Outrage Among Cuban Officials Over the Dismissal of Alma Mater’s Director

Armando Franco Senén became director of ’Alma Mater’ magazine in 2019. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 27, 2022–On Tuesday Alma Mater, the Cuban university magazine, was left without its director, Armando Franco Senén, a decision of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), in a clear interference by the university publication’s partisan organization.

The news was delivered by Alma Mater itself on its Facebook page, where it shared the short statement which left much to be desired by nearly 900 users who joined. “By decision of the National Bureau of the Union of Young Communists, Armando Franco Senén was relieved of his duties as director of the magazine.”

Franco, who graduated with a degree in journalism in 2016 and was a professor in the School of Communication in Havana, took charge of Alma Mater in 2019. The publication had won the favor of many people — close and not so close — to the state for its more modern treatment of information, the openness to topics rarely covered by other media, and, of late, its coverage of July 11th (11J).

The magazine focused heavily on information about the protesters who were arrested, many of them students, which is very unusual for a channel of the regime. Alma Mater clearly advocated, in some cases, for the release of those arrested or the  cancellation of the judicial proceedings to which they were subjected.

On Tuesday, the magazine published an interview with Cuban Chancellor Bruno Rodríguez Padilla, which centered on the issue of migration and relations with the U.S. with regard to that topic. Some believe it to be coincidence that Franco’s exit occurred immediately afterward, however there does not appear to be a reason to link them, as the questions did not cause the minister any discomfort, and he was given plenty of space for his discourse.

Those close to the journalist attribute the dismissal to the timid revolution in form and content that Franco brought to the magazine.

This year Alma Mater celebrates its centennial and it is one of the oldest publications in Cuba. The magazine has always been characterized by its independence and its ability to reflect the sentiment among university students. Following Fidel Castro’s rise to power, it slowly lost its autonomy, but even then tried to maintain its mark. The decision to dismiss its director left many perplexed as it a reflection of the control that the youth organization of Cuba’s Communist Party has over the magazine.

“He revitalized something that for years, no university student had read and others didn’t even know existed. I will proceed to remove my “like” from its page because I already know what’s coming!!!” said one of the hundreds of readers who expressed their rejection of the news.

Another commenter, who knew Franco in high school, praised his character from when he was young and defended causes. “A leader is born, not made, and he was born with that quality, which he further developed during his life. Years later, he became the director of Alma Mater magazine and returned to me a habit I had lost long ago, reading the news; but this time, I was reading something very different to what I was accustomed and that should be appreciated, that is what we need, that is what we have to encourage, it is what we need to defend,” they added.

“I don’t know the reasons, but taking into consideration the journalism that Alma Mater was doing under the direction of Armando Franco, the UJC Bureau should analyze this. Do they know the type of journalism Cuba’s youth need? Without words. It hurts,” laments a third commenter.

The majority have demanded that the reasons be made public with clarity and that the magazine’s autonomy be returned. “And how can the organization which represents reolutionary youth dismiss the director of the magazine and the most revolutionary example of journalism I’ve read in a long time?”

With its refined satiric humor, El Lumpen could not pass up the comparison and has shared the news and images of the former director of the newspaper and the Spanish dictator titled: Alma Mater Rectifies and Franco Returns.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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