Sotelo was a student leader at the now former Central American University, from which he was expelled on July 23, 1966, for his partisan activities. He was also a member of the national leadership of the FSLN, a leftist guerrilla group that on July 19, 1979, overthrew the Somoza dictatorship headed by President Anastasio Somoza Debayle.
Biographer Kennett Morris wrote in his book “Unfinished Revolution: Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s Struggle for Liberation” that Ortega “was not very diligent in his studies” and “his main role at the university was to support his friend and fellow student, Casimiro Sotelo, to create an FSLN cell within it.”
Despite having joined the FSLN in 1963, Ortega still did not have a prominent position in the ranks of the guerrilla movement. At that time, he was simply one of the members, unlike Sotelo, who already held positions in student activism efforts.
In 1967, Sotelo was part of a student delegation that traveled to Cuba to participate in the conferences of the Latin American Solidarity Organization, the Nicaraguan newspaper El Confidencial reported.
“There are people who look upon Sotelo with a feeling of romanticism, like a young man who dreamed of a free Nicaragua. But there is a fundamental difference between the young people who today dream of a free Nicaragua and Sotelo, because he is part of a generation that believed weapons were the only way to bring about change in Nicaragua,” McFields told ACI Prensa.
According to McFields, also a former UCA student, the Sandinista leader was “a young student who believed in violent change in Nicaragua, after having been trained in Cuba with the ideas of the Cuban dictatorship.”
“He believed in the principles and anti-values of the Cuban dictatorship, with more than 64 years in power during which more than 360 Catholic schools were confiscated, the Catholic university of St. Thomas of Villanueva was closed, and which relentlessly persecuted and imprisoned priests,” he continued.
On Nov. 4, 1967, Sotelo was captured in the Monseñor Lezcano neighborhood in Managua along with three other activists. He was later killed by a colonel of the Somocista guard.
McFields considers the name of Sotelo to “not represent the principles and values of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which were to love and serve.”
“This young man was not a hero; he was expelled from the UCA and he was a friend of Daniel Ortega; he shared his ideas. He was a young man who wanted a Nicaragua free from the Somoza dictatorship through death and violence,” he said.
The expropriation of all the assets of the UCA, founded in 1960 by the Jesuits, has been both nationally and internationally censured.
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The closure of the university has left more than 9,500 students without access to education. Since the anti-government protests of 2018, the expropriation is the latest act of harassment and repression suffered by the Church, which has also affected other Catholic institutions and political dissidents.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.