Controversy Grows Within the Cuban Regime Over the Dismissal of the Director of ‘Alma Mater’

Aylin Álvarez García, first secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), published this image yesterday with Armando Franco Senén, although it was taken in December 2021. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 28 April 2022 — The authorities are addressing, at the highest level, the departure of Armando Franco Senén as director of Alma Mater; his dismissal was announced on Tuesday and has generated a strong controversy between the readers of the university magazine and the Cuban intelligentsia, close to officialdom, or not, who believe that the journalist has been expelled for the novel treatment in form and content that he gave to the publication in the three years he was in charge.

This Thursday, Rogelio Polanco himself, head of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, met with the deposed journalist and Aylin Álvarez García, first secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) as of August, who hours before had taken the floor to deny that the measure was a punishment towards Franco. The young woman maintained that “his release at the head of Alma Mater has nothing to do with an expulsion or sanction” and that it is simply “a natural process of renewal, and responds to the cadre policy of the UJC and the country.”

After the meeting, Álvarez published a post on his Facebook profile explaining the three-way conversation accompanied by a photograph in a very friendly attitude with Armando Franco that would suggest the continuation of a good relationship between the parties if the image was current. In reality, it is a photo taken at a session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the eighth of the IX Legislature –because of the silhouette of the Capitol and the number 8 printed on the credentials that both carry – that took place at the end of last December.

In the message, Álvarez insists on what he had previously said: the results of Alma Mater are evident and the intention is to take advantage of its experience and value in other communication projects because the young people of the UJC “learn, contribute, consolidate themselves as revolutionaries to then carry out other activities in society.”

The young woman had already said that Franco “had been proposed to integrate him into another necessary communication project, which had been communicated to him a few days ago,” although it is not clear which one or whether the journalist has accepted. On Tuesday, the statement that reported the dismissal never indicated that the former director was leaving to join a new project and just said: “By decision of the National Bureau of the Union of Young Communists, Armando Franco Senén was released from his functions as director of the magazine.”

The afternoon statement, on the other hand, hints that the process is not friendly at all. Álvarez writes phrases that suggest this: “I listened to all your dissatisfactions associated with the process of your release, and the treatment of your group at Alma Mater” and “we agree on the inappropriateness of some actions,” he indicates, always while emphasizing that there are no traces of retaliation, punishment or penalty in is dismissal.

But the environment closest to the journalist does not seem to be on the same friendly terms. The father of the ex-director of Alma Mater published a post – which is not available now but which the Uruguayan journalist Fernando Ravsberg took a screenshot of before broadcasting – in which he claims to feel “freed from the ban” that his son had imposed so that he would not speak out on social networks against those who insulted him from the Cuban officialdom itself.

Armando Franco Súarez highlights the pride he feels for what his son achieved at the head of the magazine and the more than a thousand comments of solidarity that accompanied the note of his dismissal, although he also regrets those who have attacked him, a few, and he affirms that they are giving “a nice gift” to the “enemies of the Revolution.”

“Even against my son’s decision, I recently published a post commenting on the danger of ’friendly fire’, of that treacherous fire that comes from those who are supposedly in your same trench,” says Franco Suárez, who asks that the affection of those who recognize his work be remembered  “because they cannot ’free’ him from that.”

Franco Senén’s departure has been followed by members of his team, including Yoandry Ávila Guerra, editor-in-chief of Alma Mater until now and who made his departure public by changing his employment status on Facebook. Also the illustrator of the publication, Kalia León, who said goodbye by sharing a collage of her authorship. “It was necessary for me to be part of it with my small contribution and I was really very happy while it lasted. Armando Franco Senén decided that the gender column was good for me and he was not wrong,” she writes.

In the midst of the controversy, Aylin Álvarez also wanted to settle the thorny issue of the autonomy of the university magazine. The decision of the UJC to meddle in the decisions of the positions raised a great cloud of dust among those who affirmed that the organization was overstepping the limits, but Álvarez confirms that the magazine is at the service of the Party and has little autonomy.

“This magazine, along with Zunzún, Pioneros, Somos Jovenes, El Caimán Barbudo and Juventud Técnica, belong to Editora Abril, which is directed by the National Committee of the UJC. The management positions of each of these media are the responsibility of the National Committee, and it is a Committee of Cadres of this instance where each movement or transit of its cadres is evaluated, as was done with Armando,” he asserts, ending the debate.

In the official blog La Cosa, by Julio César Guanche, the author had explained the connections between both apparatuses and warned that Castro’s centralizing policy had determined, even in 2006, that “the FEU (University Student Federation) would have ’organic independence ’ while subordinating itself to the PCC (Cuban Communist Party) – on which the entire Cuban political system depends – and more directly to the UJC.”

In the text, the author considers this contradiction a strict legacy of Soviet Marxism, “which never offered democratic solutions for any political system within what was then called the socialist camp,” and calls for the FEU to be granted “full autonomy” as a tribute to its centenary.


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