Saturday, August 1, 2009

What’s happening (or not happening) at the University of Havana

Imagen: Pueblo Viejo, de la serie Carteles y vallas UMAP, Hamlet Labastida

A professor at the University of Havana told me he’d seen members of the Education Ministry and Party officials meeting together. It seems that the “combative” attitude of the students leaves much to be desired.

The only concrete example is the scholarships offered by the United States Interest Section to study in the U.S.: “To aspire to the scholarship indicates, at least, an unacceptable and inadmissible ideology, even more serious in the case of students selected for the United States Interest Section which makes its decision after conducting a political discussion with them.”

The phrase takes me to a classroom in Colina without air conditioning, at 1:00 in the afternoon: some 60-year-old “combatants” are trying to convince some 23-year-old boys that they can’t go to Washington D.C. to study history for a month because it’s “bad.” The sad thing is that, after not being able to convince them, Daddy State denied the white cards needed to travel. However, this is not the only concrete reason that the Party includes this phrase in its report: “We need to shake up the system of higher education, persuade and convince its officials, professors, students and workers of the risk to the Revolution” (…); it’s still remembered here in Havana that the Young Communist Union was not able to make its members shout obscenities a the Women in White on the staircase during their march, that in Santiago de Cuba the university had to close for three days for a student movement self-titled, “Join and you won’t stand out,” and that Eliéser Avila* of the University of Information Sciences managed to get Alarcón* broadcast on the “Discovery Channel” talking about the contamination of the skies.

The working paper is titled, “REORDERING OF THE POLITICAL-IDEOLOGICAL WORK OF THE UNIVERSITIES,” and included within its dense six pages is a small list: Key ideas for educational and political ideology work. I thought to write a post about some of the topics of the document, but it’s too long with too few specifics (typical of PCC pamphlets), so I decided to upload it for those interested and you can read it here.

Translator’s Note
At a closed door meeting between Ricardo Alarcón, President of the People’s Assembly, and the students of University of Information Sciences, a student representative, Eliéser Avila, posed a number of questions which were caught on unofficial video and subsequently broadcast around the world. In addition to questions about lack of access to the Internet for Cubans and why a toothbrush costs 2-3 day’s wages, Alarcón was asked about restrictions on travel. He replied that if everyone in Cuba decided to travel there would be too many planes in the sky and they would hit each other and crash.

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