‘We Should Have Kicked You Out Long Ago’: How the Director of Alma Mater was Fired by Cuba’s UJC

Armando Franco Senén began as director of Alma Mater magazine in 2019. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 10 May 2022 — Armando Franco Senén, former director of Alma Mater magazine, has broken his silence two weeks after the controversy generated by his dismissal from the publication. In an extensive Facebook post published on Tuesday, the journalist stated that his silence was converting him into an accomplice of the decision by authorities to relieve him of his duties. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Franco presented his version of the events, highlighting that his account is not his opinion, but rather a retelling of the events, which he reproduces in an almost notarial fashion.

On April 26th, the journalist was summoned to a meeting in the office of the Director of Editora Abril, Asael Alonso Tirado, which gave way to an Extraordinary Board of Directors meeting, during which they communicated  his “liberation.” In charge were Nislay Molina (Ideologue of the National Committee of Young Communists (UJC)) and Alonso himself, who far from being open to dialogue, communicated that he should await his reassignment.

Only at his insistence did they tell him that “the decision, approved on April 20th, was the result of continuous errors in the magazine’s editorial work.” Franco stated that both looked at a document in which contained the supposed errors, all of which were corrected at the time, according to the journalist, before stating that the rest were the bulk of the magazine’s best pieces during his leadership, he claimed.

“We should have kicked you out long ago, there is nothing more to say, we are doing you the favor of liberating you. You may do as you wish, it is our decision,” was the response the official gave him while Alonso agreed arguing that he had already alerted her to his errors.

“It is a decision that has already been made, we only came to inform,” added the official.

Faced with the situation, Franco met with his team to inform them of what had occurred and they decided to post on the magazine’s social media the note that publicly announced, without details, his dismissal.

Nislay Molina’s foresight was to call one day later, on Wednesday the 27th, a meeting of Alma Mater staff to inform them, but the director of Editora announced to the magazine’s sub-directors that the meeting would not take place — a decision of the National Bureau — because “there was nothing more to say.” That way of proceeding was what led the bulk of the team to leave, a personal decision, according to Franco, and that affected everyone with the exception of one journalist and the editorial secretary.

Franco emphatically denies the implicated organizations, the Federation of University Students (FEU) and UJC, which attributed his dismissal to a “natural renovation process.” The journalist ensures that he had communicated, with plenty of notice, that he’d leave the magazine in November, after serving for in his position for three years, and that the publication was preparing for that transition, as it was only five months away.

“It does not seem like a natural renovation process as it did not include a new position for me nor a new director for Alma Mater, which did not guarantee the continuity [CHECK: I used this instead of “work”] of the magazine after my release. It does not make sense to make changes for “natural” reasons, while the Editor experiences a crisis of directors and journalists,” he states.

Another one of the big revelations Franco makes is that the version he was told was that FEU, or rather its president Karla Santana, was the one who “provided elements against” its management. It seems they did not like Alma Mater’s “inattention” to the student organization, which the journalist emphatically denies, which the magazine itself serves as proof that universities and university students have been its priority. “Of course, from the point of view of our team.”

Since he was not aware of a single complaint, not even FEU has issued a statement about the events, but they have received support from the university community, the journalists doubts that version. “It is worth asking, to which FEU did Alma Mater fail to respond?”

With regard to UJC, Franco recalled that Aylin Álvarez, its first secretary and a delegate in the National Assembly commented on the matter on her social media. As the journalist explains, almost nothing of what she said is true. Later, Rogelio Polanco, chief of the Ideology Department of the Central Committee of Cuba’s Communist Party (PCC) and Álvarez met with him, as the official recounted on her social media along with an outdated photograph which suggested a good relationship, though it was from months ago.

According to Franco’s version, Álvarez was surprised, blamed the events on those who criticized her management and praised the magazine’s good results. After the UJC leader’s message was published, in which she added that he had been offered another position.

“It is true that in mid-April UJC proposed I leave Alma Mater to join a new communications project, however, as the first secretary knew, I responded that my intention was to remain at the magazine until November,” he stated.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, a meeting of the outgoing team was held with Álvarez and which they requested that Karla Santana, Nislay Molina and Asael Alonso be present, but they refused. “During the discussion, Aylin Álvarez acknowledged errors were made due to a ’loosening of personal issues’ and she committed to address the issue. As of now, we have not been notified of any results with regard to that.”

As for the PCC, Polanco indicated to the journalist that there wouldn’t be a problem with him and that he would be promoted. “During the last exchange, last Friday, Rogelio Polanco offered me a position, which I respectfully declined, despite it being an option that has a lot to do with my professional intentions,” he stated.

Franco ended his statement thanking those who have supported him and wishing Alma Mater future success. However, he adds that the “current state of the magazine” hurts and he does not understand how or why it reached this point. Franco says that, despite everything, the team has voluntarily collaborated with various media on coverage of the explosion at the Hotel Saratoga and that, moving forward, each will chose his own path. “I only aspire to grow once again, to find reasons to continue trying,” he concluded.

Franco’s exit was very controversial because under his leadership the magazine had experienced a moment of splendor, appreciated by readers and prizes, in which diverse topics, some of which made the government “uncomfortable”, according to some versions. Among its defenders was singer songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who lamented the position taken by the current authorities.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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