Who is Filling the University Classrooms?


New students at the University of Havana (14ymedio)

Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 2 September 2014 — Born during the Special Period, they have grown up trapped in the dual currency system, and when they get their degrees Raul Castro will no longer be in power. They are the more than one hundred thousand young people just starting college throughout the country. Their brief biographies include educational experiments, battles of ideas, and the emergence of new technologies They know more about X-Men than about Elpidio Valdés, and only remember Fidel Castro from old photos and archived documentaries.

They are the Wi-Fi kids with their pirate networks, raised with the “packets” of copied shows and illegal satellite dishes. Some nights they would connect through routers and play strategy video games that made them feel powerful and free. Whoever wants to know them should know that they’ve had “emerging teachers” since elementary school and were taught grammar, math and ideology via television screens. However, they ended up being the least ideological of the Cubans who today inhabit this Island, the most cosmopolitan and with the greatest vision of the future.

On arriving at junior high school they played at throwing around around the obligatory snack of bread while their parents furtively passed their lunches through the school gate. They have a special physical ability, an adaptation that has allowed them to survive the environment; they don’t hear what doesn’t interest them, they close their ears to the harangues of morning assemblies and politicians. They seem lazier than other generations and in reality they are, but in their case this apathy acts like an evolutionary advantage. They’re better than us and will live in a country that has nothing to do with what we were promised.

They seem lazier than other generations and in reality they are, but in their case this apathy acts like an evolutionary advantage.

A few months ago, these same young people, starred in the best known case of school fraud uncovered publicly. Some of those hoping to earn a place in higher education bought the answers to an admissions test. They were used to paying for approval, because they had to turn to private tutors to teach them what they should have learned in the classroom. Many of those who recently enrolled in the university had private teachers starting in elementary school. They are the children of a new emerging class that has used its resources so that their children can reach a desk at the right hand—or the left—of the Alma Mater.

These young people dressed in uniforms in their earlier grades, but they struggled to differentiate themselves through the length of a shirt, a fringe of bleached hair, or through pants sagging below their hips. They are the children of those who barely had a change of underwear in the nineties, so their parents tried to make sure they didn’t “go through the same thing,” and turned to the black market for their clothes and shoes. They mock the false austerity and, not wanting to look like militants, they love bright shiny colors and name brand outfits.

Yesterday, with the start of the school year, they received a lecture about the attempts of “imperialism to undermine the Revolution through its youth.” It was like a faint drizzle running over an impervious surface. The Government is right to be worried, these young people who have entered the university will never become good soldiers or fanatics. The clay from which they are made cannot be molded.


161 thoughts on “Who is Filling the University Classrooms?

  1. Is this the generous medical care Cuba is offering Venezuela?


    I presume they behave better outside of Cuba, but I do know that the Cuban medical missions have made almost no difference to Venezuela’s collapsing medical system.

    They’re basically there to justify giving 12 billion dollars to Cuba every year.

    Or rather, for Castro to rob Venezuelan tax payers of 12 billion dollars every year thanks to his puppet dictators Chavez and Maduro.

    The most useful Cubans in Venezuela are the troops and spies who suppress democracy and help keep Maduro in power.

  2. Mario: There is economic reasons for it, but, it is complex and not easy to see. Venezuela is buying light crude oil from North Africa. Venezuela gives oil to Cuba for healthcare service by Cubans in Venezuela. Part of the Venezuelan transaction with North Africa is Cuban healthcare providers to treat African Ebola patients.

  3. Mrs. Matulovic:

    The days of the open arms policy to immigrants in the U.S. are over. Understand that Cubans are not the only ones that want to leave their country. The Cuban People are not doing much worse than most of other People in Latin America if you haven’t noticed it. If you want to get an idea of the Global Crisis created by Capitalism in a metaphorical way. I recommend you watch the movie The Hunger Games. This is why so many people risk everything to go where the grass is greener. Politics have very little to do with it; for most people that migrate it is economic reasons.

    The U.S. government’s response was to use interdiction at sea and the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy to discourage Cubans from leaving. The U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol agents intercepted roughly 35,000 Cubans in the year leading up to the policy’s implementation.

    The favored treatment Cubans have enjoyed has brought criticism of the U.S. policy. For example, refugees from Haiti and the Dominican Republic have come to the U.S. on the same boat with Cubans but have been returned to their homelands. Critics argue that, in 2014, Cuban migrants should be considered economic refugees, not refugees fleeing persecution.

    The difference originates in Cold War politics from the 1960s. After the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, the U.S. government started viewing migrants from Cuba through a political prism. On the other hand, officials view migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other nations in the region as economic refugees who almost always won’t qualify for political asylum.

  4. I am sceptical about all this Cuban assistance in fighting Ebola.
    If they do it for humanitarian reasons they are stupid. For heavy cash would be OK.

    African people did nothing in the fight for socialism in the last 50 years. So everybody can see the condition of their health services. Medical care cannnot be more capitalist than it is in West Africa.

    Calling Cubans now? Give me a break.

  5. Dr Margaret Chan, director of the WHO, said: “If we are going to go to war with Ebola we need the resources to fight.

    “I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Cuban government and these health professionals for doing their part to help us contain the worst Ebola outbreak ever known.”

    ‘Health diplomacy’

    She added: “Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses and for its generosity in helping fellow countries on the route to progress.”

    Through a global medical programme, doctors have been deployed to a range of countries, from Algeria to South Africa.

    And many consider this medical help to be a central part of Cuba’s international relations.

    One of Cuba’s most extensive efforts is an eye surgery programme in Venezuela where thousands of cataract operations have been performed.

    Hundreds of Cuban medical workers were sent to Haiti during the earthquake in 2010.

    The country also trains thousands of overseas medical students, many of whom return to their home nations to work.

  6. Venezuela is becoming a very violent fascist dictatorship.

    Cuba is fascist dictatorship with huge imperial ambitions since Herr Castro took over. Venezuela is Castro’s “back-yard”

    Their “left-wing” supporters are corrupt politicians who operate out of pure self-interest.

    These “Socialists” devour everything the USA has to offer, its technology, its entertainment products, and especially its money.

    They demand billions from the USA in loans which they never intend to repay, rob US corporations without compensation, and then cry “US imperialism” so they can get away with their criminal behavior.

    It’s time to stand up to the real empires of the world – China, Russia, Islam, Cuba – and support peace and democracy for all.

  7. Exported to Venezuela, miserable Cuban doctors clamor to get into U.S.

    Worsening conditions in Venezuela are causing increasing numbers of Cuban medical personnel working there to immigrate to the United States under a special program that expedites their applications, according to Colombian officials who help process many of the refugees.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington said the number of Cuban doctors, nurses, optometrists and medical technicians applying for U.S. visas under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program is running as much as 50% ahead of last year’s pace, which was nearly double that of the year before.

    At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be admitted to the United States this year.

    It was all a trick. They tell you how great it’s going to be, how you will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you. Then comes the shock of reality.
    – Nelia, a general practitioner from Cuba
    For geographical reasons, neighboring Colombia is a favored trampoline for Cubans fleeing Venezuela, whose leftist government has struggled to rein in runaway inflation, shortages of goods and services and rising social unrest.

    Cuba, which prides itself on a comprehensive healthcare system and has long exported doctors and nurses to friendly countries, maintains an estimated 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela. The medical outreach program is intended as partial payment for 100,000 barrels of oil that President Nicolas Maduro’s government ships to the Castro administration each day.

    lRelated Venezuela’s oil minister replaced in a shake-up amid economic crisis
    Venezuela’s oil minister replaced in a shake-up amid economic crisis

    Nelia, a 29-year-old general practitioner from Santiago de Cuba, arrived in Bogota last month after what she said was a nightmarish year working in Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro program in the city of Valencia. She declined to disclose her last name for fear of reprisal back home.

    Nelia said her disillusionment started on her arrival in Caracas’ Maiquetia airport in mid-2013. She and several colleagues waited there for two days, sometimes sleeping in chairs, before authorities assigned her to a clinic in Valencia, she said.

    “It was all a trick. They tell you how great it’s going to be, how you will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you. Then comes the shock of the reality,” Nelia said. Her clinic in Valencia had no air conditioning and much of the ultrasound equipment she was supposed to use to examine pregnant women was broken.

    Related story: Venezuela begins overnight closures of border to deter smuggling
    Related story: Venezuela begins overnight closures of border to deter smuggling
    Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul
    She described the workload as “crushing.” Instead of the 15 to 18 procedures a day she performed in Cuba, she did as many as 90 in Venezuela, she said. Crime is rampant, the pay is an abysmal $20 per month and Cubans are caught in the middle of Venezuela’s civil unrest, which pits followers of the late President Hugo Chavez — whose handpicked successor is Maduro — against more conservative, market-oriented forces.

    “The Chavistas want us there and the opposition does not. And there are more opposition people than Chavistas,” said Nelia, who was interviewed in a Colombian immigration office in Bogota.

    This is really great news! What the U.S. so RICHLY needs is lots more foreign doctors–immigrants generally. We obviously don’t have enough of either! Co’mon rest of the world! Why don’t you join the growing bandwagon of those eager to use America for all it has to offer! No…
    AT 8:42 PM SEPTEMBER 11, 2014

    A 32-year-old Cuban optometrist who identified himself as Manuel and who also fled Venezuela to apply for U.S. residency said that at his clinic in Merida he was prescribing and grinding up to 120 pairs of eyeglasses a day, triple his pace in Cuba.

    “As a professional you want to be paid for what your work is worth. What we were getting, $20 a month, was not enough to pay even for food and transportation, much less a telephone call to Cuba now and then,” Manuel said. “That’s the main reason I want to go to Miami, to earn what I’m worth.”

    Cubans have long had favored status as U.S. immigrants. Virtually any Cuban is guaranteed automatic residency and a path to citizenship simply by setting foot on U.S. territory, legally or not. The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program gives medical personnel a leg up by allowing them to apply for residency at U.S. embassies.

    Though some Cubans apply at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, others say they fear being seen there. Also, airfare to the United States from Colombia is much cheaper than from Venezuela.

    The increasing flow of Cuban doctors is only part of a rising tide of Cubans seeking to reach the United States, many through Colombia. Lacking the special status of medical personnel, many U.S.-bound Cubans first land in Ecuador, where the government requires no visas. They then typically pass through Colombia to Panama with the help of coyotes, or human traffickers. However, many are detained in Colombia.

    Of 1,006 illegal immigrants detained in Colombia from January through July of this year for failing to have proper visas, 42% were Cuban, according to Colombia’s immigration agency director, Sergio Bueno Aguirre. The flow of Cubans had more than doubled from the year before.

    One Colombian Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity said the U.S. policy of allowing Cubans immigrant status simply by arriving in the United States has fed organized crime in Colombia and in other transit countries.

    “Coyotes helping the Cubans transit through Colombia often use the migrants to carry drugs or submit to prostitution,” the official said. “Or the coyotes will just abandon them at a border, creating a big headache for the Colombian government, which has to take care of them or send them back home.”

    Kraul is a special correspondent.

    Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times


  8. Venezuela is a cesspool, with one of the highest violent crime rates in the world, amongst its myriad of other problems. Socialism at its finest.

  9. Whar a great post about Venezuela, Omar ” 600,000 new housing units to the poor in a mere 2.5 years. And, this provision of housing continues apace, with 2500 housing units given away by the government every Thursday of every week”

    At this pace Venezuela will soon beat USA in combating homelessness. If they haven’t done that yet.

    Of course the program has it’s price. Somebody has to pay for it. Lorenzo Mendoza, for example. When I was in Caracas drinking a can of Polar beer I didn’t realize that this huge enterprise (+ Pepsi distribution and some more) belongs to one man, Lorenzo. With $4 billion he is one of the wealthiest people in the world.

    Without the housing project for the poor Lorenzo Mendoza would be worth $7 or $8 billon today. There are thousands more people like him in Venezuela who genunly hate the Chavistas. They feel being robbed by them.


  10. Humberto: it appears to me that the reason is the new Penal Code in Venezuela who criminalized lack of regime respect and provoking fear and anxiety in the public. The Venezuela government do not want the bias press to foment the public sentiment, so, to be fair they keep all the press out of the courtroom (against and for Leopoldo). The judge already upheld the charges against Leopoldo back in July and the prosecutors are going to present more charges. A Washington Post article said that he might get 13 years in jail. I don’t think Leopoldo’s defense lawyer has a case to keep him out of jail. He is guilty as charged.

    Tintori said in an interview outside the Caracas court where her husband’s trial, which is closed to the press and the public, is being held.
    The government hasn’t presented one bit of evidence that Leopoldo is guilty,” Tintori said. “He’s in jail because Maduro is scared of him.”

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