Last week, the Autonomous University of Morelos in Mexico awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa to Fidel Castro for “his contributions to agriculture, education and culture”. It is shameful that a university in a democratic country would award such a title to a dictator. Especially for these alleged contributions.
Lets discuss the “achievements” of Castro and his contributions to the island in regards to agriculture, culture and education.
Perhaps the university ignores that under the Castro regime, culture, education and agriculture have been seriously affected by his government. In kolkhoz (Soviet-style farms), the state has total control over production. This by itself destroys any possibility that the farmers may have to achieve growth.
When it comes to improvements in terms of agriculture, Cuba is the last country to be seen as successful in the field. The university may ignore that Cuban agriculture covers only 20 percent of the needs of the population; forcing the government to import products and spend billions of dollars to feed its people.
It is a misconception that the U.S. embargo is to blame for this situation and for the economic stagnation in Cuba. Moreover, it is noteworthy that in its history Cuba was never able to supply the food needs of the people with its agricultural production.
It is ironic then that Castro is rewarded for the agricultural collapse in Cuba. If we focus on culture, the situation is no different.
Cuba was a country that had great exponents of popular music. Currently, foreigners are looking to find and promote what remains of this community. The restrictions in terms of freedom of speech and press limit the tools that artists and intellectuals need to perform as such.
Teachers and students of the university awarding this degree would not have the freedom to express what they think and give awards to people who share a political ideology that is opposed to the government that rules them. The Autonomous University of Morelos has every right to award the prize. It is not entitled, however, to ignore the reality of a country that suffers daily under one of the most authoritarian regimes in the history of the region and that is increasingly less educated and less prosperous.
Cuba and its protectionism limit any student’s opportunity to increase their knowledge. While the country has a very low illiteracy rate, intermediate and advanced level education in Cuba cannot succeed because of its lack of technology and openness to ideas that clash with the regime’s authoritarian ideology.
When has a modern university prospered without the freedom of ideas, thought, and access to technology that allows its researchers to reach new horizons in terms of education?
How can this title be given to one of the most harmful dictators in the history of the region?
The Autonomous University of Morelos perhaps still believes in the utopian ideal of communism that sells equality and forgets about the suffering to which the Cuban people have been subjected since Castro came to power.
This university, which bears the motto “For a cultured humanity” seems to lack humanity and culture by rewarding an authoritarian demagogue who has treated the people of Cuba with anything but humanity.
Mexico and all Latin American universities must move beyond talking about the romantic idea of a free and prosperous Cuba. The Cuban people have lived without freedom, without the opportunity to thrive, and have been held hostage by an ideology that promotes the interests of the ruling autocracy.
The universities in the region, beyond awarding prizes to those who do not deserve them, should promote the restoration of democracy, the defense of freedom of expression, and defend those who are incarcerated for defending these rights. No country or people can live without these freedoms and be independent in terms of economics, education, politics and prosperity.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Felipe Trigos is an analyst for the firm Vision Americas LLC in Washington, D.C.