“No One Can Shut Me Up,” Says Professor Who Was Fired for Criticizing Healthcare in Cuba

Merladet, 26, had been teaching History classes for two years at the Silberto Álvarez Aroche vocational pre-university in Granma. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 October 2021 — Julio Merladet, who months ago made several public complaints about the poor state of healthcare in Cuba, was sanctioned this Tuesday at his workplace with the “separation from the Education sector” for three years. This is, de facto, a dismissal.

Diplomas he was awarded on several occasions, such as “outstanding professor” and “exemplary educator” demonstrate it. The latest one is dated last December.

In August of this year, he posted a video on Facebook that went viral in which he said that his daughter and her partner had not received medical attention at the health centers where they went. After testing positive for Covid, the young man was not transferred to an isolation center and ended up infecting his family.

“If I had stopped a few days before at the entrance to my house and had shouted ‘homeland and life‘, police would have arrived faster than the doctors arrived at my home this time,” he said in that video, where he also indicated that he could be fired from his job.

“He published two live videos in social networks in an uncomplicated and very rude way, he spoke out against hospital institutions and the Government”

So it happened this Tuesday. That day, they warned him he’d be summoned for “voluntary work”, but in reality, it was a form of punishment. He already expected it: the reprisals had started long before, “while I was still a teacher”, he narrates, “after I published the first videos”.

The document that was handed to him was signed by Denis Alberto Moreno Beatón, director of the Budget Unit for Education in Granma province, and states that Merladet “incurred violations of labor discipline.”

“He published two live videos on social networks in an uncomplicated and rude way, he spoke out against hospital institutions and the Government, then he made a publication where he says that he does not regret anything stated in the videos but he does regret the rudeness used in that video,” the text details, which argues that a teacher violates the regulation “when he does not maintain “conduct consistent with the ethical principles of educational policy, permanently performing the educational work that corresponds to him” or performs “serious acts” that are “contrary to morality and the ideological principles of our country”.

“Publicly defaming or disparaging the institutions of the Republic and the heroes and martyrs of the country”, the notification also reads, is a violation of “the utmost gravity”.

If Merladet regrets something, it is the “curse words” used in the first video “I am a peasant and when I am crossed, I close myself off, and at that moment I was upset when I spoke”, he alleges, “but after that, I did not.” In addition, he had already made the decision not to continue teaching, despite the fact that months before he had been offered “to do a direct doctorate, without doing a master’s degree”.

“Why are they asking me to separate from the Education sector for three years? What rules did I violate?”

Many of his colleagues, he says, have also supported him, and “even offered themselves as witnesses if I decide to appeal”, something that he still has not decided to do. “I have seven business days to make the claim but I’m still thinking about it.”

“Why are they asking me to separate from the Education sector for three years? What rule did I violate?” Merladet asks during Tuesday’s transmission on his social networks. As a citizen, he was expressing himself freely, he claimed, “a right that anyone has in any country in the world”. But not in Cuba.

“I’m not going to starve, I know how to work, I know how to fight it,” says Merladet in the video, which indicates he sells cumin on the street.

At the same time, he asks the ‘workers’: “With your salary, can you shop in an MLC store [one that takes foreign currency only]? You can’t, because they don’t pay us in MLC”, he answers. “You have to have family there, in the empire, among the enemy” he says ironically. “If you are an ordinary worker, barefoot, like we are, you can’t go in there, you have to have a ‘gusano* from Miami’ who will send you dollars to be able to shop there.” His teacher’s salary, he indicates, was 4,845 pesos.

In the same publication, Merladet announces that now he is going to “really” get involved in politics: “There is no one to shut me up anymore,” concludes his video. “Homeland and life. Homeland or death is over. What represents us is Homeland and Life.”

*Translator’s note: The term gusano — meaning worm or maggot — is a derogatory first applied by Fidel Castro to ‘counter-revolutionaries’ and those who wanted to leave Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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