It’s Wearing Thin
WALDO FERNÁNDEZ CUENCA | La Habana | 15 de Mayo de 2017 – 11:51 CEST.
It was one of the few functions at the University of Havana that I will
never forget. The event for “Young Communists” took place in the year
2010. It was held to assess the insistence of a Journalism student, who
wished to travel to the United States in response to the American
government’s offer of a scholarship in Leadership and Youth Empowerment
for six months.
Popularly known as “SINA scholarships” at that time, they caused a big
stir among university authorities. State Security had to take action to
frustrate the aspirations of hundreds of young Cubans interested in
obtaining scholarships to travel in and experience the United States.
Those present at the meeting in the Department of Journalism agreed to
oust the girl from the ranks of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) just
for accepting the scholarship. However, they disagreed that she ought to
be definitively expelled from the University.
The municipal UJC official scoffed at the suggestion, insisting that
“the time of expulsions from the University had passed,” citing as an
example of the “new times” the fact that a son of opposition leader
Oswaldo Payá was completing advanced studies without incident.
This official, well tutored by State Security officials, shared some of
the tricks that students came up with to get around University officials
and obtain travel permits. The young woman was ultimately able to finish
her studies, and today works for an official media outlet.
I was reminded of this anecdote by the expulsion of Journalism student
Karla Pérez González from the Universidad Marta Abreu de Villa Clara for
belonging to the dissident movement Somos+. This measure forms part of a
chain of events in recent years in which scientists, economists and
other professionals have been dismissed from their jobs for holding
positions critical of the regime, or simply for having links to Cuban
For the Castroist elite it has always been key to keep a close eye on
and control the thinking and plans of university students, especially
those studying in fields that are critical to the maintenance of the
regime’s totalitarian narrative, such as Law and Journalism. In this
endeavor two facets of the university system in the Island are vital:
the total absence of university autonomy or academic freedom for professors.
But this policy is wearing thin. The regime’s stale structures and
institutions remain intact due to the inherent intransigence and
repression that characterize Raul’s rule. One only need recall that Raúl
Castro spearheaded the dismantling of the Center of American Studies
back in 1996, with the false accusation that its members were “covert
agents of Imperialism.” Opening up small gaps and spaces for dissent
could end up overturning a rigid, fragile system in the short or medium
term … and the Castroist elite knows this all too well.
Source: It’s Wearing Thin | Diario de Cuba –