14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2018 — Artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Amaury Pacheco OmniPoeta, Iris Ruiz, Soandry Del Rio and José Ernesto Alonso were arrested on Saturday afternoon in front of the Capitol in Havana after an attempt to protest against the recently approved Decree 349 that regulates artistic presentations in private spaces.
According to Yanelys Núñez, a curator, the artistic action consisted of Luis Manuel Otero “covering his body with human excrement” and displaying a sign with the words “free art.”
When Núñez arrived at the Capitol, she saw that a police patrol was holding the five artists in custody and decided to do the performance on her own. “I’m covered in shit now but I’m on my way to the police station at Cuba and Chacón to ask if they are there,” she told this newspaper by telephone.
At six-thirty in the afternoon, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara also denounced the arrest to 14ymedio by telephone from the Zanja Police Station and confirmed that Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río were arrested along with him.
Upon arriving at the station at Cuba and Chacón at around 8:30 in the evening, Yanelys Núñez was able to converse with José Ernesto Alonso, who had recently been released after having been detained there, and Iris Ruiz was also released shortly afterwards.
However, at the Zanja Street police station in Centro Habana, the officers informed the curator that Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río were transferred to Vivac (detention center in Calabazar, south of Havana) “accused of public disorder,” and all three of them must await trial behind bars. Otero was also charged with “assault” against the police, for allegedly hitting one of them.
During the protest that took place in front of the Capitol, the curator shouted that they were against Decree 349. “We are artists, we want respect, we ask to meet with the Minister of Culture,” she said. He also claims that Otero Alcántara was beaten to put him in the patrol and that Pacheco was taken away because he refused to show the identity card to the police.
Several artists have denounced that Decree 349, published on July 10 in the Official Gazette, limits the free creation of Cuban artists and their presentations in public spaces.
The new decree, included in a larger package of measures, is intended by the Ministry of Culture (Mincult) to control the presentations of artists and musicians and to leave the door open to institutional censorship. The text establishes fines, seizures and even the possible loss of the self-employment licenses of those who hire musicians to perform concerts in private bars and clubs as well as in state spaces if they do so without having authorization from Mincult or the recruitment agencies.
In the same way, the decree punishes painters or artists who commercialize their works without state authorization. It also allows punishing those who project films that contain scenes of violence, pornography, sexist or vulgar language, use national symbols in a way that goes against current legislation or have messages that discriminate against other people because of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, disability and any other trait that is “harmful to human dignity.”
According to the letter of the decree, state entities or private businesses that broadcast music or program artistic presentations in which violence is promoted “with sexist, vulgar, discriminatory and obscene language” will be sanctioned in the same way. The decree also applies to literature by prohibiting the sale of books of “natural and legal” persons that include “contents that are harmful to ethical and cultural values.”
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