14ymedio, Havana, 20 August 2017 — Graffiti artist Yulier Rodríguez was arrested by police last Thursday and released after 36 hours. The arrest occurred while he was painting a collapsed wall at the corner of San Lazaro and Escobar, in the municipality of Central Havana, the artist told 14ymedio.
The police warned Rodríguez that he had committed the crime of “mistreatment of social property” and took him to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Unit in Zanja Street, where he spent most of his time locked in a well-known dungeon known as the deposit.
“It is a horrible place, with nothing, dirty and immensely hot,” the street artist to told this newspaper. “There is no room to sit down given the number of people they put in there.”
In these conditions Rodriguez remained for about twelve hours until an investigator called him to take a statement about the State’s charge against him for “mistreatment of property.”
The graffiti artist, better known as Yulier P, defended himself by insisting that his work “does not mistreat property” because it is done on walls and buildings “that are in ruins.” He added that his interest is “to redecorate these spaces through culture,” with the aim of “creating a more tolerant, more honest, more humane and sensitive society.”
After the interrogation, the investigator informed him that he was being processed and that he was “under Investigation by Counterintelligence (CI).” On Friday night a police officer told him he could pick up his belongings to be released.
“I left half tormented by that situation, and they told me to sign a warning letter where I pledge to erase my work in seven days,” says the artist.
Rodríguez denounced that he was pressured to initial the document, but on the back of the statement he wrote that he did not agree with the measure that directly affected his career, his work and his person.
He explains that after he signed the letter they released him and warned him that “if I didn’t erase all the graffiti I would go back to jail.”
Regarding his plans in the face of this new situation, he said the he wants to “seek international support for people to be aware of this injustice,” and hire a lawyer who can defend him.
“I doubt very much that I will find one because most people flee when they are involved in cases with Counterintelligence, but I’m going to look for one.” The urban artist calls the police decision arbitrary and unjust. “I am not going to erase my graffiti,” he insists.
Yulier Rodríguez Pérez (b. 1989) was born in Florida, Camagüey, but from a very young age settled in Havana with the obsession of being a painter. Although he was never accepted in the academy of San Alejandro, he has turned the walls of the city into his own gallery.