14ymedio, Havana, 3 December 2020 — The following document is the result of comparing the notes taken by various people who were present and what was remembered by the participants. Published on the Facebook Page 27N (for ‘November 27’) , it is reproduced with their permission. They point out that “there were more statements in the meeting, but here we have tried to summarize the essence of what happened that day in a small theater of the Ministry of Culture.”
[Fernando Rojas, Vice Minister of Culture, welcomes them and gives them the floor.]
[Michel Matos, representing the San Isidro Movement (MSI), demands respect and transparency; talks about the suffering of the MSI.]
State Security has taken over the country, they treat us in a military way and we are civilians, we have been mistreated by them, arrested, repressed, beaten, summoned, they have put us in house arrest, they take away our internet connection and everything without a legal document. This is not acceptable. What is happening is inadmissible. The hunger strike started by some of the members of the San Isidro Movement has been the result of desperation. We are totally helpless and we have been completely alone.
You should be the ones talking to us, not State Security.
We are not mercenaries, terrorists or criminals, we are Cubans. We feel the need to participate in our nation
We demand a fair process for Denis Solís. Denis Solís has had all his rights violated. Anamely Ramos went to the police station to ask for Denis Solís, to do a completely legal procedure, and they arrested her. How is it possible that these things happen? And we’ve all been suffering from this kind of thing.
What country are we living in? What are we becoming? We are all Cubans, even if we disagree. This is our homeland, our country. We were born here.
Cuba has a long tradition of dissent. A country cannot run like a military camp runs, and this is what we are seeing. We are desperate. The official media themselves are manipulating reality, they are putting on a show.
We are at a point of demanding the elementary freedoms that we should all have. Censorship of individuality is being exacerbated. We demand respect for our individuality. We are not mercenaries, terrorists or criminals, we are Cubans. We feel the need to participate from our nation.
For two years we have waited for a response from the Ministry of Culture for the debate and opposition generated by Decree 349 . They are not respecting us, they are not listening to us. We are not criminals, we are creators. If you think that we are having fun and that this is a show, you are wrong. This is not a show.
State Security, if it persists in its criminal methods, will create a truly dramatic reality. If those forces are running the nation today, they are mortgaging the future.
We want a healthy, sovereign Cuba, a prosperous and free Cuba.
State Security is violating even the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. When you resort to criminal methods you are criminal
[Katherine Bisquet reads the demands:]
-Review and transparency of the judicial process against Denis Solís.
-Liberty for Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
-Right to have rights, freedom of expression, free creation and dissent.
-Cessation of harassment, defamation and discredit by the official media.
-Recognition and respect for independent positioning.
-No more police violence, no more political hatred.
Let love and poetry unite this people.
[Fernando Rojas takes note.]
Mauricio Mendoza : I am concerned about the treatment given to independent journalists, that you do not include us, you do not give us space to express ourselves, or to be able to show a reality that is not the one shown in [the State newspapers] Granma or Juventud Rebelde.
We do not agree with the Government, so what?
Thanks to many independent media, the things that are happening in Cuba are known.
I do not understand how a person can be judged so easily, that he is so easily accused of being a mercenary and that the institutions that accuse him never retract
We deserve and have the right to work.
[The Diario de Cuba journalist also speaks of the recognition of the independent press, of the right to participate in these debates and to document. Also of the blockades of the independent media in Cuba; the need for freedom of expression and the right to exercise the profession, as well as the discredit suffered by independent journalists in the official press.]
Daniel Díaz Mantilla : We must remember the years prior to the founding of the Ministry of Culture: it arose at a time when dialogue seemed impossible to establish a communication channel between creators and the Government. And that has not been done. The lack of dialogue between the Institution and the artistic community continues. We must put an end to the lack of communication between artists and Culture officials that has existed for years.
We are not enemies, we have to find common ground to dialogue. There is no need to antagonize, you have to listen. Your job is to dialogue with other government bodies, that is your function: to find ways for us to exist.
What I see in these muchachos is the same as I experienced in the nineties and early 2000s: censorship, suspicion, distrust, abuses. The reality is changing and it is something that some do not want to see. We must find a way to build a healthy and constructive dialogue. We must prevent the use of criminal methods to treat Cuban society.
We made a new Constitution and the right of these people, which is constitutional, is not being respected. State Security is violating even the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. When you resort to criminal methods you are criminal and when the State resorts to criminal methods, that State is also criminal.
What was it fought for? What was so much fighting for? Trust is achieved over time, but the criminal is not admissible.
Those laws are the ones that defend us, those that take care of us, but State Security comes with a force that makes the best young people leave, those who do not have the courage to say what they think remain.
I have my opinions, some decisions I do not share, but I am grateful that there is a State. But, now, State Security is taking actions that are not consistent with its role and with total impunity, they sow fear, destroy friendships, families… None of us here are taking positions that threaten sovereignty, far from it.
I do not understand how a person can be judged so easily, that he is so easily accused of being a mercenary and that the institutions that accuse him never back down. You have a responsibility in this happening.
Those laws are the ones that defend us, those that take care of us, but State Security comes with a force that makes the best young people leave, those who do not have the courage to speak their minds remain. You have to have the courage to say what you think in this country, as we are now saying what we think.
Honor the reasons why you exist as an Institution.
Yunior García : The congresses of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba [Uneac] have been a theater. I went to the congress of the FEEM [Federation of High School Students] and there the topics that each person should speak were chosen. It is also a staging.
This year has not been gray, it has been black, because of the senseless censorship. Let us remember the case of Pedro Junco , recently expelled from Uneac for political reasons. There is also the case of Aparicio.
It cannot be allowed that I am being censored for giving an interview for CiberCuba.
Fighting censorship is exhausting. I have the right to say what I think. It cannot be that an artist is demonized for thinking differently, he is treated like a criminal, his dignity is violated, half truths are told and he is defamed in the press. The official press, by not telling reality, is denying something that the whole world already knows from the independent media and the foreign press. Not showing the true Cuban reality or hiding it is lying.
We demand respect for the dignity of artists, not censorship or discrimination for political reasons. Understand that this youth is not the same as it was years ago.
Cuba is a country that is fooling itself and nobody believes it anymore. The mechanisms that were used yesterday no longer work. Enough of that lousy staging.
If a crime is committed, ok. But no one can censor a work for being political, if they do not agree, do their own. Political ideas are fought with ideas, not with censorship or jail.
We must repeal [Decrees] 349 and 370, which violate our rights.
Fernando Rojas : That is not the spirit of this table.
Yunior García : We have had it worse since the last UNEAC congress.
The statement of the AHS [Hermanos Saíz Association] is disastrous, it does not recognize the opinion of its own associates. It cannot be that you are more like the UJC [Union of Young Communists] than us. It’s a cheo [ridiculous, outdated] speech , we have to end chealdad. It is not necessary to defend this or another specific ideology, but to have diversity. The diverse Cuba is not reflected in the official press or in the institutions.
Cuba is a country that is fooling itself and nobody believes it anymore. The mechanisms that were used yesterday no longer work. Enough of that lousy staging
Those who left the UNEAC Congress, when they came back in the bus, were very happy. And now they are disappointed.
They have to stop seeing us as enemies. We are not. We are Cubans who think differently.
Juan Pin Vilar : I have found myself in a terrible situation. How is it possible that these people who are here and that I do not know are right and you [he says addressing the officials], who are my friends, are not right?
These people have a play. Nobody has the right to say who is an artist. Everything we have seen here is the result of the inefficiency of the Ministry of Culture. These people exist and have rights, and you are there for them.
This here is full of officials who steal. For years we have seen corruption in the institutions. How does the press not talk about it and call us mercenaries? What greater example of corruption than, for an artist to sing, you have to sign a piece of paper? An authorization to make a movie costs $400. The responsibility for this is yours.
Michel Matos, that boy that I don’t know, put on a festival [Rotilla], they take him away and end it. If they had taken it to make it better, but no, they took it away to do absolutely nothing.
I’ve known you for forty years [he says, pointing to the Ministry of Culture officials]. It is not possible that you do not understand that these people exist and have rights.
They are the reason for being of the Ministry of Culture, if it were not for them, the Ministry would have to close.
It is not necessary to defend this or another specific ideology, but to have diversity. The diverse Cuba is not reflected in the official press or in the institutions
I’ve been hearing the same for years. At the time I was at AHS, when the Paideia Project was brought in, everything was said against them. To respect yourself as an artist, sometimes you have to say: yes, I have to leave the AHS, because they are sinking another fellow artist. And that’s why I left the Association.
How is it possible that I understand these people I don’t know better than you? How is it possible that the bureaucracy has buried the San Isidro Movement?
Alfredo [Guevara] was a censor but he argued, and he did not allow the police to arrive.
Being a mercenary? Where are we going to work? I have not been able to work for ten years, and I am going to start working for Diario de Cuba.
In my life, I have hurt the Revolution. You can go to jail [referring to Denis Solís] because he committed a crime, not because he painted or made a song. Do not use the organizations, it cannot be that cuatro gatos [four cats] speak for everyone.
We are not mercenaries. There must be freedom of expression.
Gretel Medina Mendieta : We must insist on what has brought us here today, and those demands transcend creative freedom. It is the freedom that we have to exist, it is citizen freedom in general. All this transcends artistic freedom, it is the freedom that someone can express themselves freely.
Why do we come here? Because you are the ones who represent us. It cannot be that in Cuba violations of the Constitution are being committed and the institutions that represent us have not spoken. We do not feel that you represent or protect us. They have not mediated anything that has happened.
Henry Eric Hernández : “Words to the intellectuals” in the sixties, what looks so beautiful, was nothing more than a pact with guns. It was not an inclusive pact. In Cuba there have been many gray five-year periods.
Before being an artist, you are a human and a citizen.
They have to stop seeing us as enemies. We are not. We are Cubans who think differently
Our friend Italo had a pedagogical project that institutions do not have, not even the National Museum of Fine Arts. They fined him 3,000 pesos and made him destroy his garden. We waited for answers from the Ministry in the case of Italo Exposito for two years, since the meeting by Decree 349 in September 2018. Italo got tired and had to go to Europe. You mistreated him and expelled him.
Italo’s case was postponed for you, Fernando (he said looking at Rojas). He got tired of this country, of the repression of his social project, he went to Europe. We lost a colleague.
The path is not yours. In Cuba there is no art critic that questions political violence.
It seems fundamental to me that plurality does not exist here and that includes non-management from the multiparty system. These freedoms must be generated, agreed or affirmed now.
Since the eighties Fernando [Rojas] has been in cultural management and censorship. We have always seen the repression of the signatories of the Letter of the Ten, the Black Spring, Paideia or Art-De… I know not to all, but to many intellectuals this repression does not seem right and we are opposed.
There are people who defend the Government before defending the citizens. With all due respect, 60 years have passed and I have been watching the same battle against censorship. The artists have had to leave.
This here is full of officials who steal. For years we have seen corruption in the institutions. How does the press not talk about it and call us mercenaries?
They will put up other political cadres, but they are 60 years of repression. I have friends in Paideia, in the Letter of theTen and they are more communist than many of those who are here [he said pointing to the table of officials].
I have a friend who had the political stigma of his father, Bernardo Marqués Ravelo, one of the signatories of the Letter of the Ten, and ended up leaving ISA [Instituto Superior de Arte]. And your father died in Miami, never being a mercenary, as you said.
We have been asking for the same thing for 60 years: inclusion, end of censorship, freedom of expression…
Their role as political actors is painful, they exercise evil, censorship and discredit. You need to finish solving this, quickly. You are old, by the law of life you are going to die. We are going to condemn them if they do nothing now and they will die as criminals. Get out of there!
When you censor a person, you go beyond cultural politics. When, from there to here, is the pressure going to stop? Do you think that is the cultural policy of the Revolution? The culture of thought will create a democracy. If you can’t handle that, get out.
Julio Llopiz-Casal : I would like to start by talking about a Cuban writer who lives in exile named Rafael Rojas, whom all of you should know, he wrote a book called Tumbas sin tranquility. This book was given to me by my father after a trip to Spain and shows a large part of the history of Cuba: it talks about Roberto Fernández Retamar, about the debates between different political parties to write the Constitution of 1940, about the diversity of opinions and the consensus…
I do not agree with Roberto Fernández Retamar, but thanks to Rafael Rojas’ dismantling, I was able to understand what he was as an intellectual.
Italo’s case was postponed for you, Fernando [he said, looking at Rojas]. He got tired of this country, of the repression of his social project, he went to Europe. We lost a colleague
I wonder, why a thinker like Rafael Rojas is not part of the compass of the historical thought of this country?
How is it possible that I had to wait for a book from Spain to fall into my lap to want to know my country, its history, to see Cuba from the heart, to be able to look at Cuba with my hand on my heart, without hates and no low feelings?
What is going to happen the day that a thousand people say “down with the Revolution,” when it is loaded with such a black story? Nothing. It is not about saying the Revolution up or down, it is about shaping a country, a country with a very sad history. It is a very sad story that has shaped this revolution.
In my family there have even been family divisions due to political issues, but in general we respect each other, and we live together despite our differences of opinion. Why can’t our country be like this?
Amaury Pacheco : The San Isidro Movement was born from an anomaly in the system: Decree 349. Since then, we have suffered the repression of the State Security and even attacks from the press. We have also faced, as part of those dark decrees, Decree Law 370 .
Decree Law 349 can work for a government, but it hurts the nation. We have said “enough” and we are assuming it. We have lit a fuse towards a national plurality.
When, from there to here, is the pressure going to stop? Do you think that is the cultural policy of the Revolution? The culture of thought will create a democracy. If you can’t handle that, get out
I was part of the Endless Poetry project and you, Fernando (addressing Rojas), took us out of the headquarters of the Casa de la Cultura in Alamar, and when we talked to you about love, about poetry, you told me, Fernando Rojas, “the order is given.”
I move from civil liberties and freedom of expression. We demand an end to the attacks and harassment of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the MSI. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is missing, has a record of arrests and has resisted more than a person can resist. Luis is an essential point and is still missing. San Isidro is not going to turn its back.
Cuba today has a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and violates human rights. This is not understood.
Ian Benavides : The divorce between the state and society is caused by censorship. The Ministry of Culture does not recognize independent artists. This only causes the State to divorce itself from the cultural reality of society. Today there are social networks and the internet, the people sooner or later get to the content and know the reality, but if the official mass media do not accept or discredit these artists, the people end up distrusting and not taking into account those media. In the case of music, we are subject to a long bureaucracy to be able to participate in radio and television, a bureaucracy that leads to corruption.
Gretell Kairúz : I think we should talk about what unites us, and what unites us is that we love this land, Cuba, we want a society that is beautiful, prosperous. For that to exist, you need your children, each and every one of your children, my mother who was a literate and communist, and my father who was a gusano [literally ‘worm’, applied to people who left Cuba]. That is my family and also my country.
I wonder, why a thinker like Rafael Rojas is not part of the compass of the historical thought of this country?
I’m not interested in concepts. Cuba is ajiaco [a stew]. We call this polis of ours Cuba. And Cuba needs the fulfillment of each of its children. We need freedom to say and do. Something worries me a lot: What society do we have if I can’t think, say or do? In a Cuba that has a great tradition of thought, which was a light for Latin America: Martí, Varela… Those of us who are here today are the children of that tradition.
If I cannot think or do it is because I cannot dream. And yes, you can dream. I need to believe that we are capable of dreaming. All of us, those from inside and outside the country, are dreaming of Cuba. I also believe that there is no Cuba without us and without you [he says, addressing the officials].
And I ask myself: Is this the Cuba that we want to leave to our children? Dialogue and respect are needed to be able to dialogue. The Cuba that we are going to bequeath to our children is our responsibility. That is why I am sitting here.
Yunior García : I must say, I am proud to be part of this meeting. I am proud of my generation, of all of us who are here inside and of those who wait for us out there.
Tania Bruguera : I must tell you that I too am proud of you and what is happening out there.
The censorship in Cuba is also that independent art is not recognized in Cuba. I can exhibit at MoMA but not in my country. Independent art is not the enemy, it is a right; the artist is independent by nature.
I have several doubts: What is the relationship between the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Culture? Why is the Ministry of the Interior assisting me as an artist and not the Ministry of Culture?
It is not about saying up or down the Revolution, it is about shaping a country, a country with a very sad history
You cannot continue to behave as if independent art is your enemy. Why is the institution the only way to make art? See us as competition but as healthy competition.
What is the situation with independent projects? What will happen to them?
You have to be careful with the use that is given to aesthetics, because the institution uses it as a justification to censor artists. The only ones who can criticize works of art are the critics and the public, not the institution. It is not for an official to say what is or is not art, or what is good or bad art.
For 30 years I have experienced censorship in Cuba and the members of Instar [Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism] have had to face the constant repression of State Security. Security summons us and harasses us, throws acid under our doors, takes our invited foreign workshop experts to interrogation … If you want to know where the Instar money comes from, check the text I recently published for Hypermedia. Everything is totally transparent.
But if we talk about censorship, it must be said that it does not stay in Cuba, that censorship has spread abroad. I have come to artistic events in other countries where they have told me how officials from this institution have gone there to speak ill of me and other uncomfortable and critical artists, to say that we are not artists. And they do it, I know, to isolate me, to eliminate professional opportunities, it is not enough for them to censor me in my own country. By what right do they do that? This has also happened frequently with cinema: a film censored in Cuba is removed from international festivals due to the intervention of Cuban officials.
You do not have to interfere with the professional opportunities that Cuban artists have outside of Cuba, that is outside of your functions.
Fernando Pérez : I am happy to be here, for the first time I feel that here in the Ministry of Culture there is a diverse group; that’s a first step. I feel identified with many of his interventions.
We must end censorship, manipulations of the official press, acts of repudiation.
I was part of the Endless Poetry project and you, Fernando (addressing Rojas), took us out of the headquarters of the Casa de la Cultura de Alamar, and when we talked to you about love, about poetry, you told me, Fernando Rojas, “la order is given “
The history of our country has been very dark. There is a principle that must be respected, which is freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is free or it is not, and that must be applied to all spheres of reality.
I do not know if the answer will come from here, but there must be concrete answers to what has been said here. We cannot continue denying spaces. But they can’t be promises, concrete answers are needed
In the plurality and diversity is the strength of this nation.
Camila Ramírez Lobón : From the moment in which the Constitution uses the adjectives to describe the nation as Fidelista, Marxist and all that, it is clear that the only thing that is protected is the Government and anything against citizens’ rights is justified.
Today I entered here before everyone else, with Yunior, in a first meeting. And one of your officials told me something that has already been mentioned in the media, that the street belongs to the revolutionaries.
The street and public space does not belong to revolutionaries, but to all citizens born in this country. And they have to get to that understanding or at least respect it. Ideas cannot be attacked with repression. A government and politics can do it, they are not sacred. No government is sacred, they are public officials. Politics cannot be above the elementary rights of the people; that way is violence.
Today there are social networks and the internet, the people sooner or later get to the content and know the reality, but if the official mass media do not accept or discredit these artists, the people end up distrusting and not taking them into account. media
I remember a performance by Luis Manuel, Where is Mella, in which Luis disguises himself as a sculpture with Mella’s face and stands in the Manzana de Gómez as a demonstration against the removal of the sculpture that was there for the construction of the new 5 Star hotel. And the State Security and the Police go, and yourselves, and again evict Mella. What does that mean? What are they saying by that? This country is not yours, it does not belong to the government. You have to respect the word.
We are totally helpless, in the hands of State Security. How is it possible that I, an artist, 25 years old, who weighs 110 pounds, is considered a threat to State Security, simply because I do or don’t think the same as or disagree with the government? How is it possible that they send me lieutenant colonels, summons, arrest me, carry out acts of repudiation? Enough of the same speech to justify the brutality. Those they are repressing the most are those who are demonstrating through peaceful and civic means, those who are teaching how to build dissent. The other thing that is going to be left to them is repression.
Enough. No more sticks. The changes that are to come are through respect, civility.
I ask you, vice-president of the AHS [she says, addressing Yaser Toledo], do you really believe that the members of the San Isidro Movement are mercenaries? Because that’s what the statement released by the AHS says.
[Yasser Toledo does not respond. He obviously doesn’t know what to say.]
Camila Ramírez Lobón : The question is simple, yes or no?
[Yasser Toledo does not respond.]
Mijaíl Rodríguez : Do not underestimate the power of art. With these repressive actions they are showing that they are indeed afraid of art.
We here are artists, people in general. This is a hope. This moment has brought us together. Institutions force us to separate, but this moment has brought us together.
It is not for an official to say what is or is not art, or what is good or bad art
As with Cardumen , they never received us when we went to the institutions to complain. We are talking about what is happening and you are not learning. This fight did not start yesterday, it takes years.
Cuba hurts us and we care about Cuba. We have lost fear thanks to the networks. And we will be. We have to take to the streets because the small spaces that they have offered us have not solved anything for us. We are tired.
You have to get out of here with something constructive and concrete. The Government has a duty and an obligation to work for these people.
Reynier Díaz : My mother called me in fear when she found out I was here. My mother has been a revolutionary woman her whole life and now she is afraid that I am here. That means something is wrong. Fear is a lethal weapon. I’m afraid too, but here I am.
Here people have joined of their own free will. Although some have not been allowed to arrive, this morning, at 11 we were 15, now we are 300. What does this say? That despite the fear, there is a real reason, something that motivates several generations.
Ulises Padrón : Here we see a generational change.
Today there is a lot of apathy among young people for politics, for everything, and that is due to the lack of spaces for participation. There are no spaces of creation, where they feel part of something. Young people need to find that space in society.
Miryorly García Prieto : I hope this is the first of many meetings to bridge the gap between us and the institution.
It is not the first time that we address the institutions. We have to get out of here with the problems resolved. We come here with love, with the will to dialogue.
I do not know if the answer will come from here, but there must be concrete answers to what has been said here. We can’t keep denying spaces
We do not come to be defended, we have already learned to defend ourselves, but we want you to participate as well. Above all, we are here because we are giving you a chance. It is your responsibility to do the right thing for Cuban culture.
The first thing we have to do is say the right thing, tell the bosses what we think. At the moment, they are lying, defamation, crimes are being committed and, at the rate we are going, some may even die. That is the urgency.
I don’t stay at home because I feel responsible and the institutions will also be responsible for what happens.
The institutions replicate the lies of the official discourse. The media are being left as liars and unworthy, because they are not telling the truth and they are giving false news.
Tania Bruguera : We need to hear what they have to propose to us, because there are two hundred people out there waiting for answers.
Reynier Leyva Novo : Today there has been a whole police security device out there, State Security, paramilitaries dressed in civilian clothes, police patrols… That only fits in a sick mind. That is abuse of power, intimidation.
We have not left because we had the courage and we did not feel like it. Be aware of the pressure we have been under out there.
Michel Matos : The process against Denis Solís is unfair. A policeman broke into his house and it turns out that he was the one accused.
How is it possible that I, an artist, 25 years old, who weighs 110 pounds, is considered a threat to State Security, simply because I do or don’t think the same as or disagree with the government?
State Security has taken over the nation. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is on a hunger strike and has been beaten bloody. Vice Minister, beaten to the point of bleeding even while handcuffed, I have seen him. That sounds like Batista or Machado. State Security is operating above the law.
If Luis Manuel dies, he would have no words to say that we will never be able to talk again. Denis Solís has not even had rights. We are desperate.
Katherine Bisquet : I was arrested for reading poetry outside the police station at Cuba and Chacón streets. I’m here after all that, after having slept in a dungeon, after having gone on a hunger strike from which I have not yet recovered, after being about to see a person die. I am here ready to dialogue. This is not pressure, it is your responsibility. Out of respect for everyone, we need answers.
Jorge Perugorría : It is time for dialogue. This shows the diversity of thoughts. Everyone has the right to be heard. Today an important step has been taken, as the doors of this Ministry have been opened. This opportunity should not be missed by the Ministry of Culture. I think we must continue the dialogue.
[ Fernando Rojas says that he cannot respond immediately, he also says that he does not know anything about the military deployment around the Ministry of Culture and the peaceful protesters. He is even oblivious to all the acts of repression by State Security narrated by some of those present. Some tell him they have evidence, but he doesn’t even ask to see it. He knows, and everyone knows that he knows, even if he wants to deny it.]
Tania Bruguera : You must ask right now for the release of Luis Manuel. Call (she says to Fernando Rojas), call right now the official of the Ministry of the Interior with whom you work and ask for the freedom of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
Fernando Rojas : No, Tania, with that level of confrontation I cannot dialogue.
Juan Pin Vilar : I came here today without even knowing what these kids were demanding, but I came to support them. And I was surprised that these are who you call mercenaries. If they were really mercenaries or criminals, they would have already planted a bomb in the Ministry of Culture, as the July 26 Movement did. If they were really mercenaries and criminals, they would not ask for dialogue with you.
My mother has been a revolutionary woman her whole life and now she is afraid that I am here. That means something is wrong. Fear is a lethal weapon. I’m scared too, but here I am
You are responsible for this whole situation. You have to recognize independent artists; they have the right to express themselves, and they cannot be repressed or criminalized for that.
Miryorly García Prieto: We demand that you tell the truth as an institution. Let them say that the boys from San Isidro are artists and that they were repressed. That story is on the networks, they are being left as liars. We are not afraid nor will we ever be. If you think that giving an example, we are going to shut up, quite the opposite. We are giving you the opportunity not to lie.
And if tomorrow they fire me from work, I don’t care, I’ll start selling croquettes to support my son.
We are willing to repeat every word spoken here to anyone, even to Raúl Castro.
[Fernando Rojas evades a statement from the Ministry of Culture as an institution:]
We will come to constructive positions. I agree that human lives are sacred. We are going to be interested, in the way that we can, in the case of Denis Solís and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is on a hunger strike and has been beaten bloody. Vice Minister, beaten to the point of bleeding even while handcuffed, I have seen him. That sounds like Batista or Machado
[And he turns to Mauricio Mendoza, a journalist from Diario de Cuba who was right in front of him taking notes and says: “And don’t change a single comma, I know that Diario de Cuba has lied on some issues. He then mentions that this medium receives funding from the United States Government. Mauricio Mendoza tries to answer him and ask him a question.]
Fernando Rojas: I ask you, Mauricio, not to interview me.
I promise to continue these discussions (he says referring to the topics presented by the creators).
Mauricio Mendoza: So, the points so far are: a dialogue channel will be opened with the institutions; they will be interested in the situation of Denis Solís and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; a work agenda will be organized with multiple proposals on topics from both parties; review the AHS statement; there will be a truce, that is, artists will be able to meet in independent spaces without being harassed.
Fernando Rojas: Meet to talk about these issues discussed here today [clarifies].
Liatna Rodríguez: Excuse me, Vice Minister, this is not the first time that we have crossed paths in a meeting. Two years ago you spoke to us about dialogue about [Decree] 349 and we are still waiting for an answer. The current situation does not give us time. Let’s not talk about procrastination; the decree was postponed and not repealed.
Gretel Medina Mendieta: The Ministry of Culture must pronounce on the existence of us as artists and what is happening in Cuba, and that is your responsibility. The recent statement from the AHS is false, it did not count on the artists for that.
If they were really mercenaries or criminals, they would have already planted a bomb in the Ministry of Culture, as did the July 26 Movement. If they were really mercenaries and criminals, they would not ask for dialogue with you
You have ignored the voices of the almost 300 artists gathered here today, and the thousands who have spoken in recent days in public statements, against the police repression, imprisonment and harassment of different artists, especially the strikers of San Isidro. As an institution to which we belong, which has the responsibility to represent us, we demand that you publicly acknowledge the existence of our voices and the positioning of these thousands of artists in relation to the state of affairs in recent days.
[Fernando Rojas tried to postpone everything: we are going to work on this, yes, we are going to analyze it… He insisted that he did not know anything about the events that were narrated to him, that he was not doubting the words of those present, but that he should investigate it. ]
Juliana Rabelo : Minister [the participants remind that it is the vice minister], well, vice minister, you speak of your opinion, I would like to know, who subscribes to the statements of the AHS and the Cuban Rap Agency? Here we come in the first person and with faces, I would like to know who signs these statements because I do not know who is responsible and I know that they are not everyone.
Fernando Rojas: I don’t know.
Juliana Rabelo: Well, isn’t knowing this one of your functions? If this is not one of them, what are they?
Fernando Rojas: I don’t have to give you an account of my work.
[How? Said many of those present.]
Juliana Rabelo: Your representative power as a public official obliges you to give an account of his functions, it is a matter, let’s say, public, political.
José Luis Aparicio: Who wrote the AHS statement? It’s offensive, it’s regrettable, and it has even grammatical and concordance problems from the first sentence.
Yasser Toledo: Let’s see, the Declaration was written, discussed and approved among the members of the National Council of the organization.
Camila Ramírez Lobón: That statement from the AHS is defamation, they have called the members of the San Isidro Movement mercenaries, some of whom are here at this meeting. Tell us now, do you consider us mercenaries?
[Yasser Toledo does not respond.]
Camila Ramírez Lobón: It is a yes or no question.
[Yasser Toledo does not respond.]
Reinier Leyva Novo: Tell us, it’s a yes or no question. You are the vice president of the AHS, if you are not qualified to answer that question with a yes or a no, then you are not even qualified to lead that organization.
Yasser Toledo: Let’s see, now that you tell me about them and there are some here present, and you show them to me as well as their friends, I might think they are not mercenaries. We are going to re-analyze the statement between the National Council of the organization.
[Some ask for a retraction.]
Yasser Toledo: If we decide to do so, then we will.
Jorge Alfonso: This meeting will be just the beginning. We must continue to debate these issues.
Tania Bruguera: We come here with an honest energy, and the only thing we are receiving is evasion, procrastination and ironies.
Marta Bones, vice president of UNEAC: It’s not you and us. Here we have put aside our creative work to work towards Cuban culture. I feel accused and it is not fair.
If I am fired from work tomorrow, I don’t care, I’ll start selling croquettes to support my son. We are willing to repeat every word spoken here to anyone, even to Raúl Castro
[As Bones spoke, the power went out; the first of at least two occasions. They were in total darkness, but the creators insisted on continuing despite this. Someone interrupted Bones to go out to see if those waiting outside were okay. They explained that they feared for their safety, and that the fact that the power went out could be, expressly, a maneuver by State Security.]
[Jorge Fernández, director of the National Museum of Fine Arts, went on to explain that they did not know anything about what those present told him about the repression:] We are going to work, to review the situation. We are going to talk with Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
Fernando Rojas: There are issues here that I cannot answer you right now. We are going to create a discussion agenda.
[Also, at the proposal of those present, Fernando Rojas agrees to propose to the Ministry of the Interior to initiate a dialogue with the creators about the repression and violations of the laws by the State Security. Rojas once again attacks the independent press present, specifically Diario de Cuba.]
Fernando Rojas: I don’t believe in the press out there [independent and foreign press]. I don’t believe in social networks.
Fernando Rojas tried to postpone everything: we are going to work on this, yes, we are going to analyze it … He insisted that he did not know anything about the events that were narrated to him, that he was not doubting the words of those present, but that he should investigate it
After almost five hours of debate, the following agreements are made:
1. The vice minister would be interested in the cases of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Denis Solís.
2. The Ministry of Culture will organize agendas for debate, meetings with artists to negotiate their demands.
3. The Ministry of Culture would organize debate sessions on the application of the laws and the role of the Ministry of the Interior, in reference to the repression of artists by the Cuban State Security.
4. AHS would review your statement and, if it was accepted by the organization’s National Council, they would retract it.
5. Truce: The artists will be able to meet even in independent spaces without being harassed, to discuss issues related to their demands.
Fernando Rojas also transmitted a message from the Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso, who promised to meet with the artists the following week, after Wednesday, December 1. He also gave in to the demand of those present to guarantee that the hundreds of people gathered [in front of the ministry] could return to their homes safely and without police violence.
After the meeting, Yunior García, Kaherine Bisquet and Tania Bruguera, informed the more than five hundred people and independent and foreign press that they were waiting gathered outside the Ministry of Culture. They had achieved the main objective that had taken them there: to be heard and the commitment to obtain answers.
Now that you tell me about them and there are some here present, and show them to me as well as their friends, I might think that they are not mercenaries. We are going to re-analyze the statement between the National Council of the organization
List of people who debated with officials of the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020:
1. Michel Matos (MSI)
2. Amaury Pacheco (MSI)
3. Katherine Bisquet (MSI)
4. Claudia Genlui (MSI)
5. Aminta de Cárdenas (MSI)
6. Tania Bruguera (Instar)
7. Camila Ramírez Lobón (Instar)
8. Juliana Rabelo (Instar)
9. Gretell Kairúz (Instar)
10. Reinier Leyva Novo (plastic artist)
11. Julio Llopiz-Casal (plastic artist)
12. Solveig Font (curator)
13. Sandra Ceballos (plastic artist)
14. Miryorly García Prieto (Art historian)
15. Liatna Rodríguez Jiménez (Art historian)
16. José Luis Aparicio (filmmaker)
17. Mijaíl Rodríguez (filmmaker)
18. Alejandro Alonso (filmmaker)
19. Gretel Medina Mendieta (filmmaker)
20. Juan Pin Vilar (filmmaker)
21. Ulises Padrón (writer)
22. Alfredo Martínez (contributor of Tremenda Nota)
23. Daniel Díaz Mantilla (writer)
24. Henry Eric Hernández (plastic artist)
25. Yunior García (playwright)
26. Ian Benavides (musician)
27. Reynier Díaz (actor)
28. Mauricio Mendoza (contributor to Diario de Cuba)
29. Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata (contributor to ADNCuba )
30. Camila Acosta (contributor to CubaNet)
Fernando Pérez (film director)
Jorge Perugorría (director and actor)
Officials of the Ministry of Culture
Fernando Rojas, Vice Minister of Culture
Marta Bones, vice president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)
Yaser Toledo, vice president of the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS)
Jorge Alfonso, director of Génesis Galerías
Jorge Fernández, director of the National Museum of Fine Arts
Translated by Norma Whiting
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