When The Abuser Is The Government
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 May 2017 – I was in the
third grade and the teacher chose the most aggressive girl in my class
to be the room monitor. She was given carte blanche to control the other
children. Later, the abuser rose to a position in the Federation of
Middle School Students and joined the Union of Young Communists. Today
she is an active part of a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.
She is corrupt and violent, but highly valued by the authorities in her
Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex), led by Raul
Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro, has launched a campaign against
homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. The initiative includes
the family in order to “understand what it is about, to help the girls
and boys, the teenagers, the young people, and all the staff of the
school,” says the sexologist.
Mariela Castro says that the level of abuse in schools on the island is
“fairly low,” an affirmation that demonstrates – at the very least – her
lack of connection with the Cuban reality. Without reliable official
figures, any investigation of the subject must appeal to the personal
experience of individuals and this is when the stories and testimonies
of bullying in the educational environment surface.
The high schools in the countryside, promoted by former president Fidel
Castro, were a reservoir of these abuses, many of them carried out under
the impassive eyes of the teachers. Suicides, rapes, systematic
robberies of the most fragile, accompanied by power structures more
typical of prisons than an educational institution, were the daily bread
of those of us who attended these schools.
I remember the spring of 1991, when a student threw himself off the
water tower of the People’s Republic of Romania High School in what is
now Artemis province. He had been harassed by the taunts and pressures
of several classmates. We were all crowded together in the central
hallway during the evening’s recreation hour when we felt the thud of
his body landing on the concrete.
His harassers never paid for that death, it never became a data point in
the statistics of student victims of bullying, and a family had to bury
a son without being able to put a name to what had happened to him:
abuse. In the weeks after that death another student slit his wrists –
fortunately he didn’t die – and a group of twelfth grade students beat
up a tenth grader for “having feathers,” i.e. being effeminate.
However, abuse in the schools doesn’t end there. There are many ways to
harass a student and not all of them come from his or her classmates,
nor are they motivated by sexual stereotypes, strict gender roles or
group bravado. Ideological violence, exercised by power and with the
consent of the school administrators, is another way to inflict
A few weeks ago, a journalism student at the Central University of Las
Villas was the victim of institutional abuse that will leave permanent
psychic and social scars on this young girl, just 18. To make matters
worse, it was the leaders of the University Student Federation who
behaved toward Karla Perez Gonzalez as the school abusers, like the
leaders of a gang or the thugs of the hour.
Since her expulsion, the former student has been the victim of a new
type of harassment, this time embodied in a campaign of character
assassination that would be laughable if it weren’t aimed at destroying
her self-esteem and turning her into a non-person. To do something like
that to a student of such a young age is an act of rape from power,
persecution dressed up in the robes of school discipline.
The abusers, protected from above, end up feeling that they can destroy
lives, denounce innocents and beat others as long as they are protected
by an ideology. A system that has fomented political thuggery in its
schools and its streets cannot confront bullying in all the complexity
that the problem presents.
Noisy campaigns to fill foreign media headlines and the collection
of large funds from international organizations is not the solution for
all the Cuban children who have to deal, right now, with the physical
blows, the ridicule of their classmates or partisan indoctrination in
Source: When The Abuser Is The Government – Translating Cuba –