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Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 05:09:41 -0500
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>>> Item number 7463, dated 96/05/06 21:33:01 -- ALL
Date: Mon, 6 May 1996 21:33:01 CDT
Reply-To: JHLovell@aol.com
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: JHLovell@aol.com
Subject: Raul Castro's attack on intellectuals stirs backlash

Raul Castro's attack on intellectuals stirs backlash

By Mimi Whitefield and Juan O. Tomayo,
Knight_Ridder News Service, 6 May 1996

MIAMI -- Reflecting a rift within Cuba's ruling elite, top intellectuals and even Communist Party members are publicly criticizing demands by President Fidel Castro's brother that they toe the revolutionary line.

The surprisingly spirited defense mounted by writers, artists and academics appears to have eased, at least for now, fears that Raul Castro's demand would signal the beginning of a crackdown on intellectuals.

"This has radicalized the whole intellectual community," said one foreign diplomat in Havana.

Raul Castro, armed forces chief, sparked the furor when he attacked some intellectuals last month as "fifth columnists" too moderate and contaminated by a reformist "virus" to effectively defend socialism.

Raul's demands for ideological purity were part of a report from the Communist Party's ruling Politburo, that he read to the 225-member Central Committee.

Tensions between moderates who favor reforms and hard-liners who call for "ideological rearmament" have been evident in Havana for months, but never had they gone as public as they did after Raul's speech.

The most direct retort came from Alfredo Guevara, head of Cuba's internationally known cinema institute, at the funeral April 17 of Tomas Gutierrez Alea, director of films critical of the revolution such as "Strawberry and Chocolate."

"He was a difficult revolutionary, and that made him even more of a revolutionary," Guevara said in his eulogy of Gutierrez Alea. "Simpletons are not revolutionaries, even less those who believe they are."

A less public reply was issued by Cuba's top union of writers and artists, known as UNEAC, which sent a note to President Castro warning of the dangers of "stifling creativity," said one UNEAC member.

"Creativity has always been part of the revolution," said the letter, which according to the UNEAC member was signed by, among others, UNEAC President Abel Prieto and Miguel Barnet, one of Cuba's best-known writers.

A discreet retort even came from Culture Minister Armando Hart, who began a speech last week by saying he agreed with Raul and finished by defending the very intellectuals Raul had attacked, said one author who was in the audience.

The Culture Ministry will continue to "provide a space for dialogue on the complexities of society," the author quoted Hart as saying at the release of the latest issue of Contracorriente (Countercurrent), one of the magazines criticized by Raul.

Many Communist Party members meeting in rank-and-file sessions around Havana over the past two weeks have spoken out strongly against "the intolerance" displayed recently by hard-liners, sources in Havana said.

"The cells don't want witch hunts and are saying so loudly," one source said. "Party bureaucrats tend to be more hard-line, but they are hearing the message from the bases and passing it up to the leadership."

At the heart of the dispute is a long-running debate between moderates and hard-liners: The moderates favor broader economic openings, while the hard-liners argue that since Cuba has weathered a five-year economic crisis, it's now time to pull up revolutionary socks.

Government officials say Raul only intended to warn against letting down Cuba's ideological guard. To say his speech marks the beginning of a repressive campaign against intellectuals would be "an oversimplification," said National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon.

To prove their point, they note that despite the furor, one of the intellectual magazines attacked by Raul published a new issue Thursday. The magazine, Temas, contained articles on the Roman Catholic Church unlikely to please the hard-liners, Havana residents said.

But some intellectuals claim it was their vocal backlash that kept Raul's speech from sparking more significant attacks on academics and artists than the ones seen so far.

The director of a Havana think tank directly attacked by the armed forces chief -- the Center for the Study of the Americas -- was fired and replaced with Dario Machado, a well-known academic with solid hard-line credentials.

Havana has cut back the number of exit visas for Cubans to attend academic and cultural seminars abroad -- one of the ways in which Raul Castro charged that Cubans become "contaminated" with capitalist ideals, Western diplomats say.

The head of the Marxism Studies Department at the University of Havana, Jorge Luis Acanda, was fired April 19 over foreign news reports that quoted him as saying that Marxist studies had fallen on hard times. He may yet be stripped of his teaching position and party membership, one friend said.

Copies of Raul's speech have been distributed to all academic centers, and researchers have been told to read and discuss it. "They're making it very clear this is the official line," one University of Havana professor said.

In the most worrisome development, the Communist Party's Central Committee sent teams of "inspectors" to about a half-dozen academic centers attacked in the speech.

Some of the academics have objected strenuously to the investigators' questions about their work and foreign financing, according to professors who were questioned. But in general, the sources added, the investigators appear to be trying to avoid seeming too intimidating.

The government is acting "like a teacher who slams her desk and shouts

`Children!' when there's too much noise in the classroom," one Havana intellectual said. "It doesn't mean the children can't ever speak again."