“Bullying” in Cuba?

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana | 20 June 2014 – Damaris is almost forty and has several scars on her face. They were made by a 5th grade classmate with a hair clip. They were in the middle of class and a dispute over the ownership of a pen led the opponent to scream, “I’ll be waiting for you at four-thirty!” This is the worst threat a student can receive in a Cuban elementary school. The phrase lets you know that when school gets out strength and supremacy will be proved with fists or fingernails.

For Yosniel it was worse. He jumped from a water tank at the People’s Republic of Romania High School, after months of ridicule about the size of his head from his classmates in the dorm. He fell on concrete and no effort at resuscitation was able to save him. The next day, during the funeral, the very students who had ridiculed him offered their condolences to the bereaved family in the impoverished Romerillo neighborhood.

However, the problem touches both the poor and the better-off. The cold metal of a knife pierced the heart of Adrian, also a high school boarding student, because another student, stronger than he, decided he wanted his Converse sneakers. The parents of the dead boy were in the military, but even so they could not understand how the schools that were supposed to form the “New Man” could end up functioning with the same bullying as in prisons.

Cecilia, meanwhile, was always one of the ones who hit… not one of those who was hit. She would choose which uniform skirt she wanted, searching the lockers of the weaker and smaller students. One day she met her match in a skinny little gap-toothed girl who – with a knife improvised from a hacksaw blade – slit her face from ear to ear.

Abuse at school, bullying, is an issue that is rarely discussed in the national media, but it affects hundreds, even thousands, of students across the country. Among the most alarming characteristics of this problem is the complicity or indifference on the part of the teachers. Often the teachers support “these tough guys and girls” in order to control the rest of the students. The result is an institutional validation of a structure of bravado and abuse.

How can it be reported? No one knows. There is no telephone number that a student victim of bullying can call. There is no Ministry of Education circular protecting the victims in these cases. The parents usually respond to their children’s complaints of abuse with “hit him harder” or “show them who you are.” The teachers don’t want to get in the middle of a dispute and many school directors respond defensively, “You can imagine, I no longer know what to do with this boy.”

The truth is that the drama of school abuse is not reported, debated, questioned… meanwhile, the many Cecilias who are out there continue taking smaller children’s uniforms, cutting classmate’s faces with a blade, or mocking – to the point of suicide – the head size of another.


18 thoughts on ““Bullying” in Cuba?

  1. Pingback: The Problem of Bullying in Cuba · Global Voices

  2. Bullying is a Social Global problem and requires intervention at a population level. An understanding of the problem begins by comparison between countries. In Europe this type of study has been conducted for a while and in Sweden an Act exist to deal with this problem. More knowledge about the etiology of psychosocial and behavioral determinants and the role of contextual factors is needed including national, cross national study of etiology. There is a growing need for more international cooperation to deal with this problem. Cuba can learn from the Scandinavian countries and others where they have low frequency of bullying. These countries have implemented measures to deal with the problem that may help, although, there is still a great deal of more study that is required to get to the root of the problem.

  3. What country has the most bullies?

    It’s not the U.S. Part of our series to mark National Bullying Prevention Month

    Colleen Kaman By Colleen Kaman

    We are coming to the end of National Bullying Prevention Month, a good time to ask just how does the U.S. compare with other countries when it comes to bullying?

    Ranking countries on their bullying records isn’t easy.

    For one, the word “bully” has different connotations in different languages. For another, children are – for understandable reasons – not always forthcoming on the topic.

    The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey examined bullying among approximately 200,000 school-aged children in 40 countries (2005-2006).
    Still, this global survey on bullying behaviors across 40 countries reveals some fascinating and sometimes surprising facts. To explore the results yourself, launch the data explorer.
    ◾Boys reported higher rates of bullying in all countries. Girls are more likely to employ indirect forms of aggression. These include gossiping and spreading rumors.
    ◾Physical aggression tends to decrease as children age. Although verbal aggression–think insult and threats–increases as children get older.

    As to national differences…
    ◾The differences between countries can be pretty stark. Among Swedish girls, for example, fewer than 5 per cent reported any involvement in bullying activities, compared to nearly 36 per cent of Lithuanian girls.
    ◾The United States is bang in the middle of the rankings – not the best but certainly not the worst either.
    ◾Countries with the lowest reported incidents of bullying are Hungary, Norway, Ireland, and Finland. The highest rates are in Lithuania, Latvia, and Greece.

    Listen to the Generation PRX special on bullying that Latitude News contributed to earlier this year

    Here are some more interesting facts and figures from around the world:


    In Japan and South Korea, bullying is more likely to focus on social exclusion rather than any beating up among classroom peers. An entire classroom might discriminate against one individual. In Japan, this form of social segregation is known as ijime.

    The prize-winning documentary below tells the story of one Japanese teacher determined to tackle bullying and other problems by making his students talk openly, in class, about their feelings.


    The general consensus among experts is that bullying is not on the rise. What’s changing is how it’s expressed because of new media technologies.

    Take Indonesia. It’s the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest Muslim country. And it’s also one of the most socially networked. Indonesia has the third-largest community of Facebook users in the world. It also produces 15% of the world’s tweets!

    A recent poll suggests that Indonesian children are among the most cyberbullied. In fact, more than 50 per cent of Indonesian adults reported that they know of a child who has been bullied online.

    Canada/United States:

    The U.S. and Canada take a hard line with bullying: zero tolerance policies are more likely than not. That’s in contrast to Europe and Australia where policymakers have tended to see the problem as an education issue that requires training for both bullies and victims. Does zero tolerance work? Experts say not necessarily.

    McGill University’s Shaheen Shariff points to new legislation in Ontario that requires schools to punish offenders as well as to federal legislation that calls for “harsher and lengthier sentences for younger, and younger offenders.” Shariff warns: “If you’re going to expel these kids, or put them through the criminal justice system, where is the educational value?”


    Anti-bullying measures developed in the Nordic countries are broadly viewed as the gold standard. Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus [who has spoken exclusively with Latitude News] has developed one of the most popular intervention programs to date. Now, a new type of anti-bullying program out of Finland is generating significant interest among bullying experts worldwide.

    Known as KiVA, the program aims to involve all students and teachers in tackling bullying, including bystanders.

    The results have been so promising that 90 per cent of comprehensive schools in the Finland have implemented the program.


    CNN NEWS:Human Trafficking: U.S. downgrades four countries in TIP Report – by Leif Coorlim

    Washington, DC (CNN) –- After several years of what it says are broken promises, the U.S. government has singled out Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela and The Gambia for taking insufficient action against human trafficking.

    In its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released Friday, the U.S. State Department downgraded the four countries to Tier 3, the lowest possible ranking it gives for national responses to fighting modern day slavery. And in Venezuela, women and girls are often lured from poor interior regions to tourist centers with the promise of false job offers. When they arrive, they are often forced into prostitution.

    Other countries listed on Tier 3 are:
    • Algeria
    • Central African Republic
    • Cuba
    • Democratic Republic of Congo
    • Equatorial Guinea
    • Eritrea
    • Guinea-Bissau
    • Iran
    • Kuwait
    • Libya
    • Mauritania
    • North Korea
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Russia
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Syria
    • Uzbekistan
    • Yemen

  5. An example of the sickness of Castro and the Communist Party is forcing children to take part in repudiation rallies.

    There were a lot of murders and injuries at repudiation rallies in the first few decades of the robolution. Some of these children must have taken part in officially sanctioned murder.

    Can you imagine the FBI busing primary school children to a rally, and telling them to surround and abuse some old ladies because they criticized the President?

    These things still go on today in Cuba.

  6. Fernando Leanme:

    Your post says it all.

    The Communist Party doesn’t mind children stabbing each other or cracking skulls open, but if you complain about the lack of food, you get kicked out of school.

  7. When I was young in Cuba I saw a lot of bullying resolved with violence. This was particularly bad when they nationalized the schools and put us all together in an integrated environment in which we had much older, larger and quite violent “classmates”. Going out of the classroom for class breaks was a hassle. I was fairly tall for my age, but I was also one of the youngest in the class. So I caught the attention of THE school bully, and he was after me all the time. One day I decided I had enough, and I took a steel bar, wrapped it in newspaper, put the rubber band around the paper and slipped it in my school bag. Eventually I ran into the bully, he started hassling me, I pulled the newspaper as if I was going to read it and then I cracked his head open. That seemed to work, the guy left me alone, started picking on somebody else. The new victim was less subtle, he brought a switchblade to school and stuck it in the guy’s stomach. A few weeks later I got kicked out of school for complaining about the lack of food to the communist party youth secretary. So I left the country and I never saw Cuba again.

    MIAMI HERALD: Cuba ends censorship — NOT – by Juan Tamayo

    For a brief and shinning moment, it seemed that Cuba had unblocked access to several websites censored for years because of their criticisms of the government, including the U.S. government’s Radio/TV Marti. And it wasn’t even April Fools’ Day. On Thursday afternoon, Cuba’s Web surfers began noticing that they had access to Radio/TV Marti; Cubanet in Miami, which publishes work by independent and dissident journalists; and the Spain-based Cubaencuentro, also critical of the government.

    Also unblocked were Twitter, Skype and Revolico, a portal for Cuban classified ads blocked apparently because it competes with state-run stores on the island nation, according to several Havana residents and Miami contacts.

    The Raúl Castro government never said a word, and Cuba watchers began wondering whether Havana had taken a step forward in allowing more freedom of information in the Communist-ruled island nation.


    By Friday afternoon, the blocks were back in place, and there were unconfirmed reports that their brief removal had been the result of a mistake on the part of a Cuban government technician.

    “Everything seems to indicate that it was an error,” wrote Alejandro Ulloa, who first reported the lifting of the blocks, in a tweet Friday around 5 p.m. “In other word, yes, these sites are prohibited for Cubans.”


  9. Simba Sez: Yoani’s article, whether truth or somewhat fiction, has hit upon a microcosm of our entire world. Bullying, under whatever name, is ever present almost everywhere. North Korea attempts to bully South Korea, and others. China attermpts to bully almost all other countries, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as most Chinese citizens. Russia wants to bully all former USSR countries, especially Ukraine. The USA tries to bully 90% of the remainder of the world. Within countries races and ethnicities bully each other. Within races and ethnicities groups bully each other, and within groups individuals bully each other. The entire bullying spectrum is nothing more than a huge power grab. The meek shall perish, and the strong shall survive. The Castro family heirarchy has honed bullying to a near perfection.

  10. THE JEWISH JOURNAL FORWARD: Barack Obama Asks Uruguay To Help Free Alan Gross – President Asks for Help With Cuba

    President Barack Obama has sent an indirect message to Cuban President Raúl Castro through Uruguay’s leader, asking Cuba to release a jailed U.S. aid contractor and encouraging political reforms, U.S. officials said on Friday. It was a rare presidential-level communication between the United States and Cuba, which lack diplomatic relations and have been hostile neighbors for more than 50 years. Obama and Castro famously shook hands at the funeral for South African leader Nelson Mandela in December, exchanging pleasantries but without discussing matters of state. Uruguayan President José Mujica, a leftist who has actively sought a role in helping improve U.S.-Cuban relations, visited the White House in May.

    At that time, U.S. officials said, Obama asked Mujica to urge Castro to release Alan Gross, who has served four and a half years of a 15-year sentence for attempting to set up an illegal Internet service in Cuba.

    The Gross case has impeded any major breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations.

    “President Obama asked that President Mujica use any opportunity he might have to convey this same message to President Castro,” National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Friday.

    “With respect to Cuba, President Obama urged President Mujica to use his considerable credibility as a regional leader to encourage political and economic reforms in Cuba, noting that such measures would be well received by the United States and other members of the international community,” Ventrell said.

    The Uruguayan weekly Busqueda, which first reported on the communication on Thursday, said Mujica delivered a message from Obama to Castro last weekend, when Mujica and Castro attended the Group of 77 summit in Bolivia.

    Read more: http://forward.com/articles/200520/barack-obama-asks-uruguay-to-help-free-alan-gross/#ixzz35DDh0JgT




    MIAMI HERALD: Cuba lifts censorship on critical Web pages – by Juan Tamayo

    Cuba has suddenly unblocked access to several Web sites censored for years because of their criticism, including the U.S. government’s Radio/TV Marti. But it was not immediately clear if the change was temporary or permanent.

    The opening, which might signal a step forward in freedom of information in the communist-ruled island nation, was first noticed Thursday afternoon but the government had made no announcement as of Friday.

    Among the Web sites unblocked were Radio/TV Marti, the Miami-based Cubanet, which publishes the work of independent and dissident journalists, and Cubaencuentro, based in Spain and also critical of the government.

    Also unblocked were Twitter, Skype and Revolico, a portal for Cuban classified ads blocked for several years apparently because it competes with the country’s state-run shops on the island nation, according to island residents and Miami contacts.


  12. Crap rolls downhill.

    Castro and Che were bullies growing up.

    Che was notorious for his cruelty as an adult. Besides his random violence, he took pleasure in insulting other’s racial, sexual and general physical characteristics.

    Cubans couldn’t stand the sarcastic bully, but Castro put him in charge.

    This bullying became official communist practice after 1959. Any Cuban who dared to criticize Castro or ask to leave the country was subject to the repudiation rally and forced labor camps, where they were subjected to further humiliation and violence.

    Children learn this predatory behavior from those in authority.

    A bully can grow up to head a repudiation squad or the local CDR.

    The system works. Castro stays in power.

  13. YOUTUBE : Documentary : ” Act of Repudiation ” – This is the story of the Act of Repudiation directed at internationally known concert guitarist Carlos Molina and his family. Molina and daughter Maritza, a child at the time of the assault, describe the acts of the government-incited mobs that attacked their home and the resulting trauma they still feel today. The Act resulted from Molinas request to emigrate, with his American-born wife, Marisa and his three daughters, to the U.S. Molina, lauded as founder of the Cuban School of Guitar, began his performing career in 1969, the same year he graduated from the School of Law at the University of Havana. Daughter Maritza, an artist, relates the trauma she suffered by the Act of Repudiation directed at her family, which is shockingly reflected in her artwork.


    “It is the custom of the Cuban State, when it is carrying out acts of repudiation and … to use agents of the Department of State Security dressed in civilian clothes”
    p. 352



    ESPN: Yasmani Tomas defects from Cuba

    HAVANA — Cuban authorities say hard-hitting outfielder Yasmani Tomas has defected, multiple media outlets reported Friday.

    The 23-year-old Tomas, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound right-handed power hitter who plays the corner-outfield spots, has been playing for Havana powerhouse Industriales since 2008 and was part of Cuba’s national team at the World Baseball Classic last year.

    News of Tomas’ defection came in a single paragraph at the end of an article in Communist Party newspaper Granma, which interviewed national baseball director Higinio Velez Carrion about two games next month against a visiting U.S. collegian team.

    “From the same source, Granma learned of the departure from the country, through unscrupulous, illegal human trafficking, of he who was a player for the Industriales team, Yasmani Tomas,” the article read.

    Baseball America also has confirmed the report.

    Tomas went 6-for-16 during the WBC with two homers, one double and four strikeouts.

    According to official statistics, Tomas hit .275 for Industriales last season with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs in the 90-game regular season and seven playoff games.

    He dipped to six home runs while hitting .290 in 257 plate appearances for Industriales this season, but a source told Baseball America that may have been because of an arm injury suffered while crashing into an outfield wall.



  16. ***
    This is how the world works! The stronger tend to abuse the weaker–until the weaker pay them back! Sadly–with very few exceptions. Some people are too stupid to learn a civilized way to resolve their problems. And they blame their victims.
    Asi trabaja el mundo! Los mas fuertes son despuestos abusar los mas debiles–hasta que los debiles les pagan por atras! Tristamente–con muy pocos excepciones. Unos personas son demasiado tontos aprendir un modo civilizado para resolver sus problemas. Y culpan a sus victimas.
    John Bibb


    Human rights groups including Amnesty International have long been critical of what the Cuban authorities have termed “Acts of repudiation” (actos de repudio). These acts occur when large groups of citizens verbally abuse, intimidate and sometimes physically assault and throw stones and other objects at homes of Cubans considered to be counter-revolutionary. Human rights groups suspect that these acts are often carried out in collusion with the security forces and sometimes involve the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution or the Rapid Response Brigades. The level of violence of these acts have increased significantly since 2003.

    YOUTUBE: Cuba Acto de Repudio Sara Marta y su familia – This video shows part of the act of repudiation toward Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and her family, April 18 at her home in Rio Verde, Boyeros in Havana. Este video muestra parte del acto de repudio a Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo y su familia, el 18 de abril, en su casa en R�o Verde, Boyeros en La Habana.

  18. Thank you Yoani for reporting this completely ignored but pervasive part of Cuban society.

    Other sectors of Cuban society that are constantly bullied by young thugs are the elderly and the disabled.

    They are also bullied by police or by doctors and nurses, as in Mazorra hospital, but that is another story.

    I know many victims of such crime, and they are completely ignored by the police.

    Sometimes they are abused or arrested by the police if they complain.

    Unless you got money or some status, your life is worthless in Cuba.

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