HAVANA TIMES — I hadn’t seen a spectacle as ridiculous and sad as the now-concluded congress of Cuba’s Federation of University Students (FEU) in a long time. As I watched the young students speak their minds at the gathering (in the segments shown on TV, at least), I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The FEU still had a bit of life left in it while I was still studying at the University of Havana at the close of the 90s. The organization was, if you will, still convalescing at an intermediate care unit. I recall I was once invited to participate at a plenary session of a congress and I went out of sense of duty, thinking it would be very boring. That wasn’t the case.
A group of student leaders (belonging to the Faculty of Biology, if memory serves me right), called for the elimination of the statute which stipulates that “University education is open only to revolutionaries.”
They even took a vote and had almost approved the motion (to present it to a higher authority) when, suddenly, out of the blue, a government official joined the meeting and began to deliver a patriotic speech, evoking the martyrs of the revolution and the aggression from US imperialism. He concluded by saying that such a motion could not be passed. The issue wasn’t mentioned again.
This year’s congress, however, simply blew my mind, in a negative way, I mean. It left me with a feeling that nothing has really changed since the 80s, that we will never crawl out of this dark pit.
What can we ever expect of this country if those who are supposed to be the most rebellious and politically radical of the lot act like well-behaved children, seeking the approval of their ideological mentors, and acting as passively and in such orderly fashion as is “expected” of them?
Don’t take my word for it, read the final declaration (in Spanish) adopted by the congress. One of the principles exposed there reads: “Unity of thought, strategy and action in a single Federation, made up of one (communist) vanguard youth, under the guidance of our one (communist) Party.”
One of the students who spoke during the congress was an outspoken guy from the sticks whose appearance reminded me a lot of Eliecer Avila, the student from Cuba’s Information Sciences University (UCI) that made the president of the National Assembly of the time sweat at a meeting at his college with his difficult questions.
This guy had the same bodily gestures, the same melodious rural accent, but, instead of denouncing government secrecy or demanding accountability from high officials, Eliecer’s surrogate declared: “Let us step up our vigilance, so that no professor who has ideological problems can come into our classrooms to confuse us,” or something along those lines.
In the South, the young people of Brazil are protesting measures by their “progressive” government. I am moved by the Turks, who today risk their lives, confronting the State’s repressive apparatus. But, dear Lord, what’s happened to Cuba’s youth, what organ did you take away from them?