The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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

‘El Sexto’ Abandons Hunger Strike After 24 Days / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) ends 24-day hunger strike with promise from prison authorities that he will be released in 15 days.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

Amnesty International Calls for Release of ‘El Sexto’ / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'The Sixth'. (Claudio Fuentes)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘The Sixth’. (Claudio Fuentes)

14ymedio, 29 September 2015 — The human rights defense organization Amnesty International on Tuesday launched an action to demand the release of the Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the Sixth), whom it considers a prisoner of conscience.

The artist wrote a “farewell letter” from the Valle Grande prison where he has been detained since last December for trying to organize a performance in which two piglets, painted with the names Raul and Fidel, would have been released in a public place. The letter, dated Sept. 16, was published by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) on its website .

The graffiti artist, imprisoned without trial or sentence, has maintained a hunger strike since 8 September.

The farewell letter of El Sexto

Valle Grande Prison

From the “cell” (of punishment)

September 16, 2015…

Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.

Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it. Continue reading

Cuban Exiles Demand The Release Of Danilo Maldonado / EFE, 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'El Sexto' (The Sixth). (Artist's File)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth). (Artist’s File)

EFE, Miami, 29 September 2015 — The Assembly of Cuban Resistance in Miami on Tuesday demanded the release in Cuba of artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), who has spent 22 days on a hunger strike to demand his freedom after nine months of detention.

According to the Cuban exile group, the graffiti artist is in “critical condition” in the Cuban prison of Valle Grande, in the province of Mayabeque, along with the activisits Zaqueo Báez, Ismael Bonet Reñé and María Josefa Acón, detained in Havana and also on hunger strike.

The organization explained that Maldonado was arrested in December 2014 for painting the names of the two Castro brothers on the backs of two pigs, before an artistic performance he was going to stage with the animals. Continue reading

When to Die for Art is to Live / Somos+

The Somos+ Family in solidarity with Danilo Maldonado Machado “El Sexto.” A hug, amigo.

Farewell letter from El Sexto

Valle Grande Prison

From the “cell” (of punishment)

September 16, 2015…

Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.

Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it.

The entire letter can be read here.

Spanish post
26 September 2015

Let Us Save the Life of El Sexto Now! / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

sextotattoosOrlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 25 September 2015 — Please, let’s call at all times to Valle Grande Prison, and claim respectfully but firmly for the life of Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (the street artist El Sexto). He has been jailed since December 2014 in Cuba, without trial, and now he is on a hunger strike and he’s being tortured in solitary confinement, with cramps, shivering and headaches.

+ 537-2020406

+ 537-2020407

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Valle Grande Penitentiary, Arroyo Arenas, CP 11200, Havana, Cuba.

‘El Sexto’ Writes A Farewell Letter From His Cell / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'El Sexto'. (Claudio Fuentes)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’. (Claudio Fuentes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 September 2015 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), wrote a “farewell letter” from the Valle Grande prison where he has been detained since last December for trying to organize a performance at which he would have released two pigs painted with the names Raul and Fidel in a public place. The letter, dated Sept. 16, was published by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) on its website. [An English version of the letter is here.]

The graffiti artist, imprisoned without trial or sentence, has maintained a hunger strike since 8 September.

Farewell Letter from El Sexto / Danilo Maldonado

Danilo-maldonado-BW-Headshot-720x425Valle Grande Prison

From the “cell” (of punishment)

September 16, 2015…

Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.

Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it.

This may be my last letter from here in the punishment cell and if I survive you will hear more from my lips. So I want to tell everyone that I waited too long for this moment to do a hunger strike, we Cubans have wanted too long to expel these scoundrels.

Now that I have started, I feel my faith, determination and self-esteem go through the roof for having decided. I feel proud of being the artist that I am and of doing the art that I do for the Cuba I represent. So I am willing to give my life a hundred times if necessary.

He who lives without finding out what to die for, has not found the essence of life. A man with ideals of peace, love and one who does not carry a weapon to assert his opinions is the man of the future. Because with his faith, his hope, he builds an Eden here on earth.

Thank you all for trusting me and know that if I die I will die happy to carry with me a tattoo of my time like Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Paya, who left traces of their existence, of their generation, of their responsibility to leave behind then a legacy for their loved ones, one lesson: love what you do and devote your life to it.

I was born in a poor neighborhood, Nuevitas, Camagüey. My family is very humble: I lived in Arroyo Arenas from age 4; in Chafarinas, Guira de Melena; in Covadonga, Las Tunas: a village still without electricity; Guáimaro, Camagüey and Arroyo Arenas, La Lisa. And I was lucky to live in Vedado often, there I have my daughter Renata María, who was born in England.

I am a wanderer and I have gone here and there getting to know my country, my culture, that I love and so I raise my voice to denounce what seems wrong to me. I visited Holland for three months, I lived in The Hague, 45 minutes by train from the fabulous Amsterdam. I studied and lived at Miami Dade College in the United States for three months as well. All these places taught to me relate quickly to my surroundings, that the most important thing is to have friends, to love, to respect and not to do to anyone what we do not want them to do to us. I learned how to stand up to the powerful.

My art is respected today, more than anything because I believe in it. I respected it and gave it—and give it—all my strength, perseverance, affection and love. Although I was misunderstood and perhaps by others I still am, when those around you see so much love and how much you are able to give and how much you respect your art, then they begin to value it. But first we must build an altar of consecration in our chest and others, little by little, will begin to respect you for what you do: this knowledge is my legacy.

Someone said that all of humanity will part when we see a man who knows where he is going. This might be my last work and I have named it “Drawing Attention” or “The Awakening of the Inner Magician.” Each one of us has an inner magician. May my Gothic existence touch your hearts and light your flame and awaken your internal leader, being conscious of this gift of life and standing up against evil. Someone said, “The world is not this way because of those who do evil but because of those who allow it.”

This work is dedicated to my mother, my little daughter Renata María, to all those who support me, all those who added a grain of sand to achieve freedom for Cuba. To all the Ladies in White in the world and especially in Cuba: no more beating of women! To the memory of Laura, Oswaldo, Zapata.

This work is dedicated to my mother, my little daughter Renata María, to all those who support me, all who put in a grain of sand to achieve the freedom of Cuba. To all the Ladies in White of the world especially those in Cuba: no more beating of women! In memory of Laura, Oswaldo, Zapata.

The day I grabbed a spray can in my hand I decided what to do with my life.

So be it.

I am with faith and conviction: Liberty or death, to die for art is to live.

Hugs,

Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto.

Please sign for his freedom at Causes.com. < click there

El Sexto has been on a hunger strike since September 8th. He is demanding his freedom because he has been imprisoned since December 25th (of last year) for thinking to release some pigs with the names of Fidel and Raul, which he never released because he was imprisoned. He is in prison without trial or sentence or justice.

Friends of ‘El Sexto’ Ask the Pope to Intercede for His Release / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The social media campaign under the hashtags #FreeElSexto #LibertadParaDanilo continues to gather steam. (Causes.org)

The social media campaign under the hashtags #FreeElSexto #LibertadParaDanilo continues to gather steam. (Causes.org)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mexico, 13 September 2015 — Fifty friends of Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the Sixth), signed a letter to Pope Francis on Sunday, asking him to intercede for the release of the artist. The letter, published in the digital site Causes, states: “We come to you with the hope that you can intercede to repair the injustice against this young artist.”

The signatories to this letter describe El Sexto as an artist who decided “to express his dissatisfaction with the Government through graffiti and handing out flyers.” They explain that for this reason “he has lived under constant police vigilance and harassment.” A pressure expressed through innumerable arrests, “arbitrary searches of his home and confiscation of his paint cans.”

The initiative, promoted by his friend and colleague Lia Villares, explains that “for more than eight months he has been held in custody without a trial or formal accusations [and thus] we, Danilo’s friends, are demanding his unconditional release and that our most essential freedoms be respected.” The text also makes “a call for genuine and transparent tolerance.” Continue reading

Open Letter to Pope Francis for the Release of “El Sexto”

Freedom for Danilo
Open Letter to the Pope
Havana, September 8, 2015

Your Holiness, Pope Francis:

In advance of your visit to our island, a group of Cuban citizens wish to call your attention to a case that needs an immediate solution. This is the politically motivated imprisonment of Danilo Maldonado Machado, a young artist who decided to express his dissatisfaction with the government through graffiti (urban or street art) and handing out flyers.

Also know as “El Sexto” (The Sixth) – an antithesis of “The Five”: a superhero invented for his creative work in the public space – Danilo has lived under constant police surveillance and harassment since he began the exercise of his art: he has been arbitrarily arrested countless times, they have arbitrarily searched his home, and confiscated his paint cans.

For more than eight months he has been held in custody without a trial or formal charges. On December 25, 2014 he prepared a Christmas performance. It consisted of releasing, in Central Park in Havana, two piglets greased with the names “Fidel” and “Raul painted on their backs. An action based on a Cuban peasant tradition. He named it, “Rebellion on the Farm” [The title used in Spanish for the novel “Animal Farm”]. Continue reading

El Sexto’s Mother Fears for His Health in Prison, Where an Outbreak of Dengue Fever Has Occurred / Diario de Cuba, Maria Matienzo Puerto

Graffiti Artist El Sexto (JUSTICE AND PEACE)

Graffiti Artist El Sexto (JUSTICE AND PEACE)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, María Matienzo Puerto, Havana, 5 September 2015 — The mother of graffiti artist El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado), María Victoria Machado, following her visit to her son on Friday at Valle Grande prison, reports that her son’s case file is “lost.”

In statements to Diario de Cuba, Machado expressed her anguish over this development, as well as for the health of her son, and the sanitary conditions in the prison. Because of health reasons, the artist ceased the hunger strike he had recently announced.

“I was quite worried about the cold he had,” Machado said after having visited him in prison. “Although he had ceased the hunger strike, he barely touched any food. I could see he had no appetite.”

Likewise, his mother said that her primary concern is the disappearance of his case file. “What they want to do is to prolong his imprisonment with no charges filed, nor justice served. They have kicked us around. And nobody can explain the file’s disappearance.”

El Sexto told his mother how the inmates had gone for three days without drinking water, while an outbreak of dengue had led to daily fumigations at the prison.

Another reprisal inflicted on the artist is to cross off his list of approved visitors any friends deemed objectionable by State Security.

El Sexto Confirms from Jail His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2015 – In a telephone call this Thursday, artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, confirmed that he is on a hunger strike. From the Valle Grande prison he also referred to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, whom a State Security agent had told of his “speedy release.” The graffiti artist has made the announcement cautiously because it is not the first time that “they have tricked him with something like this,” Machado told this daily.

On August 24, El Sexto’s family waited outside the prison for hours for his release. Days before, an official from State Security had reported that date as the one on which he would be liberated. However, the prison authorities denied that “an order or paper allowing him to leave” had arrived. The graffiti artist advised that he would declare himself on hunger strike, although until today his situation could not be confirmed.

Wednesday at the Office of Attention to the Valle Grande Jail Population, Machado was assisted by an official who assured her that no one in the penitentiary center was on hunger strike. However, on exiting, relatives of other prisoners advised her that her son together with other prisoners had begun a fast.

El Sexto recently received the International Vaclav Havel 2015 Prize for creative dissidence, awarded in a ceremony organized under the framework of the Oslo Freedom Forum which he could not attend because he was in prison.

The artist has been imprisoned since last December on a charge of contempt for having tried to carry out a performance with two pigs painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul.” Eight months after his arrest he has not been taken before a court.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Police Warn Gorki Aguila He Will Not Leave Cuba If He Continues His Activism / 14ymedio

The musician Gorki Águila, leader of Porno para Ricardo. (EFE)

The musician Gorki Águila, leader of Porno para Ricardo. (EFE)

14ymedio, Havana, 5 August 2015 – After several hours of being detained by the police, the musician Gorki Águila was released at around four in the afternoon on Wednesday. During his arrest he was taken to the Fifth Station in the Havana municipality of Playa where an official warned him that he would not leave Cuba again if he continued attending the Sunday marches of the Ladies in White, according to what Gorki told 14ymedio in a telephone conversation.

The rocker and leader of the band Porno para Ricardo detailed that they warned him that his arrest would be brief, but if he continued to pursue his activism, “Those who invite you to visit other countries will have to come looking for you in boat.”

Hours earlier, his daughter Gabriele had denounced that, “Yesterday at noon they brought a police citation, which he received but he refused to sign it because he didn’t know the reason behind it.” The police agents were looking for the rocker for a couple of hours today at noon; a call to the phone number 18806 — through which one can ask for information about any citizen detained — which did not reveal his whereabouts nor the reason for his arrest.

The last time the musician Gorki Águila slept in a cell was at the end of May, when he was arrested outside Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts for carrying a sign with the image of the graffiti artist El Sexto, with the word “freedom.” This Wednesday history was about to repeat itself.

 

Blogger and Activist Angel Santiesteban Released from Prison / 14ymedio

Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)

Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 July 2015 — The writer and journalist Angel Santiesteban Prats was released from prison on Friday night. Speaking to 14ymedio, Santiesteban said he wanted the quick release of other activists and that a new stage “of struggle” was now starting.

“Just a few minutes ago Major Adonis and First Lieutenant Guillarte said “Angel Santiesteban, congratulations, you have just been released’,” explained the writer. “Then I was given my personal belongings and left.” Asked by this newspaper about his next steps, he answered: “Now, to fight, and other releases have to happen, such as that of El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado).”

In December of 2012, after a process that has been labeled by many as arbitrary and precipitous, Santiesteban was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for “violation of domicile and injuries.” Since 2008, he has published in his activist blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, in support of human rights on the island.

From the prison where he began his sentence, the Lawton Settlement Prison, in Havana, he passed from one prison to another, accused of “attempted escape.” For almost a year, he was imprisoned in the Border Patrol Unit, west of Havana, a military base where he experienced a more severe prison regimen.

Angel Santiesteban has won important literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novels From The Drawer Prize in 2013.

Reporters Without Borders had called on the Cuban authorities to withdraw all charges against Angel Santiesteban Prats and release him immediately.