EXECUTIVE SUMMARY NO.9

Policy of Indoctrination and Persecution in Cuban Universities: Violations of Academic Freedom, Freedom of Thought and Religion, and Other Human Rights of University Members

Through the Observatory on Academic Freedom (OAF), there have been documented multiple cases of persecution for political and ideological reasons in Cuban universities. Such practices are systematic and operate to the detriment of members of the academic community, and are consequently incompatible with various international human rights agreements1.

 

The current report will reveal some of the primary concerns related to the policy of indoctrination and subversion of university autonomy and of the right to academic freedom in Cuba, in the context of the Law of General Nationalization and Free instruction dictated in the 1960s, which was preliminarily discussed in the report entitled “Policy of Indoctrination in Cuban Universities: Restrictions on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy” (OAF, October 2020).

 

Similarly, herein will be outlined some of the practices leveled against university students and professors who have been victims of retaliation, harassment, and attacks based on their political and ideological standpoints, all of which constitute specific patterns in violation of academic freedom.

 

The current report presents a registry relating these cases in graphic form, sorted by rights violations, years registered, and the institutes of higher education where they occurred. According to the type of incident reported, the following results were obtained:

Graph 1. Incidents by type

Informe No. 9
Chart 8.PNG

Source: Defenders Data Base (2021)

The following sections will expose different situations that reflect patterns of violation of academic freedom and other rights of university professors and students inscribed within discrimination policies executed by the Cuban State based on political-ideological motivations.

Ideological biases and threats against political pluralism, academic freedom, and other related rights, in a speech on December 20th, 1982, by Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Ministries of Cuba

On December 20th, 1982, Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Ministries of Cuba, gave a speech on the occasion of the closing ceremony of the 2nd Congress of the Federation of University Students (FUS), carried out at the “José Antonio Echeverría” Higher Polytechnic Institute (JAEHPI).

 

The Cuban head of state used this speech to clarify that the implantation of socialist ideas, approved by the regime, within every Cuban institute and university would become a State policy in the following years.

 

In the same vein, he insisted upon the need to eliminate all ideology contrary to Marxist-Leninist ideals, annulling the possibility of alternative thinking, which is in violation of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, creed, or religion2.

 

Additionally, he referenced the expulsion of teachers and students catalogued as detractors as a necessary step in achieving the “perfection” of the island’s educational system, violating the rights to education, work3, and academic freedom4 within Cuban institutes of education.

 

Throughout the speech, the political leader makes statements in opposition to the right to education5. In closing his presidential discourse, Fidel Castro recognizes the need for “perpetual vigilance,” incurring violations of the right to honor and privacy6.

Subversion of university autonomy through general nationalization and free instruction

Just as was discussed previously in the report “Policy of Indoctrination in Cuban Universities: Restrictions on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy” (OAF, October 2020), the Cuban regime brought to fruition its implementation of higher education reform during the 1960s to procure foundational changes in the country’s university-level education.

The current report analyzes the consequences of the Law of General Nationalization and Free Instruction, which endowed the Cuban State with the exclusivity to impart education and appropriate the assets, rights, and actions constituting the properties of all educational centers.

 

With the objective of forming the so-called New Man, the State substituted the role of parent. Additionally, ideologization, forced enrollment in boarding schools, and obligatory adhesion to communist ideas were some of the negative effects caused for six decades as a result of the Law of General Nationalization and Free Instruction, a legal tool of Cuban totalitarianism in the education sector.

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

1.1. Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, voluntary collaborator at the School of Agronomy and aspiring candidate of the Doctoral Program of Science at the “Hermanos Saiz Montes de Oca” University of Pinar del Rio (UPR)

During the stage prior to his undergraduate enrollment, Dagoberto Valdés Hernández was surveilled at his pre-university institute by an agent from the Department of State Security (DSS). In 1980, upon his graduation as an agronomist, his destination of employment was modified, preventing him from reaching his goal of taking part in his country’s academic sphere, and without ever receiving any type of explication for the occurrence.

 

Later, in 1987, upon deciding to apply for the category of professor and enter the doctoral candidacy program, despite having passed the minimum regulatory examinations, his right to both pathways was denied.

Dagoberto Valdés has been censored for his religious beliefs and exposed to several different human rights violations, among which are the right to freedom of thought, conscience, creed, or religion7, the right to education and academic freedom8, as well as the principle of non-discrimination recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2), among other documents9.

1.2. Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso, aspiring professor in the field of Information Sciences at the “Martha Abreu” Central University of Las Villas (CULV) and candidate for Doctor of Theology with rectorship from FLET University in Argentina and the South American Theological Seminary, SATS, in Londrina, Brazil

In 2005, Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso applied for a position as professor in the field of Information Sciences at the “Martha Abreu” Central University of Las Villas (CULV).

 

However, he was not accepted because he didn’t belong to State-sanctioned popular organizations, and on the basis of his religious beliefs and leadership at the helm of his community’s Baptist Church, in addition to his pursuit, at the time, of a postgraduate degree in the field of theology at a North American university.

Subsequently, Pastor Lleonart was denied enrollment in the Doctoral Program of Theology with FLET University in Argentina and the South American Theology Seminary, SATS, in Londrina, Brazil, given that these institutions ceded to the demand for censorship emitted by the Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (CCCPC).

 

Lleonart Barroso was a victim of violation of his human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion10, the right to freedom of thought or conscience11, due process12, and the right to non-discrimination13, among other rights14.

 

2. Recent cases (2010 – Present day)

2.1. Dalila Rodríguez González, professor at the School of Humanities and doctoral student of Pedagogical Sciences at the “Martha Abreu” Central University of Las Villas (CULV)

Since 2015, Professor Dalila Rodríguez González has been harassed within and outside of the university by State Security. The cause of this persecution is related to her being the daughter of Leonardo Rodríguez Alonso, coordinator of the Patmos Institute, a Cuban civil society organization that advocates for religious rights on the island. Two years later, she was dismissed from the CULV, occluding any possibility of appeal through the union. In response, she submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Higher Education, which in turn ratified her expulsion. Professor Dalila was impeded from continuing with her doctorate in Pedagogical Sciences, whose required courses she had already completed.

 

In various meetings, the rector of the university expressed to the professors of the School of Humanities that while Dalila was an impeccable professor, outside the walls of the university, she was a counterrevolutionary. Professors were threatened with dismissal if they demonstrated solidarity with Dalila, and they were forbidden to speak on the issue.

 

Dalila Rodríguez has been a victim of various human rights violations, including the right to education and academic freedom15, due process16, and the right to work17, in addition to the right to non-discrimination18, among others19.

2.2. Leonardo Rodríguez González, professor at the School of Construction and master’s student of Structures at the “Martha Abreu” Central University of Las Villas (CULV)

In 2017, Professor Leonardo Rodríguez González was threatened by the Head of Department and the rector of the CULV with termination of his master’s degree studies. The reasoning was that said professor had disenrolled from the union due to his negative experiences and to provide support for his sister, the recently expelled teacher Dalila Rodríguez.

 

That same year, he was excluded from the university, with only one course and his thesis remaining to culminate his master’s degree. Faced with this situation, Rodríguez decided not to appeal, given the political character of his case and the repressive environment generated for him and his sister.

 

Rodríguez has been a victim of the violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion20, the right to education and academic freedom21, the right to work22, and the right to non-discrimination23, among others24.

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 Protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18), the Pact of San José (Article 13), and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV).

3 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).

 

4 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.

 

5 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.

 

6 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 17), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12), the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article V), and the Pact of San José (Article 11).

7 Protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18), the Pact of San José (Article 13), and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV).

 

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 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.

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

 

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

 

12 Recognized by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

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

 

14 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.

15 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.

 

16 Recognized by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

17 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).

 

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

19 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.

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

 

21 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.

 

22 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).

 

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

24  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.