The Oncology and Radiobiology Institute Fires Scientist Oscar Casanella
On Tuesday the National Oncology and Radiobiology Institute (INOR) ousted biochemist Oscar Casanella Saint-Blancard, who had worked at the facility since 2004, the scientist himself reported to DIARIO DE CUBA.
Casanella had been at odds with the administration of the INOR after being sentenced to 30 days without pay in late 2015 for an allegedly "unethical action" he denied ever committing.
"I complained about the abuses and obstructions that the deputy director (of Research and Teaching, Lorenzo Anasagasti) was subjecting me to in my daily work, simply stating the facts, without any disrespect," he said at the time. The scientist then turned to his workplace's Labor Justice Office, which dismissed his appeal.
Casanella said that in recent days he had suffered "harsh harassment," noting that on June 2 Anasagasti threatened to punish and expel him for having been absent on Wednesday, 18 May.
"That day, at 3:00 pm I attended, with my friend, the doctor of Biological Sciences Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, an act supporting a public hearing for him and publicizing the biologist's dismissal from the Marine Research Center," Casanella explained.
He added that on May 31, upon leaving the INOR's cafeteria, an individual who identified himself only as Alberto "accosted, coerced and intimidated him, without ever properly identifying himself" and asked him "cynically" about his work.
"I replied, forcefully, that I was not doing well at all, as since 2013 I had barely been able to work, and that Lorenzo Anasagasti and he were those primarily responsible for the constraints on my work. I called him an ‘informant’ and told him that there was no difference between one of Batista's henchman and the way he was treating me."
Casanella believes the harassment he suffered by the INOR's administration and State Security forces was due to his relationships with political opponents he met through his friend Ciro Javier Díaz Penedo, a member of the rebellious punk rock band Porno for Ricardo.
The scientist was among those arrested during the crackdown carried out when Tania Bruguera attempted to perform at the Plaza de la Revolución in December of 2014.
Casanella was previously expelled from the Biology Department at the University of Havana, where he worked as a professor of Immunology. "Suddenly, without any explanation, not only was I barred from teaching, but the Dean of the Department, Alina Forrellat Barrios, in front of a group of students, addressed me in the rudest way, shouting at me and prohibiting me from entering the facility," he said.
The retaliation against Casanella at the INOR included preventing him from using the Internet, or from collaborating with other research groups "due to lack of access to laboratories." He was also kept from teaching classes and courses at the facility.
The scientist has filed complaints with the secretary of the INOR's labor bureau, Roberto Ortiz, the Public Prosecutor, and the Ministry of Public Health, because he believes that Deputy Director Anasagasti is guilty of violations of the Labor Code, in collaboration with members of the Professional Justice Office.
Casanella noted that he has been awaiting a ruling by the Communist Party of INOR since 3 February regarding violations by the Professional Justice Office for all the obstacles his boss put up to impede him from doing his job.
"As a result of all these events, in addition to the instability of my status as an INOR worker, I decided to see a mental health specialist, who diagnosed me as suffering from ‘situational anxiety,’” he explained.
"Instead of dedicating my time to the fight against cancer, and my doctorate, and teaching, unfortunately, having suffered evident psychological damage, I have to dedicate my energies to demanding my professional rights," he complained.
Casanella's dismissal came just days after fellow scientist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was also terminated at the Marine Research Center (CIM) at the University of Havana.
In April, another University entity, the Centre for the Study of the Cuban Economy, dismissed Professor Omar Everleny Pérez, an analyst frequently consulted by the foreign press and who has been critical of some economic measures, without opposing the regime outright.