14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2019 — A few weeks after the dismissal of Professor Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education (MES), Martha del Carmen Mesa Valenciano, has been given the task of defining the attitude a university professor should have. Her criterion has the merit of clarity since, according to her, teachers in higher education have to behave as activists of “revolutionary politics” of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
In a text published on the official page of the MES, the official refers to the case of Ruiz Urquiola without mentioning her name. Mesa Valenciano acknowledges that the professor’s complaint, which circulated in social networks, motivated her to “take a tour” of Cuban higher education and make clear the official position regarding teachers.
“You are a university professor in order teach timely, constructive, contributing and supportive criticism and to build a better society together,” says the Deputy Minister, for whom “the wrong procedures, the bad actions of cadres, officials, leaders must be fought against,” without confusing these criticisms “with disrespect or with positions contrary to ‘revolutionary principles’.”
Mesa Valenciano cites the case of another professor, again without citing his name, who, in her opinion, “initiated a strong criticism of the decisions of the” Cuban leaders, “without perceiving that, with his irresponsible behavior in the comprehensive education of his students he confused them and showed them a wrong path.”
The official borrows a phrase from Fidel Castro, where he defined the educator as “an activist of the revolutionary politics” of the Party and an advocate of ideology. Mesa Valenciano adds to the citation that whomever does not feel this way “must give up being a university professor” on the Island.
Her statements have been questioned on social networks. The journalist and university professor José Raúl Gallego strongly criticized the official’s words. “This is being said by a Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Cuba, but also published by the official website of that institution. The Cuban university undermining human rights,” he denounced on Facebook.
“While the networks are scandalized with the exclusionary, dogmatic and antidemocratic statements of Vice Minister Mesa Valenciano; the University of Camaguey shares them calmly on its Facebook profile and calls for “reflecting together for Cuba, for higher education and especially for the young people we educate,” Gallego added.
The journalist, currently residing in Mexico after being expelled from his position at the University of Camagüey, reported that just this Thursday the rector of the University of Havana, Miriam Nicado García, was invited to give a speech at an event on university autonomy in Mexico. “It is a pity that I did not find out in the morning so I might have gone there and read the article of Vice Minister Martha Mesa to her fellow rectors, to see what they think of university autonomy in Cuba,” he said.
The headquarters for higher learning in Cuba has been criticized for the expulsion of students and teachers due to political issues. In June 2017, the professor and philologist Dalila Rodríguez was expelled from the Central University of Las Villas and was relieved of her credentials due to her proximity to groups that promote religious freedom.
University student of journalism Karla Pérez González was expelled a few days later, after being accused of belonging to the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement and “having a strategy from the beginning of the course to subvert young people.”
Her case sparked a wave of indignation and speaking in her favor were ‘official-friendly’ voices such as the singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who wrote in his blog: “How brutish we are, coño, and decades go by and we don’t learn.”
The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) added Carmen Mesa Valenciano to its list of “white collar repressors.” Other officials who are on the FHRC list are Sergio Luis Peña Martínez, rector of the ISDi; Ernesto Fernández Sánchez, Deputy Assistant Director; Milvia Pérez Pérez, Dean; and María Deborah Maura López, Department Head.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.