October 12, 2023 — If you have followed Jesuit-related headlines over the past few months, you might have heard about the situation in Nicaragua. In August, the government of dictator Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, closed the Jesuit-run University of Central America in the capital city of Managua. They confiscated the property, too, including the Jesuit residence there.
While these developments have captured the attention of the Society of Jesus globally, they are just one part of a much larger trend of repression in Nicaragua. To learn more about the context, host Mike Jordan Laskey spoke recently with Juan Sebastián Chamorro. An economist by trade who ran for president of Nicaragua against Ortega in 2021, knowing full well the election would not be free and fair, Juan was arrested by the police in the middle of the night in June 2021. He would go on to spend 20 months behind bars as a political prisoner, separated from his wife and daughter. Last February, Juan was one of 222 political prisoners from the country who was freed and put on a plane to the United States. Nicaragua has revoked his citizenship, and Juan now lives here in exile with his family. This academic year, he is serving as a visiting fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
In the conversation, Juan described the context and background of the repression in Nicaragua. He also talked about the experience of his arrest, imprisonment and exile to the United States. Juan also has had a lifelong connection to the Jesuits and spoke of how his faith supported him during his incredible hardship.
Juan is a member of one of the most prominent families devoted to public service in the modern history of Nicaragua – his aunt was the first female president of the country and his cousin Christiana was imprisoned at the same time Juan was. His commitment to carrying on his family’s legacy despite the risks, not to mention his impassioned defense of democracy in his beloved home country, made this conversation one of the most moving interviews in the history of AMDG.
If you would like to learn more about how to support the Jesuits, students and faculty connected to the University of Central America, visit Jesuits.org/nicaragua.
AMDG is a production of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.