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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

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Cuban families ask for autonomous colleges

HAVANA – More than 5,000 students, professors, intellectuals, Catholics and parents have signed a petition seeking a return of independent and religious universities, all of which the communist government closed more than 40 years ago, organizers said yesterday.

The University Students Without Borders petition drive demands that autonomous institutions of higher education be created out of shuttered schools or converted from existing government schools, supporters and organizers said.

Human-rights activists and government opponents involved in the campaign charged that the country’s universities stifle free speech and academic freedom and eject students and faculty who criticize Fidel Castro and the socialist state.

Ricardo Rodriguez Borrero, 40, a pro-democracy activist who would like his four daughters, ages 11, 8, 5 and 2, to attend an autonomous university someday, said political indoctrination permeates college campuses.

“The universities here aren’t an altruistic activity,” he said. “Sometimes they cancel classes just to have a political march.”

Castro has highlighted his country’s accomplishments in training physicians, including the graduation of eight Americans from Cuba’s medical school earlier this year.

But one petition drive supporter, Lester Perez Sanchez, a physician specialist in allergies who attended medical school in the 1980s, said political indoctrination has even affected medical training.

“From my time until now, the quality of medical school has been bad,” Perez said. “If a person opposes the government in school, they are kicked out. It’s been happening for a while.”

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