August 24, 2023
The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1S 0A2
The Honourable Melanie Joly
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Re: Unjust seizure of the University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Joly,
I write to express deep concern about the government of Nicaragua’s unjust and illegal
seizure of the assets of the University of Central America (UCA) in Managua on August 16,
2023; their seizure of the Jesuit house on campus on August 19; and their revocation of the
legal status of the Jesuits in Nicaragua on August 23, 2023.
Since its founding in 1960 until now, the UCA, a private Catholic university, has been run by
the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. Through the Jesuits at the UCA,
the Catholic church in Nicaragua has been promoting the right to think freely and the right
to open and democratic higher education for Nicaraguans.
The government’s accusations that the UCA and the Jesuits have been fomenting terrorism
are false and unfounded. The accusations stem from the 2018 protests by civil society,
including UCA students, who objected to President Daniel Ortega’s proposed social security
reforms and who called for his resignation. Furthermore, the UCA has been denied the right
of due process to answer these charges in a proper legal forum.
Canada aspires to be a leader in the promotion and advancement of human rights on the
international stage. Our country has openly committed to championing the values of
inclusivity and accountable governance; peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity; and
human rights including the rights of those most marginalized in society.
In 2019, the Government of Canada showed its commitment to these values by invoking the
Special Economic Measures Act to impose sanctions against Nicaragua because of the
systematic government repression and state-sponsored violence against anti-government
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However, the Nicaraguan government continues to suppress democratic
freedoms, with the unjust imprisonment of Bishop Rolando Jose Álvarez Lagos since
February 2023. The unjust seizure of the University and its assets exacerbates civil society
repression in the country and has gravely harmed academic and religious freedom.
Moreover, many leaders of the University fear for their safety, and students of the UCA are
being denied their academic transcripts to continue their studies elsewhere. The seizure of
the house of the Jesuit professors and staff on August 19 and the revocation of the Jesuits’
legal standing in the country on August 23 add repression of religious freedom to
repression of free speech.
We urge the government of Canada to continue to uphold its commitment to international
solidarity and join us in denouncing this grave injustice and insisting on a just resolution.
We urge you to demand of the Nicaraguan government that they:
• Reverse their illegal decision to take control of the UCA and its assets;
• Return the UCA to its former administration;
• Release Bishop Álvarez;
• Restore legal status to the Jesuits;
• Cease repression of intellectual and religious freedom and of those advocating public
dialogue about Nicaragua’s future.
We also recommend expedited asylum or immigration processes for UCA leaders who
might seek to come to Canada, and expedited study visas for UCA students who might wish
to continue their studies here.
With gratitude for your service of the common good,
Very Rev. Erik Oland, S.J.
Jesuits of Canada / Jésuites du Canada