14ymedio, Madrid, 12 December 2023 — After a couple of weeks of hesitations, the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) has taken the step expected by many of its Cuban members with the publication of a statement that “condemns political repression in Cuba” in general terms, as well as “in particular” in the case of the historian Alina Bárbara López Hernández, declared guilty of the crime of disobedience by a court in Matanzas on November 28.
“For several months, Dr. Alina López Hernández has been the subject of acts of repression and intimidation by the authorities of her country,” it states in the text, released through the website of the institution, based in the United States.
LASA specifically accuses Cuba’s Police, State Security and the Prosecutor’s Office of violating the human and citizen rights of the Matanzas intellectual, listing several instances including harassment on social networks, physical attacks, suspension of internet service, a travel ban and pressures on her immediate environment.
LASA specifically accuses the Police, State Security and the Prosecutor’s Office of violating the human and citizen rights of the Matanzas intellectual.
The association describes as “illegitimate and unconstitutional” the summons that the authorities issued to López Hernández and to which she refused to attend, a fact for which she was accused and placed under house arrest in June of this year. “The oral hearing took place in a militarized and intimidating context, with clear demonstrations of force by the authorities, arbitrariness and violations of due process rights, both on the person of Dr. López Hernández and on the citizens who paid attention to the act,” it adds.
The text is accompanied by various media reports that document the “persecution” against the intellectual, specifically pointed out by the Spanish-based NGO Prisoner Defenders, the Cuba Próxima organization and the exiled in Mexico historian Rafael Rojas, brother of Cuba’s Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas. Lasa describes all of them and others who have denounced the situation as “relevant intellectuals and organizations of Cuban and international civil society.”
“Consequently, LASA denounces and condemns the political persecution against the historian Alina López Hernández and against all those people who dissent from the policies of the Government of Cuba,” closes the text, adding that it reiterates its “commitment to freedom of expression and teaching, essential for intellectual and academic work.”
The Latin American Studies Association, with more than 12,000 members (around 60% residing outside the United States), is the largest professional association in the world and integrates people and institutions dedicated to the study of Latin America and the Caribbean. Historically, the organization has been considered close to the Cuban Government.
In 2015, 14ymedio published a column by Cuban politician Manuel Cuesta Morúa who, after attending the association’s 49th annual congress, was satisfied with the “turn towards ideological plurality” that LASA had taken. In his opinion, the process had begun in 2011, when it began to “open itself to criticism of the left in power from the intellectual left.” The conclave in San Juan de Puerto Rico marked a before and after for him, when Cubans of all tendencies met without any incident occurring, among other reasons.
However, in May 2021 , a large group of at least 300 people signed an open letter criticizing Lasa’s lukewarmness in its statement against the repression of the imprisoned artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and several other Cubans.
“It is clear now, to us, that LASA has aligned itself, as far as Cuba is concerned, with illegal repression, threats and gags,” they said at that time
The academics demanded that the organization make a statement “against the continuous repression of freedom of thought” suffered by several compatriots, but the response took 20 days to arrive, a fact that caused indignation among several members who resigned from continuing to be part of LASA, among them them Mabel Cuesta, Guillermina de Ferrari, Walfrido Dorta and José Raúl Gallego.
“It is clear now, to us, that LASA has aligned itself, as far as Cuba is concerned, with illegal repression, threats and gags,” they said at that time.
In 2022, the association once again became the protagonist of a controversy in the same sense, when journalist José Raúl Gallego denounced that LASA had invited a “repressor” to a meeting about the anti-government protests of 11 July 2021. “Colonel Abel Enrique González Santamaría is not only a high-ranking officer of the Ministry of the Interior, but he was one of the closest people to Alejandro Castro Espín, son of the dictator Raúl Castro, in the powerful and now disintegrated Defense and National Security Commission,” it denounced.
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