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University Autonomy in Cuba?

In Havana, a continental organization pleads for university autonomy, which Cuba's state media actually professes to support.

La Habana

The convention of the Latin American and Caribbean Continental Organization of Students (OCLAE) currently being held in Havana has proved that there is no limit to the nonsense one can put down on paper.

According to the state press on the island, in theTribuna para unir voluntades section of the official Granma newspaper, the student conclave will uphold, among other things, the defense of university autonomy, freedom, a plurality of institutions, free public education, and the eradication of illiteracy. The president of the University Student Federation of Cuba (FEU), Raul Alexander Palmero, declared in the aforementioned article that the essential aims of the OCLAE remain the same.

It would be a good idea to ask the young Palmero whether university autonomy is included in those essential aims that he considers still in place, because it flies in the face of common sense, and is an insult to readers, to claim that here in Cuba the regime upholds the autonomy of universities.

And, if it were actually true that the representatives attending the OCLAE meeting were concerned with defending university autonomy, it would also be appropriate to remind these young people from 23 different countries that on this island all university activity is governed by the Ministry of Higher Education, which appoints and removes the presidents of the universities, and establishes all curricula in agreement with the government's interest, and which denied a student initiative to be able to take exams without having to attend a certain percentage of classes, a requirement taken full advantage of by Fidel Castro to have his political positions preached, and to give free rein to his innate penchant for propaganda.

Those young people also ought to know that Cuba s university students really do not choose the president of the FEU. At a congress of this organization a new president is introduced, who has been recommended "from above." Moreover, all the students are required to belong to Territorial Troop Militias (MTT), as part of the Castroist conception of "the war of all the people."

The youngsters with the OCLAE ought to be informed, in addition, that one of the first missions that Fidel Castro entrusted to Che Guevara was to go to the Central University, in the city of Santa Clara, to convince the students that university autonomy was no longer good for anything under the new circumstances, with the Revolution in the power. The Argentinean-Cuban guerrilla was to carry the message that such autonomy was a vestige of bourgeois society.

Should the members of the OCLAE ask for an example of university autonomy, they could explain to them what happened in Cuba at the beginning of 1957 when then-president of the FEU, Jose Antonio Echevarría, after the storming of Radio Reloj, and reading an anti-government proclamation, intended to take refuge on University Hill, where not even the police under Fulgencio Batista were authorized to go.

Neither should we forget that this meeting of the OCLAE coincides with the 11th International Higher University Education Congress, attended by 2,500 delegates from 70 countries. It is incomprehensible how these delegates set about elaborating theories upholding total university inclusion, in a country characterized by its ideological exclusion, as it has always maintained that the university is only for revolutionaries.

Or is it the case that these delegates come for tourism on the Island, under the pretext of participating in a congress on higher education?

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