ASUNCION – Students at the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion, or UNA, Paraguay’s largest institute of higher education, have resolved to maintain their seizure of the university president’s office and enforce a complete shutdown of classes.
In a meeting Friday night, the students made the decision to occupy the president’s office continually with 500 people, medical student Alberto Acosta told EFE, and also have threatened to extend their measure to other buildings on campus.
They were angered when a university assembly that met Tuesday to determine the makeup of the institution’s governing bodies gave professors a majority presence in those entities, a move they interpreted as limiting the decision-making power of students and alumni.
The students responded by surrounding the building and preventing members of the assembly to leave.
Police were called in and arrest warrants were issued for four student leaders, although those orders were later rescinded.
The students are demanding, among other things, that no segment of the university community have a majority on its own in decision-making bodies and that deans and president not be allowed to run for re-election indefinitely.
The protests began in September 2015 with several rallies and a more than month-long sit-in on campus to demand the dismissal of the university’s then-president, Froilan Peralta, who was accused of leading a corruption ring.
Peralta was jailed but subsequently released in November of last year. He and 50 other people accused of corruption at the UNA are currently serving non-custodial sentences.
After the departure of Peralta and other top university officials, a process was launched to reform the statutes and regulations of the university, which students say is plagued by a corrupt system inherited from the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.