SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 15, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Polytechnic University of Nicaragua

Region & Country:Americas | Nicaragua

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 15, 2018, Nicaraguan police in Managua detained Ricardo Baltodano, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (UPOLI Nicaragua) and a trades union activist, in apparent retaliation for his participation in a nationwide 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 the protests.

Baltodano teaches history courses at UPOLI Nicaragua where he is also the General Secretary of the Teachers Trade Union. Baltodano is also an active member of a civil society coalition known as Articulación de Movimientos Sociales y Sociedad Civil (AMSSC). AMSSC has been actively involved in the nationwide protest movement since April 2018. According to Baltodano, he has allegedly received threats and harassment in retaliation for his activism. In June, shots were reportedly fired at his house.

On September 15, 2018, thirty police officers went to Baltodano’s home shortly after he returned from a protest. Upon their arrival, Baltodano fled to his neighbour’s house where police arrested him. Police reportedly did not have an arrest warrant. On September 18, the National Police of Nicaragua accused Baltodano of terrorism, murder, and other crimes. Authorities had reportedly held Baltodano incommunicado; however, as of this report, it is unclear whether this remains the case.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and prosecution of a professor in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with these rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Arrests aimed at limiting such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On June 11, 2019, authorities released Baltodano along with other detained activists. He reportedly continues to face charges.