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[MANAGUA] Nicaragua's academic community is protesting against the second cut in funding for state universities since December. The decision has provoked confrontations between police and university students during street demonstrations.

According to the law, the budget for universities in 2003 is set at about US$54 million. But financial difficulties have led the Nicaraguan Parliament to cut US$6.2 million in December, and now a presidential veto has reduced this by a further US$3.4 million, representing a total reduction of about 18 per cent.

"Every year the number of young people intending to follow undergraduate courses continues to grow, but the amount of money universities receive diminishes," says Telémaco Talavera, rector of the Agrarian National University and president of the National Council of Universities (CNU).

"If the president says he would not give up his pension on the grounds that that it is fixed by law, why should we give up the specific budget assigned by the Constitution to universities?" he asks.

According to the director of postgraduate studies at the Agrarian National University, Freddy Alemán, the financial support received by universities is not sufficient to maintain current scientific research programmes.

"We know that the development of many countries is based on the generation of knowledge through research," he says. "In Nicaragua there are not enough financial resources for that, so we will always depend on co-operation with donor countries to be able to develop our scientific research."

Source: SciDev.Net

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