EXECUTIVE SUMMARY NO.3

Curtailment of the collegiate autonomy in Cuba and  persecution due to political-ideological motives in Cuban universities

The Global Observatory on Academic Freedom (GOAF) has documented a set of incidents of persecution, for political-ideological reasons, in Cuban universities. Said persecutions form part of State policies to the detriment of the members of the Cuban academic community, resulting in the incompatibility with various international instruments.1

 

Next, the main concerns regarding the curtailment of university autonomy and the right to academic freedom in Cuba will be outlined, all in the context of the higher education reform of 1962. Also, some of the practices of ideological indoctrination or intervention to the detriment of Cuban university students, making references to different cases of violation of academic freedom due to retaliation, harassment and attacks against members of the university community. The persecution, for political and ideological reasons, has affected professors and students of the university community, which configures a systematic practice that responds to specific patterns described below.

This report also demonstrates a graphically mapped record of these discriminatory incidents according to jeopardized rights, the years and the higher academic institutions where they occurred. It is to be noted that all charts presented here, demonstrate accumulated data in the first three reports of the Observatory (see chart 1).

Chart 1. Incidents by type

Informe No. 3 OLA
Chart 1.PNG

Source: Defenders Data Base (2020)

Different situation will be presented that frame a series of practices and patterns of violation of academic freedom, as well as other rights of university and students within the framework of a “policy of the Cuban State,” based on political-ideological motives. Some cases of discrimination, retaliation and harassment will be exhibited, which were key in cementing the imagery of Cuban students, the destruction of the notion of the most elemental academic freedom in the face of fear of retaliation, harassment, discrimination and persecution. Among these, highlighting historic cases that occurred between 1959-1970 and other recent ones that reflect the continuous violation up until the present day.

1. Curtailment of university autonomy in the Reforma  de  la Enseñanza Superior in Cuba (1962) [Higher Education Reform in Cuba]

For the purpose of changing university education within the country, the Cuban regime created the implementation of the reform for higher education in 1962. From this moment on, a subtle yet powerful transition was initiated toward the loss of autonomy in Cuban higher education institutes, insofar as their interests would be subject to meeting the technical and technological objectives of the Revolution.

 

The 1962 reform established university government changes, thereby producing a surreptitious democratization process in which students and professors shared the management of houses of study. However, university autonomy was violated to the extent that higher boards of Government,  (composed of four professors and four students) were named by the Consejo Superior de Universidades [Higher Council of Universities] which in turn was  appointed by the revolutionary Government. With this, the principle of self-governance that should govern these institutes was broken, and with that, leading to the regime interests that were in power to be the same as the Government in  the different universities.

2. Threats against academic freedom in the speech by Fidel Castro on 13th of March of 1968.

On the 13th of March in 1968, Fidel Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, gave a speech about higher education in which he referenced the “microfaction”2 as a current on the margin of the revolution. The speech was given on the date of the commemorative 13th of March of 1957 XI anniversary  of the  event  (attack on the Presidential Palace and  seizure of  the Radio Reloj station  by a commando from the Directorio Estudiantil Univerarsio [University Student Directory]) and carried out on the steps of the University of Havana.

The academics that came together in the debate space had been persecuted by the State Security and expelled from all higher education institutes in Cuba in the past. This persecution was due to their ideological and political postures, which constitutes a violation to the right to academic freedom, as well as the right to free thought, conscience, culture or religion3. Thus, this attitude, on the part of the revolutionary regime, consists of a violation of the right to free association4.

3. Violations of academic freedom and other human rights against university professors and students.

Historic cases (1959-2010).

3.1. Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham, fifth-year Electrical Engineer student, and President of the Student Association of the School of Engineering of the University of Havana (UH)

In September of 1959, the Government of Fidel Castro intervened in the electoral process of the Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU) [University Student Federation] (FEU) of the UH, whose favorite candidate was Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham, fifth-year student of Electrical Engineering, president of the Student Association from the School of Engineering and member of the Youth Section of the July 26th Movement (M-26-7), a political-military formation at the head of the revolutionary government. Consequently, a unifying candidate was proposed in favor of the medical student and member of the Revolutionary Directorate (DR), Commander Rolando Cubela Secades, causing Boitel to publicly resigned his candidacy on October 17th of that year.

From then on, Boitel began to gather students from all over the country who, like him, were disappointed by the totalitarian tone that the Revolution was taking. As a result of his conspiratorial work, in November 1960, he was subjected to a judicial process lacking procedural guarantees, from which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Complying with the prison regime, other reasons were added that kept him prisoner until 1972, when he died 53 days after starting the last of his hunger strikes.

Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham was a victim of diverse violations of human rights, among these: the right to freedom of expression and opinion5, the right to free thought or conscience6, the right to academic freedom7, due process8, the right to not be discriminated against9, among other rights10 freedom of expression and opinion11, the freedom of thought or conscience12, to education and academic freedom13, to not be discriminated against14, among others15.

4. Violations against academic freedom and other human rights of university professors and students. Recent cases (2010-2020).

4.1. Boris González Arenas, Professor at the International School of Film and Television  (EICTV).

On December 30th, 2014, Boris González Arenas, a professor at the International Film and Television School (EICTV), was detained by the Department of State Security (DSE) for 3 days. He was subjected to questioning and violations of his rights. Subsequently, on January 5, 2015, he was expelled from the EICTV, for not having "reliability requirements" demanded by the institute, due to the fact that he published texts of a political nature contrary to the socio-political system established in Cuba after 1959, in his personal blog, Probidad.

After his expulsion, Boris continued working as an independent journalist. Due to his work, he was kidnapped, beaten and harassed by the State Security. His family has also been subjected to paramilitary surveillance and legal citations.

He is currently on the list of persons that the Cuban Government arbitrarily impede exit from the country, and he has no longer been able to teach.

 

The events set forth have exposed Boris González Arenas to various human rights violations, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion16, the right to the freedom of thought or conscience17, the right to education and academic freedom18, the right to not be discriminated against19, among other rights20.

4.2. Juannier Rodríguez Matos, student of Biology at the University of Oriente (UO).

Since the year 2009, Juannier Rodríguez Matos, student of Biology at the UO, was subjected to harassment by various authorities, professors and governmental entities. These actions took place, despite his high academic performance, due to protesting against discriminatory practices, ideologies and interventions by the Cuban Government at his university, at the student dorm where he lived and within student services that the university offered.

Among the actions that stood out, calls to attention, public and private    reprimands, his removal from the position of student aid for the Invertebrate Zoology II course, harassment by teachers, persecution by the Department of State Security (DSE), threats to his relatives, restriction of access to areas of the university, loss of rights as a scholarship holder for one semester, refusal for 2 courses of higher education, more than 30 arbitrary detentions, prohibition of leaving the country, among other actions of harassment by being an opponent of the Cuban government.

Juannier Rodríguez Matos was victim of distinct human rights violations, among those: right to freedom of expression and opinion21, the right to freedom of thought or conscience22, the right to education and academic freedom23, due process24, the right to work25, also the right not to be discriminated against26, among other rights.

Retaliation against several universities during October 2020

During the month of October 2020, several activists who serve or served as professors in Cuban higher education were subjected to retaliation by the Cuban government. One of them was Professor Anamely Ramos, who was physically and verbally attacked by parastatal groups, for wanting to attend a political-cultural activity organized by the San Isidro Movement (MSI) on October 10, 2020, and ISA Professor Osvaldo Hernández Menéndez was also attacked, who was documenting the situation with his cell phone.

On that same date, parastatal groups called on by State Security offended and mistreated the activist and former ISA professor, Tania Bruguera, who was immediately detained by the political police. That same day, Professor Oscar Casanella was arrested when he tried to arrive at the activity organized by the MSI. Subsequently, on October 15, 2020, the internet connection service of professors Boris González and Omara Ruiz Urquiola was interrupted to prevent them from participating in an online panel convened by the Sergio Arboleda University of Colombia.

1. Cuba forms part of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its two optional protocols, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In addition, Cuba has ratified the ILO Conventions on: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (No. 87, 1948), Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (No. 98, 1949), Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Performing Jobs of Equal Value (No. 100, 1951), Discrimination with respect to Employment and Occupation (No. 111, 1958) and Employment Policy (No. 122). The Cuban State has neither ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, even when it was signed on the 28th of February of 2008, nor that of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Cuba also participated in the approval of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948), and did ratify, on the 16th of July of 1952, the Charter of the Organization of American States.

2 Group of intellectual Marxists that, from the viewpoint of the Cuban government, presented critical opinions against the direction of the Revolution, ideological alignment of the party and the role of some militants from the Partido Socialista Popular (PSP) [Socialist People’s Party].

 

3 Recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 18), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 18), Pact of San José (article 13) and the IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

4 Recognized in articles, 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, XXIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and 16 of the Pact of San José, as well as Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by Cuba).

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

 

6 Recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 18).

 

7 Recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 26), the General Observation N° 13 of the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other instruments.

 

8 Recognized in article 14 in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

9 Recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2).

10  International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights 1966 having not been ratified by the Cuban State. conscienceno, neither the American  Convention on Human Rights.

11 Recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration on 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 in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 18) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(Article 18).

 

13 Recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13), Universal Declaration on Human Rights(Article 26), the General Observation N° 13 of the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other instruments.

14 Recognized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 2).

15  The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights 1966 has not been ratified by the Cuban State. Neither the American Convention on Human Rights.

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

 

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

 

18 Recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13), The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 26), the General Observation N° 13 of the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other instruments.

 

19 Recognized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 2).

 

20 It’s necessary to point out that the International Covenants on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State. However, given that it was signed in February of 2008, it’s important it be mentioned in the present report. Unfortunately, neither the American Convention on Human Rights nor the American Convention on Human Rights, in terms of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador, 1988), have been ratified by the Cuban State.

21 Recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), The Universal Declaration on 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).

 

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

 

23 Recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 26), the General Observation N° 13 of the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other instruments.

 

24 Recognized in the Article 14 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

 

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

 

26 Recognized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 2).