David is a university professor and human rights defender who focuses on the topics of academic freedom, university autonomy and quality of education. But what is academic freedom actually and why is this important?
As democracy is weakened and economic and social conditions deteriorate in Venezuela, the academic freedom and autonomy of Venezuelan universities are increasingly under threat. While these rights are legally and constitutionally recognised, David perceives government policy is increasingly undermining these rights. For example, military and paramilitary forces violently suppress student protests, students are often arbitrarily detained, physically attacked and subjected to psychological pressure through interrogations because of their political views.
Moreover, David mentions that the government strongly favours universities from its own ideological point of view, while the traditional autonomous institutions are subject to financial restrictions and have difficulties to remain open. The result is that students cannot be teached a critical way of thinking and that experts in certain fields cannot do research anymore and publish their findings. Latest example of this are threats to Freddy Pachano, a professor who wanted to do further research on the corona outbreak in Venezuela and had to flee the country and is not able to do this important work now.
“It is worrisome that specialists are no longer able to make statements about the field of their expertise. It is a threat to academic freedom, and a threat to democracy” – David Gómez Gamboa
Since 2014, David has been actively working with his own NGO ‘Aula Abierta’ to report on and raise awareness about these threats that are going on in Venezuela but also in many more countries in Latin America. Are you interested in hearing more about David his work? Visit Aula Abierta’s website or send an email with your question to firstname.lastname@example.org