Freedom of expression remains under siege in Cuba despite the reopening of diplomatic relations announced in December. The fallout from performance artist Tania Bruguera’s attempt to hold an art event at Havana’s Revolution Plaza and subsequent arrests has impacted Cuba’s erstwhile autonomous film and TV school Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television (EICTV).
EICTV Humanities coordinator Boris Gonzalez Arenas was fired Jan. 5 after he was arrested and incarcerated for three days for trying to participate in Bruguera’s thwarted free speech event on Dec. 30.
After his release, the prestigious school — co-founded in 1986 by the late Colombian Nobel Laureate writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez — opted to fire Gonzalez Arenas for his alleged “lack of trustworthiness.”
A committee led by EICTV head Jeronimo Labrada accused Gonzalez Arenas, one of many bloggers who have begun to flourish in Cuba despite limited Internet access, of publishing articles critical of “the Cuban state and of the humanist values of the school, as well as against the institutions and leaders of the country.” Gonzalez Arenas questioned the timing of his ouster in an interview with newspaper Diario de Cuba. “If it had happened in October, it would have been meaningless, but doing so only three days after I was released from prison makes them accomplices of the state,” he said.
Some observers — who would rather remain anonymous — point out that the school had always provided a creative, nurturing environment where freedom of expression had reigned, existing in a self-sustaining bubble virtually unchecked by the ruling Castro regime. Works critical of the government were tolerated.
The government crackdown seems to have begun in 2013 when its previous director, Rafael Rosal, was fired for alleged financial irregularities.
Since its foundation, hundreds of students from more than 50 countries have graduated from EICTV, situated 16 miles from Havana in San Antonio de los Banos. Some notable alumni include Peruvian helmer Diego Vega (“El Mudo,” above), Venezuela’s Mariana Rondon (“Pelo”), Cuban director Juan Carlos Cremata (“Viva Cuba”), Argentine-born Cuban director Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”) and Dominican helmer Laura Amelia Guzman (“Jean Gentil”).
Several of the school’s teachers from Europe and the U.S. are considering drafting a protest letter.