EXECUTIVE SUMMARY NO.4

Political indoctrination in Cuban universities. Restrictions of academic freedom and university autonomy  

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 instruments1.

 

This report will present some of the main concerns regarding the policy of indoctrination and curtailment of university autonomy and the right to academic freedom in Cuba in the context of the Higher Education Reform during the 1960s, already presented in the previous report entitled "Curtailment of university autonomy in Cuba and persecution for political-ideological motives in Cuban universities" (GOAF, September 2020).

Likewise, some of the practices exercised against Cuban university students (professors and students) who are victims of retaliation, harassment and attacks for political and ideological reasons will be outlined, all of which configure a systematic practice that responds to specific patterns against academic freedom described later.

 

The report presents a record in which these cases are graphically related according to the violated rights, the years of occurrence and the institutes of higher education. Depending on the type of incident that occurred, the following results were obtained:

Chart 1. Incidents by type

Informe No.4 OLA
Chart 2.PNG

Source: Defenders Data Base (2020)

Next, different situations that configure practices and patterns of violation of academic freedom and other rights of university professors and students will be presented within the framework of a "policy of the Cuban state" of discrimination based on political-ideological motives. Some historical cases will be presented that occurred between 1959-2010 and other recent ones that reflect the ongoing violation today (2011-2020).

1. Curtailment of university autonomy contained within the Reforma de la Enseñanza Superior [Higher Education Reform] in Cuba during the decade of the 60s. 1961 Legislation N° 916 that permits university government control by the revolutionary government (– Part 2 –)

1. As was first addressed in the report, “Curtailment of university autonomy in the Reforma  de  la Enseñanza Superior in Cuba (1962) [Higher Education Reform in Cuba] (GOAF, September 2020), the Cuban regime created the implementation of the Reforma de la Enseñanza Superior during the decade of the 60s with the purpose of trying to change the country’s university education base.

From that point on, higher education in Cuba was ideologically oriented to sustain the Revolution. The Higher Education Reform of 1962 initiated the transition towards the loss of autonomy of Cuban higher education institutes, to the extent that their interests would be subordinated to fulfilling the political, technical and technological objectives of the Revolution, converting the universities in the replicators of the revolutionary model. The 1962 Reform changed the structure of university careers, introducing the teaching of Marxism in all university careers and subordinating all the actors of the university community (authorities, professors-researchers and students) to the revolutionary ideological project, thereby began to configure a State policy in Cuba against university autonomy, academic freedom as well as the right to freedom of expression and opinion, thought, conscience, worship or religion.

This report analyzes Legislation No. 916 of 1961, which implements the elimination of the autonomy of Cuban universities through the control of the university government by the revolutionary government. This legal instrument gave rise to the creation of the Consejo Superior de Universidades (CSU), [Higher Council of Universities], as a governing body that would replace the University Board proposed by the University of Oriente and the University of Las Villas and would be in charge of coordinating the official universities, which, at that time, were the University of Havana, the University of Las Villas and the University of Oriente. However, as it is made up of 4 representatives from each of the official Cuban universities and 4 from the Revolutionary Government, and since the members of the Superior Board of each university were appointed by this Council, it is undoubtable that the control of the university government  would remain in the hands of the Revolutionary Government, a situation that curtails university autonomy, since allowing government intervention for the appointment of university authorities.

2. Ideological biases and threats against academic freedom in the Letter "Socialism and the Man in Cuba" sent by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, on March 12, 1965.

On March 12, 1965, a letter entitled "Socialism and the Man in Cuba" was published in Montevideo, Uruguay, initially sent to Carlos Quijano, editor of the weekly, Marcha, by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, which proposed the need to create a revolutionary conscience that would be capable of creating a “new man” who would put individualism aside and live fully for the sake of the State, which would only be possible through the country's educational apparatus, led in a unique way by the State and following the guidelines proposed by the Communist Party.

 

In this sense, Cuban institutions of higher education would be in charge, until today, of exclusively training the "new men" of the revolution, and would put aside pluralist proposals that would allow the construction of a broad and diverse political and educational system. By proposing a complete submission of the educational apparatus to the interests of the Party and the Revolution, Guevara's letter raised several ideas that threaten the right to freedom of thought or conscience2 and university autonomy, taking into account that this is essential for the exercise of the right to academic freedom3.

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

Historical Cases (1959-2010).

2.1. Elizardo Sánchez Santa-Cruz, Professor of Marxist Philosophy at the University of  Habana

In 1968, Elizardo Sánchez Santa-Cruz was definitively separated from university life due to the ideological purge against leftist intellectuals that maintained a critical attitude regarding the implementation of socialism in Cuba and its marked totalitarian character. The then dean, José Millar Barruecos, eliminated the dissent, even harming leftist militants that, like Sánchez, came from the Partido Socialista Popular (PSP) [People’s Socialist Party]. In 1976, Elizardo was incarcerated due to his activism, and from the political prison co-founded the Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos (CCPDH) [Pro-Human Rights Cuban Committee]. Later, he would create the Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN) [The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation and would integrate the Corriente  Socialista Democrática (CSDC) [Cuban Democratic Socialist Current].

In 2018, with failing health, he decided to emigrate to the United States.

 

The stated facts exposed Elizardo Sánchez Santa-Cruz to distinct violations of human rights, among those being the right to freedom of expression and opinion, 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), American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José - Article 13), the right to freedom of thought or conscience, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18), and in particular the right to academic freedom recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13), Universal Declaration of 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, as well as the principle of non-discrimination recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2), among others4.

 

2.2. Ariel Hidalgo Guillén, Professor of History at the Instituto Pre- Universitario de Marianao and post-graduate student in Marxist-Leninist Philosophy at the Instituto Superior Pedagógico Enrique José Varona (ISPEJV)

In April of 1980, Ariel Hidalgo Guillén was expelled from the building Instituto Pre-Universitario  de  Marianao,  for having refused to exercise as an executioner of his students and former coworkers, within the framework of physical and verbal violence against Cuban socialism deserters, due to  the more than 10,000 Cubans at the Peruvian Embassy, with the intention to emigrate. Later, he was separated from his post-graduate studies at the ISPEJV and informed of his total and definitive separation from higher education. Likewise, in July of the same year, he was detained and interrogated at the central headquarters of the Department of State Security [DSE] and sentenced to 8 years of prison. He was released in 1988, with the condition to definitively leave Cuba. Hidalgo Guillén was victim of violation of his right to freedom of expression and opinion5, the right to freedom of thought or conscience6, the right to education and academic freedom7, due process8, the right to work9, also the right to not be discriminated against10, among other rights11.

3. Violations against academic freedom and other human rights of university students in health sciences due to political motives. Recent cases (2010-2020).

3.1. Alexander Pupo Casas, medical resident at the teaching hospital of Dr. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna

In September of 2020, Alexander Pupo Casas was the subject of a process before the Disciplinary Commission at the hospital where he worked, after having posted on his Facebook account his concerns and critiques surrounding the diverse problems that affect Cubans. Later, he was expelled from the student dorm where he lived, due to supposed irregularities in the documents for his acceptance to live in the dorm.  Likewise, he was a subject of defamation from media and state institutions for having posted his case.

 

At the end of that month, Pupo requested his permanent removal from the hospital’s Teaching Department and from the Neurosurgery service, considering that his constitutional rights had been violated. In this way, he sought to avoid his expulsion and the impossibility of continuing with his studies. However, given that in Cuba, all hospitals are under state control, all the people involved in his relocation process linked his political position as a condition incompatible with the exercise of his profession. Currently, Pupo is under harassment by Cuban State Security agents and awaiting a response from the Prosecutor's Office to a defamation complaint filed against the Dr. Ernesto Guevara of the Serna Teaching Hospital and Dr. Lisset Ponce de León, head of the Neurosurgery Service of said hospital. Consequently, Pupo has been a victim of the violation of different human rights, among those, the right to freedom of expression and opinion12, the right to freedom of thought or conscience13, the right to education and academic freedom14,  due process15,  besides the right not to be discriminated against16, among others17.

3.2. José Carlos Santos Belaunzaran, medical student at the Manuel “Piti” Fajardo School of Medical Sciences.

In September of 2020, José Carlos Santos Belaunzaran was indefinitely separated from his Medical Sciences career for having had a discussion due to political motives on Facebook with Yosbany Iglesias, director of a company in the Zona Especial de Desarrollo del Mariel [Special Development Zone of the Mariel], which meant that he wouldn’t be able to study medicine again in Cuba, since no non-state universities exist in the country. His parents were also harassed by agents from the State Security. Santos Belaunzaran has been a victim of the violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion18the right to freedom thought or conscience19 the right to education and academic freedom20 and the right to not be discriminated against21, among others22.

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

 

3 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.

4 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.

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

 

9 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) and the American Convention on Human Rights in terms of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador (Article 7).

 

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

 

11 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), have been ratified by the Cuban State.

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

 

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

14 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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

18 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).

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

 

20 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.

 

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

 

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