Managua. On July 23, shots were fired at a car transporting Lima near the campus of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), killing her. Witnesses reported hearing bursts of firearms from suspected paramilitary forces, who were reportedly occupying the nearby UNAN campus. Ernesto Medina, the rector of UAM, also reported the shots came from armed pro-government supporters.
On July 28, Nicaraguan police alleged that Pierson Gutierrez Solis, a veteran of the Nicaraguan Army and a Sandanista National Liberation Front militant, was responsible for the killing of Lima. Solis had been found with a M-4 Carbine, a military-grade assault weapon.
Brazilian authorities publicly condemned the killing of Lima and have sought clarification from Nicaraguan officials. Brazil’s ambassador was reportedly recalled from Managua following the incident.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the killing of a student amidst nationwide student protests. State authorities have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of higher education communities, investigate attacks, and to hold perpetrators accountable. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, violent attacks have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.