14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 December 2019 — Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, now a former official of the Office of the Historian, has been fired from the agency after presenting a talk on independent art at the embassy of the Czech Republic in Havana, as she denounced to 14ymedio this Thursday, shortly after being notified of her expulsion. “Today they went to my office and gave me the official document where the final separation from the center is applied as a sanction,” she says.
Genlui held the position of principal specialist for Factoría Habana, an art gallery of the cultural network of the Office of the Historian, which, in practice, made her director of the institution. In addition, she belongs to the San Isidro Movement and has carried out several works related to independent art and curatorships such as the project of her partner, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, La Bandera es de Todos (The Flag Belongs to Everyone).
The Office of the Historian accuses Genlui of hiding information knowing that she should not do so, since the young woman did not tell the agency that she would participate in the conference after a circular was circulated on November 30 indicating that any worker should notify their superiors of contacts with an embassy.
“I interpreted it as that, if the embassy invited you to an event, you must notify them,” said the young woman, who suspects that the order was issued precisely because of her case. “I do not think it was accidental that this mail began to circulate through the networks of the Office of the Historian just when the contact appears for me to speak at the Czech embassy of independent art and the San Isidro Movement. It seems like a total injustice,” she says.
To Genlui what has happened seems “extreme” and she will appeal the measure. “I have always maintained an impeccable conduct within the Office of the Historian and it seems to me that having contact with an embassy and having allegedly violated an order from my immediate boss is not a sufficient reason for a person to be permanently separated from a workplace. They could have applied another measure, such as dismissing me from my position or lowering my salary, but no, the determination was radical and I think it was planned from the first moment,” she argues.
The historian never believed that she should be held accountable for activities carried out outside her working hours that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) was also aware of. In this case it was the conference: Knowing the Artist I: The work of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
“Minrex communicates with the ambassador of the Czech Republic and tells him that the only condition for the conference to be given is that Luis Manuel is not present at the talk, which fell on my shoulders,” she explains. The artist, who planned to accompany her to the place, was arrested that December 11 and was released precisely at 5:30 p.m., just half an hour before the event.
“I did not notify [them] of the presentation because at first I was scheduled for non-working hours, until now they have never told me anything. I am a very young director but I always maintained an ethics according to the system, respecting the ideas and positions of my coworkers,” she said.
Hours before the conference at the embassy, Genlui was summoned to the Department of Cultural Management of the Office of the Historian, where Michael González and Katia Cárdenas, general director of Heritage and director of Cultural Management respectively, were waiting to ask why she had not reported her activity.
“As a civil servant it was my responsibility to give notice of such actions so that Eusebio [Leal] would approve whether or not I could give the talk. They maintain the opinion that I owe myself to the institution to which I belong, whether or not it is my working hours, and that is why I had to notify him, because if I did not they would apply the maximum measure for violating an immediate order from Eusebio, first, and secondly from Katia and Michael.”
Genlui clarified to her bosses at that time that she would go ahead because she could not cancel it in such a short time frame nor did she want to, since her participation was related to her interests as a professional “as much or more than the Factoría Habana could be.” The consequences have not been long in coming.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.