Nicaragua: University Students at UPOLI Continue Unbowed
“We demand that the current government leave power, and that we finally have free and transparent elections,” say the students who have risen up in ci
HAVANA TIMES – As the sun went down on Sunday, April 23, the monumental march to repudiate the actions of Daniel Ortega’s and Rosario Murillo’s government arrived at this bastion of resistance that the repression couldn’t conquer: the Nicaraguan Polytechnic University, or Upoli. Tens of thousands of people filed past, along the street that in past days have been the scene of violent confrontations between university students, riot police and mobs. This time the crowds were there to offer homage to the young people who had been killed.
The show of popular support for the sweat and tears of the embattled students provided a breath of strength and moral fresh air for these young people, who had once again on Sunday night suffered the trial of flying bullets. It was a tragic night that left one dead, three seriously wounded and dozens of others injured, according to the area’s priest, Mykel Monterrey. Wrapped in his black cassock underneath the hateful sun of the Managua mid-morning, the priest was walking rapidly down the street that later would be filed with thousands of citizens. As he walked, he kicked away stones that the students had used to defend themselves. His face was worried.
“The Upoli isn’t a military barracks or anything of the kind. It’s a hospital. They have food, some materials… The police shot at them…One of the young people was shot in the back. He couldn’t even talk. There were some infiltrators, and no one knew who was who,” Monterrey described the violent events of Sunday.
On Monday, Confidencial staff visited the Upoli. The cobblestone barricades continued to blockade the streets in front of the university, and to the side. There were Molotov cocktails ready for the next encounter with the riot police. Students patrolled the main entrance to the University with suspicion. Those who passed on motorbikes were stopped and required to take off their helmets to make sure that they weren’t Sandinista Party agents.
Gaining entrance into the Upoli was complicated. The University students had more than enough reason to be paranoid. On Sunday night they had thrown out an “infiltrator” who was carrying a homemade weapon. They didn’t want to talk to the media. “They lie, those bastards in the government media lie, and call us trouble-makers. We’re not trouble-makers,” assured Carlos Antonio Lopez, 22, a student of graphic design.
Lopez is skinny. His body mass wouldn’t withstand the shoving of a riot policeman with his shield. But he’s here guarding the front door of this university whose outskirts have been a combat zone, while its interior became an improvised hospital and supplies reserve.
Lopez is one of the few students who doesn’t flinch about giving out his name. The rest use pseudonyms. The independent press and some of the international media have been the only ones who can enter the Upoli, even then with certain restrictions. The most important of these is absolutely no photos of uncovered faces. Tension reigns: Are the police coming? Are the mobs about to attack? It’s important to be ready for anything. In the joint gymnasium and auditorium, the supplies donated by the population are received and put in order. There are mountains of bottles of water and canned food. “We’re asking for canned food only, because someone could try to poison us,” warns “Eagle”, a student who declares himself a Sandinista but is unhappy with the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
We managed to get in to see the medical post following some negotiation with other leaders. Inside, some vestiges remain of the chaos of Sunday night: supplies thrown around, stretchers improvised from doors and desks, wastebaskets overflowing with bandages and medical utensils, and the air of fatigue mixed with the spirit of youth.
They’re designated classrooms for medical observation, first aid, and surgery to extract the bullets. Dozens of medical students take shifts, their faces are covered by surgical masks. On recalling the police attack, they are once again enraged.
“People came in with bullet wounds in the chest, in the thighs. Unfortunately, one student died. When he was wounded, the police wouldn’t let us take him out in a private car, and we didn’t get him out of the Upoli until the ambulances came. Other people received lesser wounds in the abdomen and the legs,” “Dr.” Gonzalez, a fourth-year medical student, tells us.
The other young people there are paramedics. When the police opened fire, they wanted to flee. But we remembered that there were going to be people injured, like in the previous days. They opted to stay. “We didn’t sleep all night long,” one of them recalls.
Around 11:50 on Sunday night, the president of the National Council of Universities (CNU) entered the university incognito. The young people received him, but refused to dialogue with him while they were still under fire. Although Talavera stated that he’d been kidnapped, “Eagle” believes that Talavera came to “get himself in, and see who was in charge here.”
Bullet shells collected by the students after Sunday’s attack by the riot police.
“But no one’s in charge here, the population’s in charge. The people want a change; they want peace, but with change. For Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to leave power. For all of the thieving ministers and deputies that have stolen the people’s Social Security money to go,” Eagle sums up.
In addition, the students call for an end to the repression. They swear they won’t leave the university until real justice is done for their murdered classmates. “We don’t want dialogue, because you can’t dialogue with this,” the university student emphasized, pointing to the bullet shell cases on the floor.
“We demand that the current government leave power and that we at last have free and transparent elections in which none of the enterprises controlled by the government can participate covertly. This government is neither Christian nor Socialist [as it claims to be] if it shoots at us to kill,” added one of the hooded figures, who forms part of the university resistance to the Ortega-Murillo regime. As the afternoon sun set, their struggle would be backed by tens of thousands of Nicaraguans.
*Also see this video of the students at UPOLI making their demands on Tuesday evening April 24th.