Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio

A member of the opposition movement Ladies in White is arrested during a demonstration on International Human Rights Day in December 2015. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 5 January 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident group, denounced today that it had documented at least 9,940 arbitrary arrests for “political reasons” in 2016, the highest figure of the last six years.

With a monthly average of 827 arrests, the opposition organization said that Cuba is in “first place” in Latin America for this type of “repressive action.”

In its monthly report, the CCDHRN reports that in December there were 458 arbitrary arrests of “peaceful dissidents,” up from 359 in the previous month, but a much lower figure than in other months of last year; data from January to April showed more than 1,000 arrests a month. Continue reading “Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio”

According to this organization, in December there were also 14 physical assaults by political repression groups against peaceful opponents, 37 acts of harassment and intimidation, and two acts of repudiation, “true civil lynchings without the loss of human lives until now.”

The CCDHRN documented, in December, 14 physical attacks by the political repression groups against peaceful opponents

The commission notes that the opposition groups most punished by this harassment are the Ladies in White, who march every Sunday to demand respect for human rights on the island, and the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), which has suffered “vandalism and robbery by the police” at its headquarters in Santiago de Cuba and at the homes of some of its activists.

The CCDHRN also expressed concern over the situation of two political prisoners imprisoned since November: Eduado Cardet, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, and Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” who is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

“El Sexto” has been detained since the early hours of November 26 for painting “He’s gone” in a central place in Havana on the occasion of the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He is being held in a maximum security prison without trial.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, led by the well-known dissident Elizardo Sánchez, is the only group to record and report the numbers of these incidents in Cuba.

The Cuban government considers dissidents “counterrevolutionaries” and “mercenaries.”

“Get on that plane or go to jail,” Cuban Authorities Tell American Lawyer / 14ymedio

Activists Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Mariño and American lawyer Kimberley Motley. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2016 – The American lawyer Kimberley Motley, arrested Friday in Havana, returned to the United States after being subjected to three interrogations, the last of which, held at the Havana airport, made her miss her flight.

“Get on that plane tomorrow or go to jail,” Cuban officials told her the night she was interrogated at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood. Continue reading ““Get on that plane or go to jail,” Cuban Authorities Tell American Lawyer / 14ymedio”

Speaking to 14ymedio, the international litigator explained that she knew about the case of Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), and had documented it.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) wanted to denounce El Sexto’s case before the United Nations. Motley offered to travel to the island and discreetly gather information to provide advice on the matter. She met the artist at the Oslo Freedom Forum and considers him a friend.

Once in Cuba, visiting the island for the first time, Motley tried to interview Maldonado in the Combinado del Este prison, but the authorities prevented her from holding the interview.

Nor was she able to obtain new information on El Sexto’s case from the Court.

According to Motley, she was interrogated three times after being arrested by uniformed and plainclothes officers in a sprawling police deployment that included four police cars and about 15 officers. Once she was taken to the station she was interrogated first by a policeman and then by an immigration officer.

The interrogations were in English and Spanish, although she was never provided with a translator.

The questions asked the American lawyer were: “What are you doing in Cuba? Are you an artist? Do you know the artist? And the other artists?” But they never mentioned Danilo Maldonado by name and never told her why she was under arrest.

In a second episode two immigration officers went to her hotel at midnight and threatened to put her in jail if she did not leave Cuba. They told her, “Get on that plane tomorrow or go to jail,” recalls the lawyer. In addition, the questions of the previous interrogation were repeated.

She was also held at the airport, this time by immigration agents who questioned her about why she was there and searched her backpack.

Motley says she did not call a press conference, although she knew that one would be held by the activists who accompanied her to talk with Maldonado’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado.

However, the lawyer did have a meeting scheduled with a national and a foreign journalist to discuss the case.

Although she did not communicate with the US embassy in Havana, the mediation of the diplomatic headquarters was crucial to her release.  According to Javier El-Hage, International Legal Director for the Human Rights Foundation who spoke with 14ymedio, that organization alerted American officials which speeded up the matter.

The lawyer has said she will continue to support El Sexto’s cause because “the arrest of Danilo Maldonado has no legal or moral basis.”

‘El Sexto’s’ American Lawyer and Two Activists Arrested in Havana / 14ymedio

(L to R) Gorki Aguila, Luis Alberto Marino and Kimberly Motley in Havana (Source: Rosa Maria Paya’s Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 16 December 2016 – Kimberly Motley, an American attorney, and the activists Gorki Aguila and Luis Alberto Marino were arrested this Friday as they prepared to hold a press conference outside the Provincial Court in from of the Capitol Building in Havana. The Cubans were taken to the Zanja police station, but there is no information about the whereabouts of the American lawyer.

“They were going to give a press conference about the situation of Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto,’ who the authorities accuse of damage to public property,” according to Rosa Maria Paya, president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, who spoke to 14tmedio by phone. Motley also intended to take on the defense of Eduardo Cardet, National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

Cardet his been under arrest since 30 November for “his political activity of leadership within the MCL” according to the Paya. He is accused of “assault,” a crime that carries a prison sentence from one to three years.

On 26 November, El Sexto was arrested after painting several graffiti on the walls of the Habana Libre Hotel, reading “se fue” (He’s gone), and loaded a video to his Facebook profile celebrating the death of Fidel Castro.

Recently he was transferred to Combinado del Este, a high security prison in Havana.

Amnesty International: Where to Write for Release of El Sexto

UA: 273/16 Index: AMR 25/5244/2016 Cuba Date: 29 November 2016

URGENT ACTION

CUBAN GRAFFITI ARTIST ARRESTED AGAIN

Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (‘El Sexto’) – named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 2015 – was re-arrested on 26 November, shortly after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death.

Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (also known as ‘El Sexto’) was arrested at his home in Havana, the capital, at approximately 11.15 am on 26 November, hours after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death. Danilo Maldonado was on the phone with his girlfriend when state officials forced their way into his apartment.

According to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, she and his sister were initially unable to locate him, before they eventually located him at a prison later that afternoon. Danilo Maldonado’s mother says he is currently detained in Guanabacoa, Eastern Havana. When Maria Machado visited him on 27 November, officials did not give reasons for his arrest.

On 26 November, according to Cuba-based newspaper 14 y medio, Danilo Maldonado had graffitied the words “He’s gone” (Se fue) on a wall in Havana. The news outlet reported that El Sexto’s graffiti was one of the first public demonstrations outside of the state-organized demonstrations of mourning following the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death.

Short-term arbitrary arrests remain a common tactic to restrict freedom of expression in Cuba. In October, the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which like other human rights organizations is not recognized by Cuban authorities, reported 620 arbitrary detentions of peaceful protestors and opposition activists.

Provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code, such as contempt of a public official (desacato), resistance to public officials carrying out their duties (resistencia) and public disorder (desórdenes públicos) are frequently used to stifle free speech, assembly and association.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

Calling on the authorities to release Danilo Maldonado Machado (‘El Sexto’) immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;

Calling on them to guarantee the right to freedom of expression, including for dissident, opponent or activist voices.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 10 JANUARY 2017 TO:

President of the Republic

Raúl Castro Ruz

Presidente de la República de Cuba

La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)

Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

Salutation: Your Excellency

Attorney General

Dr. Darío Delgado Cura

Fiscal General de la República

Fiscalía General de la República Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella

Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba

Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Señor Fiscal General

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION

CUBAN GRAFFITI ARTIST ARRESTED AGAIN

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

On 20 October 2015, Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (‘El Sexto’) was released after spending almost 10 months in prison without trial following accusations of “aggravated contempt”. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression (see: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr25/2710/2015/en/).

Danilo Maldonado Machado was accused of “aggravated contempt” after being arrested on 25 December 2014 for transporting two pigs with the names “Raúl” and “Fidel” painted on them, which he intended to release in an art show in Havana’s Central Park. He was never formally charged nor brought before a court during the almost 10 months he spent in detention.

Name: Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as ‘El Sexto’

Gender m/f: male

UA: 273/16 Index: AMR 25/5244/2016 Issue Date: 29 November 2016

‘El Sexto’ Moved to a Criminal Prosecution Center / 14ymedio

Graffiti Artist El Sexto (JUSTICE AND PEACE)
Graffiti Artist El Sexto (JUSTICE AND PEACE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2016 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), was transferred Sunday from the police station at Zapata and C in Vedado to the Bivouac Calabazar criminal prosecution center in Havana. The graffiti artist’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado, visited him on Monday morning and told 14ymedio that the prosecution could keep him there for up to two months.

Machado’s meeting with her son only lasted 10 minutes, in which the artist was able to eat food brought from home, but still refused to eat food provided by the prison.

Machado said that the investigator in the case, Fernando Sanchez, informed her that her son could be held “up to 60 days in preventive detention.” The official explained that the detention would be extended “until the file is investigated.” Machado presented a petition for habeas corpus, with legal advice from the independent legal association Cubalex, and in particular from the attorney Laritza Diversent who leads that association.

El Sexto is accused of causing damage to state property, a crime “that does not exist in the Criminal Code,” Cubalex emphasized in an article published on its digital site. “Painting the walls or facades of a hotel constitutes a violation against public adornment. Inspectors of the communal system are entitled to impose, in these cases, a fine of 100 Cuban pesos (roughly $5 US),” says the article.

Habeas Corpus for ‘El Sexto’ / Cubalex

Danilo Maldonado – known as El Sexto – at the Oslo Freedom Forum. (OFF)
Danilo Maldonado – known as El Sexto – at the Oslo Freedom Forum. (OFF)

Cubalex, Havana, 6 December 2016 – On Monday, María Victoria Machado González, mother of Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto,’ petitioned the Provincial Court of Havana for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in favor of her son. In the petition, she asked the court to order the detaining authority to bring him before the court.

‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), 33, was arrested on the morning of 26 November. In the early hours of that same day he had painted a graffiti on one of the exterior walls of the Habana Libre Hotel, after official media announced the death of Fidel Castro, 90.

It is presumed that the arrest was carried out with violence. Witnesses said they forced his head between his legs. He was taken to 4 different detention. Currently he is in Vivac, in the Havana municipality of Boyeros.

The authorities informed Maria Victoria that on 5 December, nine days after his arrest, the prosecutor decided to keep him in preventive custody. The investigation is being carried out by the criminal investigator Fernando Sanchez. Maldonado is accused of damaging state property. This crime is not mentioned in the Criminal Code.

El Sexto’s mother also requested that the court order the immediate release of her son. The Criminal Code provides for a prison term or a fine for destroying, damaging or making unusable the belongings of another. This conduct does not correspond to Danilo’s actions.

According to the petition, preventive detention of El Sexto is arbitrary and illegal. Painting the walls or facades of a hotel constitutes a violation against public adornment. Inspectors of the communal system are entitled to impose, in these cases, a fine of 100 Cuban pesos (roughly $5 US).

Machado González also reported that her son was beaten by a Major of the Guanabacoa police when he asked for medical assistance because of asthma. She adds that Maldonado made the decision to only eat the food brought in by his relatives. He suspects that the meals offered at the detention center have sleeping pills in them.

Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Eats But Rejects Food from Police / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth). (Artist File)
Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth). (Artist File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 December 2016 — Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), began to eat the food, his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, told this newspaper. A week after his arrest for painting graffiti on a central Havana street corner and posting a video on his Facebook profile, the artist is still waiting to be released or presented with charges.

Machado explained that she was able to see her son today, and bring him some food at the Zapata and C Police Station in Vedado, where Maldonado is being detained. Continue reading “Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Eats But Rejects Food from Police / 14ymedio”

The prosecution has not acted to date, although it is expected that El Sexto will be released on Sunday, according to his mother.

“He has refused to eat the food they give him in the station,” Machado said. On Tuesday, relatives of the artist reported that he had been severely beaten and was holding firm against what he considers an injustice.

“Mamá, I have had a lot of aché (luck/blessing) to be a Cuban artist the day that bloody tyrant died and to be able to express myself. I’ll get out of here,” Machado said her son told her, from the detention center in Guanabacoa, a township east of the Cuban capital.

“When I asked the official what my son’s sentence would be for this crime, he told me just a fine, but then he started to talk about ‘historic conditions’ the country is going through and right there I told him that for me the state property demagoguery wouldn’t work,” she explained.

According to his mother, Maldonado has been beaten on several occasions since his arrest. “He told me himself. In Guanabacoa two officers beat him up,” she explained.

Alexandra Martinez, Maldonado’s girlfriend who lives in Miami, said that El Sexto’s detention “shows the cruelty of the Castro regime that continues to violate its people.

“The regime must release Danilo immediately. His life, his health and his safety are in play and we need him,” she said.

Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Declares Hunger Strike After Six Days In Custody / 14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez

El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)
El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez, Miami, 2 December 2016 – The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (the Sixth), declared a hunger strike this Thursday, according to reports to this newspaper from his mother Maria Victoria Machado. The artist’s decision comes six days after his arrest for having painted on a  centrally located wall in Havana, the words “Se fue” – He’s gone – in reference to Fidel Castro.

El Sexto’s fast comes amid worsening repression against the dissidence and independent journalists on the island, during the period of national mourning for the death of the former president.

“I had the first interview with the investigator who is handling Danilo’s case today. He told me that as of yesterday my son does not want to eat to demand his release,” Machado told this newspaper by phone. Continue reading “Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Declares Hunger Strike After Six Days In Custody / 14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez”

Maldonado was arrested on 26 November after painting graffiti on the exterior wall of the Habana Libre Hotel, at the centrally located corner of 23rd and L in the Vedado neighborhood, and publishing a video on his Facebook page celebrating Castro’s death.

On Tuesday, family members of the artist denounced that he had been severely beaten and said he was holding firm against what he considers an injustice.

“Mamá, I have had a lot of aché (luck/blessing) to be a Cuban artist the day that bloody tyrant died and to be able to express myself. I’ll get out of here,” Machado said her son told her at the Guanabacoa detention center to the east of the capital.

According to Machado, her son is accused of damaging state property.

“When I asked the official what my son’s sentence would be for this crime, he told me just a fine, but then he started to talk about ‘historic conditions’ the country is going through and right there I told him that for me the state property demagoguery wouldn’t work,” she explained.

According to his mother, Maldonado has been beaten on several occasions since his arrest.

“He told me himself. In Guanabacoa two officers beat him up,” she explained. The police told her that El Sexto’s phone was given up for lost, but had finally been found in police custody.

Alexandra Martinez, Maldonado’s girlfriend who lives in Miami, said that El Sexto’s detention “shows the cruelty of the Castro regime that continues to violate its people.

“The regime must release Danilo immediately. His life, his health and his safety are in play and we need him,” she said.

Family and friends of the artist are working with three human rights organizations, an international attorney and several local attorneys on the release of the artist, Martinez said.

“This shows how fearful and insecure the Cuban regime is,” she added.

This Saturday the prosecution is expected to rule on El Sexto’s case.

‘El Sexto’ Says Goodbye to Fidel Castro / 14ymedio

El Sexto’s graffiti after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)
El Sexto’s graffiti after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 November 2016 — The artist and graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), heard the news of Fidel Castro’s death while he was on Havana’s Malecon. “People kept doing what they were doing, talking, partying, when the police started to show up,” he says, of those first hours after the news. The artist irreverently took advantage of the situation to leave a brief message on a wall: “Se fue” (He’s gone).

As the sun rose, the graffiti remained defiant and accurate in the eyes of the silent passers-by. “The exterior dictator has died, but the interior dictator still remains inside many Cubans,” Maldonado said in a telephone conversation with 14ymedio.

El Sexto’s graffiti is the first demonstration outside the expressions of mourning organized by officialdom. Calm, caution and silence have spread as more Cubans have heard about the death of the former president.

Police Confirm To ‘El Sexto’ He Can Not Leave The Country / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth). (Artist File)
Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth). (Artist File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 November 2016 — Police informed the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado – known as ‘El Sexto’, (The Sixth) – that he can not leave the country because he is “regulated,” having been accused in a legal process due to a complaint by his ex-wife. He received the information within a few minutes of an official at the Zapata and C Police Station, in El Vedado, telling him the exact opposite.

The artist has attempted, this Tuesday, to travel to the United States after receiving a police summons, but was not able to board the plane. Continue reading “Police Confirm To ‘El Sexto’ He Can Not Leave The Country / 14ymedio”

El Sexto detailed to 14ymedi that earlier this week he received at the home of his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, a summons for 22 November for an “interview.” The uniformed officer who delivered the citation told the family that it was related to “a complaint for harassment” made by his ex-wife.

However, when he presented himself on Tuesday morning in response to the citation, police officials were not able to give him any more details about the presumed accusation. Maldonado tried to travel that same day, but at the airport an immigration official confirmed that he was “regulated” by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

On Thursday the artist went to the Vedado police station to demand an explanation of his case. There they told him he could not travel, but a few minutes later he received contrary information.

El Sexto was arrested in Havana on Christmas Eve of 2014, when he proposed to stage a performance with two pigs he had painted with the names of Fidel of Raul. On that occasion he spent ten months in Valle Grande prison without trial.

Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín

Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)
Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), María Tejero Martín, Oslo, 23 May 2016 — Cuban opposition member Rosa María Payá said Monday ,in an interview with EFE, that the “totalitarianism” of the government led by Raul Castro “has not broken” despite the open contact with the United States and the European Union (EU), and so she asked that these approaches be used to achieve “concrete progress.”

“Rapprochement with Cuba is very good, but it depends on how and how it is sold. It also has negative consequences, such as the rest of the world perceiving an internal process of openings toward democracy, and this has not occurred,” said Payá in the Norwegian capital, where she has come to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF). Continue reading “Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín”

The dissident said that “totalitarianism has not been broken” despite the “legitimacy” with which it might have re-clothed itself after the visits of personalities such as US President Barack Obama, the high representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, Pope Francis or the Rolling Stones.

Payá, daughter of the prominent opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, who died in 2012 in a car crash which his daughter blames on the Cuban regime, believes that the international community has an “opportunity to pressure the regime for this change toward freedom.”

Payá criticized the “excuses that can be cynical, but are invoked as pragmatic” which are used as an argument to initiate dialogue with Cuba placing special attention on economic relations and relegating to the background demands for human rights and freedom.

“People say things like if we negotiated with China, why not with the Cuban regime. Under this line of thinking, why not with North Korea?” she said.

We regards to negotiations between Brussels and Havana, she considers it “worrying” that no light has been shined on the text that serves as a basis for contacts between the two parties and warned that it is not enough to simply include “a mention of human rights, because tyrannies have already learned to deal with these mentions.”

“The support has to be concrete, specific and on measurable issues. Not only speeches in support of democracy, of human rights,” she said, calling for support for the holding of a plebiscite on the island, access to communications media and information, and the release of political prisoners.

“Totalitarianism, which has not been broken, is broken when the ability to decide does not reside in the same group of generals. At that moment the transition will have begun, which won’t happen in a single day. We cannot pretend this is happening,” she said, in a message she directed to “the international community,” from whom she asked for “support.”

” Cubans are human beings just like everyone else, like Spaniards or Belgians. We did not endure five decades in order to have Airbnb, but rather all out rights (…), having more Americans to travel to the island is not enough, it is a racist approach to think so,” she claimed.

To Payá, inaction may also affect the international community itself and democratic countries.

In this regard she pointed to how the situation in Venezuela has been evolving under the leadership of Hugo Chavez and president Nicolas maduro, but also the ideas that have come from “political parties in Spain.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming Spanish elections, Payá stressed that “the Spanish people are sovereign, so it is up to them to decide,” although she expressed her concern for “the influence of the totalitarian regime in Havana and the Chavista regime which is concerned with undermining Latin America and exporting its ideas to Europe.”

About the rise of anti-democratic positions, the Cuban opponent once again called on democratic countries to act.

In terms of rights, “Cubans were already in the worst situation ten years ago, but now the rest of the world is worse off as well,” she warned.

Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," is also speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum this week.
Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” is also speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum this week.

Ladies in White and Opponents Arrested After Sunday March in Havana / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)
Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 20 March 2016 – Some fifty Ladies in White and other opposition members such as the graffiti artist El Sexto and Antonio Gonzales Rodlies were arrested in Havana today after the usual Sunday march of the female dissident group, which was answered with a counter-repudiation-demonstration by government supporters.

At the end of the usual peaceful march after Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Church, the Ladies in White tried to walk to other streets away from their route, where the ruling party had concentrated groups linked to the government which began to jeer at them.

The incident, which with varying intensity has been repeated every Sunday for 46 weeks, took place a few hours before the arrival on the Island of the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who during his historic visit Continue reading “Ladies in White and Opponents Arrested After Sunday March in Havana / EFE, 14ymedio”

will meet with members of the dissidence.

The Ladies in White along with a group of dissidents and activists from other opposition organizations gathered under the platform #TodosMarchamos (We All March) and walked some hundred yards carrying a banner with the inscription, “Obama, coming to Cuba is not entertainment. No more human rights violations,” and threw copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on reaching a side street.

At that point they encountered the counter-demonstration of several hundred government sympathizers carrying signs reading “#We All March for a prosperous and sustainable socialism,” and “#We All March for Cuba,” and shouting “Fidel, Fidel” in reference to the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Other male activists who accompanied the Ladies in White were handcuffed and put into police cars.

Even after the arrests, the pro-government group of protesters continued in the area and circled the block dancing to a popular conga headed by a contingent from the University Students Federation (FEU).

Previously, the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, told EFE that her group calls on President Obama during his visit to send “a clear message of support to the people of Cuba, given that the United States has always wanted good things and democracy for the island.”

“We also want to demand that the Cuban government immediately release all political prisoners, enact a general amnesty and to stop police violence,” added Soler.

Soler said that if she can talk with President Obama in Havana, she will him that “nothing has changed here nor is it going to change, he has come to a Cuba that is repressed and he will leave a Cuba that is repressed.”

The first visit by a president of the United States in the last 88 years will begin today with the arrival of Barack Obama, who in announcing his trip said one of its purposes was to influence the situation of human rights on the island, at a time when the dissidence has denounced an increase in repression.

Amnesty International Warns About Censorship In Cuba / 14ymedio

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 6.59.30 AM

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 March 2016 — On the occasion of World Day Against Internet Censorship, Amnesty International (AI) has published the obstacles that Cuban internet users must overcome to access the web and break the blockade against web pages that dissent from official policy. Under the title “Six Facts About Censorship in Cuba,” the note addressed the limitations on freedom of expression in digital, artistic and informational spaces for residents of the island. Continue reading “Amnesty International Warns About Censorship In Cuba / 14ymedio”

Among the major violations listed by the report is the lack of freedom of expression exemplified in the imprisonment for ten months without trial of the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, when he attempted to stage a performance art piece with two pigs on which he had painted the names of Fidel and Raul.

The human rights organization denounced the state monopoly on the media and the harassment of independent journalists and bloggers. The note recalls the police cordon around the 14ymedio newsroom, to prevent its reporters from covering the activities of the International Human Rights Day, on 10 December.

Censorship on the web and low connectivity are also addressed in the document. “Internet access is still prohibitively expensive for most, and far from accessible to all,” it says. Despite the appearance of dozens of wifi zones and navigation rooms, “only 25 per cent of Cubans use the internet, while only five per cent of homes are connected,” denounces the text. 

“The landline, mobile and internet connections of government critics, human rights activists and journalists are often monitored or disabled,” says AI, for whom these actions are “a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information.”

The difficulties faced by international agencies to access independent information is also reflected in the document. “Communicating with Cuban human rights activists remains challenging, particularly at times when the authorities are arresting people based on their political opinion.”

According to the organization, Cuban citizens are “finding ways” to circumvent censorship and share information “From underground Wi-Fi, to creating apps, to harnessing the power of USBs.”

Amnesty International is a global movement, with a presence in more than 150 countries that aims to “undertake research and take action to prevent and end grave abuses of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights throughout the world.” Cuba is the only country in the continent that does not allow access to Amnesty International, which has been unable to send an official mission to the island since 1990.

‘El Sexto’ Exhibits the Pigs That Sent Him to Jail in Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

'Raul' and 'Fidel', the pigs from the performance art piece banned in Cuba, were paraded through the Market Gallery in Miami on Thursday. (14ymedio)
‘Raul’ and ‘Fidel’, the pigs from the performance art piece banned in Cuba, were paraded through the Market Gallery in Miami on Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 February 2016 – Last night in Miami Danilo Maldonado (known as ‘El Sexto’, The Sixth), was able to show off the pigs Raul and Fidel, which cost him ten months in prison in Cuba. The opening of the exhibition “Pork,” at the Market Gallery in Miami Beach this Thursday, included the performance art piece banned in Cuba at the end of 2014, in which the two pigs walked peacefully around in an area restricted for their display, while a crowd gathered around and flashes lit up the pigs, who now and then appeared to pose.

El Sexto is an artist of freedom. At times irreverent and iconoclastic, but decidedly sensitive and intuitive. “The only way to find freedom is to go out and get it. I am still looking for it, but only this search is what frees you from a state of repression,” he told 14ymedio while preparing for the opening of his first exposition in the United States.

Enlivened by the well-known and controversial band Porno Para Ricardo, the event welcomed hundreds of participants, especially young Cuban Americans, and was a showcase for the work of the artist imprisoned for his performance art piece in Havana’s Central Park, inspired by Orwell, that never saw the light of day until last night in Miami. Since then, the image of the two pigs painted olive-green with the names of Fidel and Raul on their sides, accompany El Sexto wherever he goes. Continue reading “‘El Sexto’ Exhibits the Pigs That Sent Him to Jail in Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

“For me, the pig chosen by Orwell was the closest thing to the characters I wanted to represent. But in addition, it is the only thing left to us, there is no fish, no chicken… all there is is pork,” he said, to explain his choice.

Maldonado began his artist work painting graffiti on the walls of Havana which he signed underneath with the pseudonym “El Sexto” (The Sixth), as a way of protesting against the huge campaign financed by the Cuban state to demand the release of the five spies considered heroes in Cuba. His social criticism and sarcastic messages were completely unacceptable to the authorities, who interpreted his art as a hostile act.

“I have been a follower of El Sexto for a long time. His work shows the injustice of the Castro regime, the lack of freedom, Valle Grande Prison (where he was held), the hunger strike he was forced to undertake…” commented Sheila Oliva Gonzales, a young Cuban who graduated from the National School of Arts in Cuba and now lives in Miami.

Despite everything, his imprisonment was a learning experience for El Sexto. “In Cuba there is a society that is falling apart, a country that is collapsing and this system has no solutions.”

The trip to the United States has represented a qualitative leap in Maldonado’s artistic career, but also on a personal level. “It helps you to want to transmit what you see to those over here. Here people believe in big dreams, and they are motivated to work, they have a purpose. That makes you fee.”

Ramon Alejandro, one of the great Cuban painters of exile, was present at the exhibition. “I did not know that he was a photographer, or that he painted on fabric, I only knew the drawings that circulated on the internet. He is a very good painter and what he does is very interesting, independent of its social and political implications,” he commented.

Others who were also there were Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, director of the Estado de Sats project. “It’s fantastic that he can have the exposition here, because he couldn’t do it in Cuban. It seems that Raul has bought this name and now it is his property, and the name Fidel as well. Now no one can have it, not even the pigs,” lamented Soler.

Danilo Maldonado, who is very close to the Todos Marchamos (We All March) initiative undertaken by several civil society groups on the island and in exile, has said on numerous occasions that his intention is to return to Cuba in March and to continue attending, along with his mother and grandmother, Santa Rita Church, with the Ladies in White. “The importance of Todos Marchamos is that no one has dared to do this before now, to take to the streets,” affirmed the artist.

Former Democratic congressman Joe Garcia, who was also present at the evening, praised Maldonado’s courage, because he had the opportunity to leave Cuba but decided to say. “This makes him a good Cuba, a patriot. The most heroic acts are those silent acts that people undertake to improve their country. And there are thousands and thousands of Cubans who are doing this every day,” he said in praise of El Sexto.

One of the most moving moments of the night, along with the realization of the performance art piece aborted in Havana, was the moment when El Sexto proceeded to get a tattoo of a declaration asking for the freedom of the Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopez, imprisoned in that country, and the Cuban political prisoners.