His ministry also purged dissident teachers, refused the request of Roman Catholic Church officials to allow religious instruction in public schools and required university students to learn a trade or skill. By the end of the decade, primary school education was available almost universally.
Mr. Hart served on the Council of State until 2008 and was a member of the parliament when he died.
He wrote several books; directed the government’s José Martí cultural program, dedicated to the 19th-century Cuban poet and revolutionary hero; and was the president of the José Martí Cultural Society. In 2010 he was awarded the Order of José Martí, the Council of State’s highest honor.
Mr. Hart was less doctrinaire than some of his Communist colleagues. He counseled an arm’s-length relationship with the Soviet Union, but, early on, also voiced support for armed insurrections against Latin American dictatorships supported by the United States.
After Castro jailed a dissident poet, Mr. Hart sought to reconcile with Cuba’s intellectuals by creating a culture ministry. Heading the ministry from its inception in 1976 until 1997, he allowed for creativity but also viewed culture through a political prism.
Early in his tenure, making an overture of sorts to American television executives who were visiting a jazz festival in Havana, Mr. Hart told them: “If you send us bombs, we will send you bombs. If you send us music, we will send you music.”
While he reminded the Writers’ Union of José Martí’s dictum “Justice first, art later,” he proclaimed shortly after his cultural ministry was established, “Justice has triumphed, forward with art.”
Armando Hart Davalos was born in…