EXECUTIVE SUMMARY NO.11

Monopolization of Education and Political Discrimination in Cuban Universities. Violations of Academic Freedom and Other Human Rights of University Members

The Observatory on Academic Freedom (OAF) has documented multiple cases of restrictions of academic freedom, university autonomy, and other related human rights, that form part of a policy implemented by the State to the detriment of the rights of the country’s academic community, which contradict international human rights regulations1.

 

The current report reveals several concerns regarding a speech given by Fidel Castro at the inauguration of the 4th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba on October 10th, 1991, as well as documents such as “History Will Absolve Me” (1953) and the “Programmatic Platform of the Communist Party of Cuba” (1975), both of which demonstrate a turning point from democratic promises towards the installation of totalitarianism and the use of education as an instrument of domination. In the same vein, the Constitutions of 1976 and 2019 are herein critically examined.

 

Through these analyses, actions leveled against some university professors and students are described in which these members are discriminated and persecuted for political and ideological reasons, a situation that violates the right to academic freedom, among others.

 

This report contains a graph in which these events are relayed according to violated rights, years and decades registered, as well as the higher education institutes and provinces where they occurred. The following is a diagram highlighting the incidents with the highest recurrences:

Graph 1. Incidents by type

Portada No. 11
Chart 10.PNG

Source: Defenders Data Base (2021)

Speech on October 10th, 1991, by Fidel Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the Inauguration of the 4th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba

The 4th Congress of the Party was celebrated under special circumstances. European socialist presence had disappeared, the Soviet Union was in process of dissolution, and Cuba had lost its primary allies and economic partners. Thus, the Party faced a potentially catastrophic crisis at the time.

 

In this context, Fidel Castro gave a speech directed towards reaffirming the entrenchment of the governing group in power through intransience in the face of any political or social alternatives that might arise from its citizens. This ensured the solidification of the continued repressive climate suffered by many Cubans, included among them Thais Pujol Acosta and Heriberto Leyva Rodríguez, two of the cases analyzed in the current report, both of whom suffered harassment and repression during the era in which the analyzed speech was given.

The monopolization of education by Cuban totalitarianism

The current report examines documents such as “History Will Absolve Me” (1953) and the “Programmatic Platform of the Communist Party of Cuba” (1975), as well as the Constitutions of 1976 and 2019, which manifest the validation of education as an instrument of domination within a social structure aimed at totalitarianism.

 

Particularly, the Programmatic Platform endorsed Marxist-Leninist ideology as a foundational tenet of education; meanwhile, the Constitution of 1976 officialized the Communist Party’s postulations regarding education, and that of 2019 established that the Cuban State must uphold a type of education that observes the values of a socialist society. This monopoly, traced back to the Programmatic Platform, explains the reasoning behind the expulsion of hundreds of professors and students from the Cuban educational system, due to their refusal to submit to the will of the Party-State-Government.

1. Violations of academic freedom and other human rights of university professors and students: Historical cases (1959 – 2010)

1.1. Thais Pujol Acosta, undergraduate student of Literature at the School of Arts and Letters, University of Havana (UH)

In November of 1991, Thais Pujol Acosta was physically assaulted by a revolutionary mob deployed at the house belonging to her friend, the writer and poet Maria Cruz Varela. Afterwards, she was expelled from the UH, accused of belonging to an oppositional group.

 

Shortly thereafter, in response to her appeal against said resolution, she faced institutional silence from the Ministry of Higher Education.

 

Thais Pujol was a victim or the violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion2, the right to freedom of thought or conscience3, the right to non-discrimination, and, in particular, the right to access education and academic freedom, recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment N°13 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents4.

1.2. Heriberto Leyva Rodríguez, professor in the Baracoa Teaching Department of the “Raul Gómez García” Higher Pedagogical Institute of Guantánamo

Between 1989 and 1991, while studying Philosophy at the “Lomonosov” Moscow State University, Heriberto Leyva Rodríguez became the subject of various incidents of repression executed by politicians connected to the USSR’s Cuban Embassy. The harassment reached the point of forced psychiatric treatment, and upon his arrival in Cuba, he was placed as a stevedore in the chocolate factory of his municipality in order to fulfill his social service as a recipient of higher education.

 

In May of 1995, he was expelled from the university consortium upon being declared “untrustworthy” due to his participation in the civil society organization Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement. Institutional representatives delivered Professor Leyva’s last paycheck without affording him the chance to appeal the disciplinary measure.

 

Leyva Rodríguez was a victim of several human rights violations, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion5, the right to freedom of thought or conscience6, the right to non-discrimination7, academic freedom8, the right to work9, among other rights10.

2. Recent cases (2010 – Present day)

2.1. Henry Eric Hernández, researcher and professor at the Higher Institute of Art (HIA)

In 1997, Henry Eric Hernández, was expelled as a student from the HIA due to an altercation he had during a meeting with the Minister of Culture at the time, Abel Prieto. Years later, while he was working as a professor in the workshop course “Transdisciplinarity, Art, and Social Sciences,” he was arbitrarily fired for having published text in which he exposed some of his criticisms of the HIA’s teachings, as well as a photograph of one of the pieces created by his students related to freedom of expression.

The actions herein described exposed Henry Eric Hernández to various human rights violations, including the freedom of expression and opinion11, the right to freedom of thought or conscience12, access to education and academic freedom13, the right to non-discrimination14, and the right to work15, among other rights16.

2.2. José Raúl Gallego Ramos, professor at the School of Communications of the University of Camagüey (UC)

In January of 2018, José Gallego Ramos was the target of a “Disciplinary Measure of Transfer to another post with lesser remuneration or lower categorization for the duration of a year,” after having defended a student, José Alemán Mesa, who was facing a process of expulsion from the university for posting criticisms of the UC and the reality of Cuba on his personal blog. The sanction was established based on the final report of the disciplinary commission created to analyze the student’s situation, in which the professor was not the object of investigation. However, articles that the professor had published on platforms not connected to the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) did come to light.

 

Within the process of appealing the measure, he was denied access to the file and was the target of a campaign to discredit his person. Despite the fact that the Body of Employment Justice declared the appeal “partly sustained,” guided by his inconformity with the basis of the sanction and his conviction that he wouldn’t stop posting wherever he could under his right to freedom of expression, Professor Gallego tendered his resignation from the UC. He had already been separated for three years from the Journalists’ Union of Cuba.

 

Gallego Ramos was victim of several different human rights violations, including of the right to freedom of expression and opinion17, the right to freedom of thought or conscience18, the right to academic freedom19, and the right to work20, among other rights21.

1 Cuba is a participating State in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on Children’s Rights and its two voluntary protocols, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, Cuba has ratified the ILO’s Convention (No. 87) on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948), the ILO’s Convention (No. 98) on the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively (1949), the ILO’s Convention (No. 100) concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value (1951), the ILO’s Convention (No. 111) on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) (1958), and the ILO’s Employment Policy Convention (No. 122). The Cuban Government, even after its subscription on February 28th, 2008, has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, nor that of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Cuba participated, furthermore, in the approval of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948) and ratified on July 16th, 1952, the Charter of the Organization of American States.

2 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

3  Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

4 It is crucial to highlight that the International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State. However, given that they were signed in 2008, it is important for them to be mentioned in the current report. Regrettably, neither the American Convention on Human Rights nor the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador, 1988) has been ratified by the Cuban State.

 

5 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

6 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (Article 18) and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

 

7 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2).

 

8 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment N°13 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents.

 

9 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 7), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XIV), and the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Protocol of San Salvador (Article 7).

 

10 It is crucial to highlight that the International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State. However, given that they were signed in 2008, it is important for them to be mentioned in the current report. Regrettably, neither the American Convention on Human Rights nor the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador, 1988) has been ratified by the Cuban State.

11 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

12 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

 

13 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment N°13 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents.

 

14 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2).

15 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 7), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XIV), and the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Protocol of San Salvador (Article 7).

16  The International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State, nor has the American Convention on Human Rights.

17 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

18 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

 

19 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment N°13 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents.

20 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 7), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XIV), and the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Protocol of San Salvador (Article 7).

21  The International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State, nor has the American Convention on Human Rights.