14ymedio, Havana, 9 May 2019 — This Wednesday afternoon, 142 Congolese students who protested in Havana for the non-payment of their scholarships were repatriated. The police took the young people to the José Martí International Airport in paddy wagons, some of them belonging to the Santiago de las Vegas police station, 14ymedio was able to confirm.
The students were moved at the end of April to the Machurrucutu Hotel, located in the Bauta municipality of the province of Artemisa. The place has traditionally been used to house and train Cuban doctors who go on a mission to Venezuela because of its proximity to the airport in Havana.
“We are heavily guarded as if we were prisoners, they do not let us leave or allow anyone to visit us,” one of the youths told this newspaper. “The situation is very oppressive and they treat us as if we were murderers when all we were doing was demanding our rights.”
From the hotel, the young people were taken to the airport without being able to say goodbye to theircolleagues who remained in Cuba. “We’re leaving with what we’re wearing because they did not allow us to pick up our belongings or say goodbye to our friends,” added the source, who preferred anonymity.
At the airport, an immigration service was set up in front of the airplane ladder to avoid having contact with the rest of the passengers who waited in the terminal.
The Cuban official press also reported the transfer and stated that “66 students who had violently demanded late fees in their scholarships before the Embassy of the Congo in Havana” are on the list of those expelled.
“These students crossed the red line, showed an unpleasant behavior, incuding on social networks and we saw one of them fight with a Cuban policeman,” added Jean-Claude Gakosso, Congolese Foreign Minister.
“The Cuban authorities no longer want them in their territory,” he added during a meeting on Tuesday with the parents of these students.
The cause of the repatriation of the other 76 students is described as “having registered a succession of failures (academic), both in Medicine and in learning the official language of Cuba (Spanish),” explained Bruno Jean-Richard Itua, Minister of Higher Education of the African country.
Gakosso was recently in Havana to talk with the Cuban authorities about the crisis triggered by the students’ protest, an event of great repercussion on national public opinion and in some cases international.
In early April, the protest organized by this group of medical students was repressed by a strong deployment of the National Revolutionary Police along with special troops and officers of the Ministry of the Interior (Minint). The Congolese demanded the payment of their scholarships that had been delayed over 27 months and better conditions in the university residences.
The Congolese students began with a protest strike of not attending class, to which the authorities reacted with surveillance in the student residences. Finally, the operation was moved to the campus of the Salvador Allende school in the Altahabana district of Boyeros municipality.
The students recorded images that they spread through social networks in which they showed riot police running towards the protest area, previously cordoned off by a group of uniformed men. A police officer came to point a gun at two students, one of whom assaulted another of the agents while he was arrested.
The Ministry of Public Health issued a note hours later in the official press explaining that the “incidents” caused by the Congolese students due to the “difficulties faced by the Ministry of Higher Education in their country (…) to pay their stipend “became violent” yesterday, which required police intervention. The note highlighted that “indiscipline will not be allowed and the appropriate measures will be adopted.”
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