14ymedio, Havana, 7 November 2015 — The musician Gorki Águila was arrested this afternoon in Havana, as he was traveling in a car with two journalists from the television channel France24. The composer and singer managed to call this newspaper from the Fifth Police Station in the Playa municipality, where he was taken with the two reporters.
Águila, leader of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, does not know why he has been arrested and when talking with 14ymedio the police still had not informed him whether he would remain in a cell in the station, or be fined or prosecuted. Last August the musician was detained for several hours in the same station, where he was warned that if continue his activism “those who invite you to visit another country will have to come to looking for you in a boat.”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 November 2015 — On Thursday a roof in Havana’s Cerro district was a suitable space for a group of young people to have a meeting with the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (The Sixth). Perhaps because neither the artist nor the members of the Somos+ Movement (We Are More) are given to extreme formalities, it is inappropriate to call what took place a tribute. But in fact, it was. Continue reading “El Sexto With Somos+ / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”
Danilo was given an anthology of messages of support from many parts of the world, sent during the almost ten months he spent in prison for attempting to stage a performance that angered the Cuban authorities and in particular the political police. The displays of affection came into his hands, the shouts of joy for his release, and the words of encouragement that filled the social networks during his imprisonment.
The coordinators of the young political movement, which is currently holding its third and expanded National Council, invited the artist to relate his experiences in prison. Numerous questions about his artistic action and about his days of confinement allowed El Sexto to demonstrate that he is something more than a “smearer of walls,” as his detractors from the official side call him, but rather someone with artistic sensibility and political will.
Asked about his hunger strike undertaken to secure his release, Maldonado drew with words the most recent of his artistic strokes, which today I want to share with you:
“As people we all occupy a physical space and I believe the most important thing is to make a scratch on this time line in the space we have occupied. I have always had the conviction that I was doing something right. I cold die, but I consoled myself knowing that if this happened I would be remembered, My jailers told they were going to let me die and I responded to them that my death would be different from theirs, because my family and friends would remember me.”
14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2015 — Arbitrary political arrests continue to trend upward in Cuba, according to Monday’s denouncement from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). In its report for the month of October, the independent entity reports “at least 1,093 arrests of this nature,” the vast majority “performed or supervised by the secret political police.” This is the highest figure in the past 16 months, exceeding the previous record reached in September of this year with 882 arrests.
Among the issues the CCDHRN views with greatest alarm is that “not all of the regime opponents arrested have been returned to their homes.” Among them are Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco and Wilfredo Parada Milian, who “have already spent eight days in provisional detention as a reprisal for having participated, in the last month, in separate peaceful demonstrations in front of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office,” the introduction of the report states. Continue reading “A Growing Number Of Political Arrests In Cuba, According To CCDHRN / 14ymedio”
The commission, focused on reporting on human rights, also notes that the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), was released at the end of October after ten months in “provisional detention” without having been taken to trial. A category of detention, they warn, that is “used by the Government with the intention of undermining and intimidating peaceful opponents.”
With regards to the conditions of the Cuban prison system, the organization warns that it is continuing to receive reports that “reveal a greater deterioration of the conditions of internment, characterized by the prevalence of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.” However, the government “persists in not accepting the disinterested cooperation of the International Red Cross to improve conditions of internment.”
The commission, headed by the activist Elizardo Sanchez, cites a prison population of “between 60,000 and 70,000 prisoners, mostly for common crimes or ‘pre-criminal attitude,’ who survive in the midst of filth and every kind of insecurity.” The organization details that “there are in Cuba between 150 and 200 high severity prisons, correctional centers and labor camps.”
Arsenio Rodríguez Quintana, Barcelona — On Sunday, October 4, after visiting the Cuban Art Factory in Havana, the Rolling Stones singer was walking with the rocker and Cuban government critic Gorki Aguila Carrasco along 5th Avenue, where the Ladies in White meet every Sunday and march in support of human rights in Cuba. Cuban State Security blocks Gorki from going to meet them, but last Sunday, the day of Orula, an orisha venerated in Cuba, the miracle happened. Gorki was wearing an El Sexto T-shirt that interested Jagger, who asked about El Sexto’s state of health after his hunger strike, and offered to buy some of his artworks to support him.
They also spoke about the possibility of Gorki opening for the Rolling Stones should the conversations with the Ministry of Culture for the Stones to play in the Karl Marx Theater bear fruit.
Now that so many American rock, pop and jazz musicians are coming to Havana, it is worth remembering that this city where I was born had home grown impresarios (from 1910 to 1959) that brought the best American or European musicians of their times to Cuba: Enrico Caruso, Nat King Cole or Lola Flores, for example.
The person who cut this ebb and flow between Havana and the world was Fidel Castro. For more than 50 years – except in 1978, another USA-Cuba political rapprochement, and in 1999. The Castro regime not only censored jazz and rock so that it would not come into Cuba, but also censored and imprisoned those who played it.
Jagger, regrettably was in Havana but he didn’t meet with Gorki, the news is false, but my dear friends Ailer and Lia Villares will perhaps smile at my autumn dreams from Barcelona.
14ymedio, Havana, 25 October 2016 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), joined 48 Ladies in White during their traditional walk down Fifth Avenue in Havana this Sunday. Released last week after ten months in prison, the graffiti artist accompanied the women and about twenty activists who gathered outside after mass at Santa Rita Church.
Also participating in the march were Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), along with the families of the three activists arrested while trying to approach Pope Francis during his visit to Cuba. The regime opponents Zaqueo Baez, Ismael Boris Reñi and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon are still being detained, after having been arrested on 20 September at the Mass in the Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.
In the east of the country, UNPACU reported more than 80 arrests today to prevent individuals from reaching the Sanctuary del Cobre. In Havana, after the march, more than 50 Ladies in White and activists were arrested.
Somos+, 20 October 2015 — They have released Danilo Maldonado, better known as El Sexto (The Sixth). We are happy for the participation of all the activists and people who continued to press for his freedom before this injustice, in spite of the long wait. A special thanks to all our members and sympathizers who collaborated with the campaign “We are for El Sexto,” and also for all the mobilization of information about this case. We want you, Danilo, to continue spreading your art, an uncensored art full of truth. Much success to all the Somos+ Movement and all those Cuban lovers of freedom. As you said so well: “Bad people exist because the good allow them to.”
14ymedio, Havana, 10 October 2015 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, was released this Tuesday after 10 months detention in Valle Grande Prison in Havana. Around 10 in the morning an official entered the cellblock where the artist was detained and told him to collect all his personal belongings. “They handcuffed me and outside I waited for “the negotiator,” the graffiti artist related, and that’s when they said they would release me.” Subsequently he was taken in a car to the door of his home in the Arroya Arenas.
According to a statement from the prison authorities, the artist will not be prosecuted. “They told me my immediate release is ‘without conditions’,” Maldonado told 14ymedio. In a phone conversation with this newspaper the graffiti artist, detained since last December for organizing a performance with two pigs painted with the names of Raul and Fidel, joked about a possible legal claim on his part for the police to return the animals seized at the time of his arrest. Continue reading “‘El Sexto’ Released After 10 Months In Detention / 14ymedio”
The artist sent a message of thanks to all those “who helped” in his release, especially to the activists who continued to demand his release, the media that publicized his case and to international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
When asked about his immediate plans, he replied: “I have a great deal of work to do, many ideas to put into practice.”
Last week El Sexto declared he would resume the hunger strike if he was not released within the first 15 days of October. He broke a 24-day fast earlier this month on being assured by a lieutenant colonel, who identified himself as a “mediator,” assured him that he would be released in “fewer than 15 days.”
This last Friday Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the fact that the authorities in Cuba failed “miserably” in not fulfilling the promise of freedom for Danilo Maldonado. The London-based organization believes that the artist is a prisoner of conscience and maintains that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government for the freedom of expression.”
14ymedio, 17 October 2015 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto,” resumed his hunger strike two days ago, his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, said on Saturday. By telephone from Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist said he would maintain the strike until he is released.
Last week El Sexto declared he would resume the hunger strike if he wasn’t freed within the first 15 days of October. He fasted for 24 days, stopping earlier this month when a lieutenant colonel, who identified himself as a “mediator,” assured him that he would be released in “less than 15 days”.
In a statement on Friday, Amnesty International denounced that the Cuban authorities of failed “miserably” by not fulfilling the promise of freedom for Danilo Maldonado. The London-based organization believes that the artist is a prisoner of conscience and maintains that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government for freedom of expression.”
El Sexto was arrested last December for organizing a performance with two pigs, painted with the names of Raul and Fidel.
14ymedio, 16 October 2015 — The organization for the defense of human rights Amnesty International has denounced in a statement Friday that the authorities of Cuba failed “miserably” in keeping their promise to release Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ The London-based organization believes that the artist, in prison for almost a year, is a prisoner of conscience and argues that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government to freedom of expression.”
Last week, the graffiti artist warned of the possibility of resuming his hunger strike if he was not released in the first 15 days of October, as he had been promised by the authorities.
The statement said that on Thursday the authorities of the Valle Grande prison told the artist’s mother that he had served his sentence, but did not know when he would be released.
El Sexto was never brought before a judge and was never sentenced. He was arrested last December by agents of the State Security in Havana while traveling in a taxi with two pigs painted with the names “Raul” and “Fidel.” The artist had planned to stage a performance that consisted of releasing the animals in a public place. He was accused of “disrespect to the leaders of the Revolution.”
“Danilo’s story has all the elements of a science fiction novel. First they put him behind bars under the most ridiculous excuse and then leave him there without charges. The fact that the Cuban authorities continue playing with Danilo and his family is downright frightening,” said Guevara-Rosas.
14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.
The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.
UNPACU had called for a demonstration this Sunday for the liberation of three of its members who were arrested after approaching Pope Francis before his mass in Revolution Plaza. Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet Reni continue in custody and presumably on hunger strike, according to members of their organization.
At least twenty activists from UNPACU were driven by police to the Third Police Unit in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The number of arrests throughout the country has been calculated by opposition sources at more than 200 people.
Hours after his arrest, opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer was freed.
14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The mother of Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, has talked by phone with the artist, who reaffirmed his decision to resume his hunger strike if he is not released before 15 October. Captive in Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist says he is willing to return to fasting, even in the midst of his recovery from 24 days without food that ended earlier this month.
Maria Victoria Machado told 14ymedio that she was able to speak for three minutes on Wednesday with graffiti artist and this he told her his decision to stop eating again starting next Thursday if they do not proceed with his release.
Machado said she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations
Maldonado also said he had been “well treated” by doctors in the prison and that he was “much better.” His mother, meanwhile, told him that the file of his case “is still with the prosecution,” without any new response from the legal authorities.
Machado also said that on Tuesday night she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations. The human rights organization considers El Sexto a “prisoner of conscience.”
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 October 2015 — There was no mistaking it. It was the same face that smiles defiantly from some paintings in which it resembles an unrepentant Christ. I had seen the signature of El Sexto at bus stops, followed his ironies on Havana’s walls, and wondered if this young man really existed, putting so many dreams, so many screams into his midnight strokes . But there he was, standing in front of me, in a T-shirt with a spray can.
“You cross out my stuff, I cross out yours,” said some of the artist Danilo Maldonado’s first paintings. It was when the police were using pink paint to hide his graffiti. Walking down Linea Street you could guess that behind those colorful patches in the middle of a wall that had gone decades without maintenance, the irreverent artist had left a drawing.
So when I stumbled upon El Sexto, thin, rebellious, talented, it seemed I had rediscovered a well-known face from my family photos, someone I had shared colorful nocturnal moments with, insolent and clandestine. With time I discovered that I was also facing a man who would not give in to fear and who would use his own body as a canvas for disobedience. Continue reading “El Sexto: He Who Laughs First, Laughs Twice / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”
He declared himself “El Sexto” – The Sixth – of the “heroes” and shamelessly demanded “give me back my five euros,” in a mocking allusion to the official demand for the “five heroes” to be returned to the island.
When we were drowning in the Castro regime’s longest campaign, demanding the release of the five Cuban spies in prison in the United States, Maldonado confronted this hemorrhage of slogans and billboards. He declared himself, at his own risk, “El Sexto,” The Sixth of the “heroes” and shamelessly demanded “give me back my five euros,” in a mocking allusion to the official demand for the “five heroes” to be returned to the island.
The nickname stuck, although the former prisoners – sent home from the United States last December – are now fat and bored in their endless national tours and public events. And so the graffiti artist went from being “the sixth hero” to being the only hero of this story. A few days ago Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. This same restless boy who launched flyers all over Havana, inviting people to tear up and destroy their own fears.
But it would be the playful side of El Sexto that most annoyed the prudish Cuban officialdom. The capacity for laughter, to ask an apparently naïve question that infuriates the repressor trying to interrogate him. The mischief of turning a traffic signal into a work of art. El Sexto made us big in his hands, although many of us were still watching him like a friendly and playful child who was beginning to leave his signature in the city.
Has there been anyone in Cuba as devoid of comic timing and the capacity for merriment as Fidel Castro? Probably not. And so the system created in his image and likeness reacts with self-consciousness and intolerance to sarcasm
But the authoritarians lack humor. To them, laughter is an offense. Any joke plunges into their chests like a knife and hits them in the face like an embarrassing slap. Has there been anyone in Cuba as devoid of comic timing and the capacity for merriment as Fidel Castro? Probably not. And so the system created in his image and likeness reacts with self-consciousness and intolerance to sarcasm.
The two piglets El Sexto was preparing to release in Havana’s Central Park last 25 December, painted with the names Raul and Fidel on one side, were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Every day of his long confinement in Valle Grande prison, they had to make him pay for the great audacity of that performance which he titled “Animal Farm.” But they don’t realize that he who laughs first laughs twice, and Danilo Maldonado has always been the one who initiated the fit of laughter in this story.
Danilo was born when many Cuban children were saying goodbye to their parents as they left for the war in Angola. He put on the neckerchief, recited at every morning school assembly that slogan we proclaimed, “Pioneers for communism,” concluding with the commitment “We will be like Che.” What when wrong with the process to tame his clay?
Poverty and exclusion shaped his life. In the letter he wrote from his cell, during the hunger strike that he carried out for 24 days, he wrote, “My family is very humble; I lived in Arroya Arenas from the time I was four; in Chafarinas, Güira de Melena; in Covadonga, Las Tunas: a village still without electricity; Guáimaro, Camagüey and Arroyo Arenas, La Lisa.” He wore Cuba on his skin before he painted it.
He worked for several days, filling the place with the smell of sweat and paint. Over his colorful rainbow of plurality, an angel asks for silence and a police inquisitor still looks out at us with reserve.
Then he knew the pain of police handcuffs when they tightened them around his wrists, the cell where they locked him up when Benedict XVI visited Cuba and that time he was detained for almost four days to make him confess that it was he who had painted those arabesques and rubrics. That sequence of clashing with reality forged the artist, in a more authentic way than the academy does other professionals of the brush and canvas.
I’ve never had a Christmas tree as beautiful as the one this young man, born in Nuevitas, Camagüey, painted on a cardboard box for a group of bloggers and independent journalists to celebrate the coming of the new year. It was rangy, beautiful and he did it in a stroke, without even taking a breath. Because if something springs from El Sexto’s every pore it is this capacity to turn the ugly and forgotten into a work of art.
One day we offered him the wall of our own home. The one that separates our apartment from the abyss, on the balcony fourteen floors up. He worked on it for several days, filling the place with the smell of sweat and paint. Over his colorful rainbow of plurality, an angel asks for silence and a police inquisitor still looks out at us with reserve.
Every morning I look at that wall as a daring orange sun rises over it. I imagine the cell where Danilo Maldonado is now, the mattress they give him to sleep for barely five hours a night, the heat and the overcrowding. There are no spray cans there, no colored pencils nor oils. But who knows if after he is released, in some corner of the prison, they will find one of his graffiti made with the metal of a spoon or a piece of coal. El Sexto will be laughing then, for the umpteenth time, at his jailers.
14ymedio, 2 October 2015 — Within a few hours of the opening of the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), scheduled between 2 and 6 October in Charleston (South Carolina), regional reports from the Commission for Freedom of the Press and Information were made public. According to the organization, ten months after the beginning of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, journalism on the island continues to be “dogged by censorship in the Cuban Communist Party monopoly over the national media.”
The report details that in Cuba there are still no signs of “economic improvement,” nor an increase in the respect for “human rights, greater freedom of expression, association and the press,” derived from the process of diplomatic rapprochement that both countries are experiencing.
With special alarm, the text includes the threats and arrests made this summer by State Security against the reporter Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, when he tried to document in videos and photos the repression suffered by the Ladies in White. The independent journalist denounced the repressive methods against the exercise of the unofficial press, including detentions for “several days without records of arrest nor of the seizure of our belongings” and the “confiscation of the tools of our work.” Continue reading “The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio”
The case of the artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto,” was also highlighted by the IAPA as evidence of the lack of freedom of expression on the island. Nine months after his arrest for planning a performance, the Graffiti artist remains in prison without having been brought to trial. This week Amnesty International named him as a prisoner of conscience.
The IAPA report also denounces “the censorship maintained on digital sites, as is the case of sites like Cubaencuentro, Martinoticias, and the digital newspaper 14ymedio, as well as other sites that address the Cuban issue from a perspective critical” of the authorities.
Among the achievements of Cuban civil society, IAPA enumerates the first Encuentro de Pensamiento (Meeting of Ideas) for Cuba, hosted by the independent think tank Center for Coexistence Studies in the city of Pinar del Río and the magazine of the same name. Founded in 2007, the publication has already published 45 issues and addresses issues ranging from culture to citizenship.
The opening of 35 WiFi points to connect to the internet also found space in the report, although the text reminds us that Cuba remains one of the least connected countries in the world, with only 5%, which is reduced to 1% in the case of broadband.
The reports comments on the parole granted to the writer Angel Santiesteban and transfer to a minimum security prison mid-year of the journalist Jose Antonio Torres, a former correspondent for the Party newspaper Granma, accused of espionage.
The report made special mention of the illegal compendium of audiovisuals and alternative information, known as the “weekly packet.” The IAPA said that the weekly packet “has continued to gain ground among the Cuban population and is causing great concern in the ruling party,” while the official press continues to be characterized by self-censorship and the absence of “a journalism of investigation, that puts pressure on government entities to have greater transparency about their internal workings.”
During the 71stGeneral Assembly of the Inter American Press Association, there will be seminars run by the Press Institute that will focus on current issues under the title “Beyond the Digital Transformation.” Other panels will address the growing contribution of women in the media, value added and copyrights, according to information from the organizers.
The meeting will feature Literature Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who will participate in a special session and be interviewed by journalist Andres Oppenheimer.
Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) ends 24-day hunger strike with promise from prison authorities that he will be released in 15 days.
14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2015 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, abandoned the hunger strike he had maintained for 24 days this Thursday. His mother, Maria Victoria Machado, confirmed the news after a visit to the Valle Grande prison, where the graffiti artist has been since last December.
This Thursday, Machado went to the prison to demand the release of her son and met there with a lieutenant colonel who was identified as a “mediator.” The official informed her that “Danilo lifted the hunger strike” and that “from today he will begin to eat.”
Machado was able to meet personally with El Sexto, whom she said was “in high spirits,” although his face “reflects that he has been on hunger strike, his lips are completely cracked,” his mother said. Tomorrow, Friday, the lady will be able to visit him again and bring him food to alleviate his days of fasting.
The artist told his mother that the hardest part of the hunger strike was “the psychological part.”
After asking for personal information, including her address and contact phone number, the lieutenant colonel said that the artist would be “released in fifteen days.” To a question from 14ymedio, the mother of graffiti artist said she believes that “now that there are international agencies involved in his case, it is possible they will do what they said.”
El Sexto, classified as a prisoner of conscience by the human rights organization Amnesty International, was arrested for organizing a performance with two pigs painted with the names Raul and Fidel.