Cuban Police Detain El Círculo Gallery Artists Villares and Trapaga for 24 Hours

The authorities informed Lia Villares and Luis Trápaga that they are “in the middle of an investigative process.” (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 February 2018 — A police search of Havana’s independent El Círculo Gallery, managed by the activist Lía Villares and the painter Luis Trápaga, ended with the seizure of computers, cameras and video cameras, several hard drives, USB drives and cell phones.

The authorities informed Villares and Trápaga, the owner of the house where the gallery is located, that they are “in the middle of an investigative process,” the activist and blogger told 14ymedio, after being released on Saturday night.

Officers of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), State Security agents and two witnesses from the neighborhood, as required by law, participated in the search. They all entered the house showing a search warrant. continue reading

“They did not allow me be present, only Luis, they had me the whole time and I could not see what was happening,” says Villares. “I sensed the flashes of the photos that they took as they went were room by room, from the kitchen to the terrace.”

The search of the four room house began at 10:00 in the morning and ended after 3:00 in the afternoon.

“They took at least six hard drives, which have all my work from over the last ten years and the most recent material for a documentary I’m doing called Free Art vs. Totalitarian Censorship,” laments Villares.

On the drives are the interviews that the activist has done with several censored artists. The officers also took the printer, three laptops, several compact discs, USB memories and two new phones.

Luis Trápaga says that at the end of the search he was given a copy of the list of confiscated objects that he signed. Both activists insist that they will demand justice for all the equipment to be returned.

At the end of last year the El Círculo gallery experienced several episodes of censorship by the PNR and State Security for the activities it organizes. In some cases, the authorities prevented the guests from entering and at other times arrested the artists themselves.

According to the testimony of Villares, the people participating in the search were the same ones who have carried out the repression against the plays of Lynn Cruz and Adonis Milan.

“There were all those who appear in the videos, there is a lieutenant colonel who sounds familiar to me of the case against El Sexto (graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado) and Lieutenant Colonel Kenia María Morales Larrea, who seemed to be in charge of the operation,” she says.

The activist also remembers other officers like Captain Efrein. An officer who calls himself Luis Miguel took a statement about the origin of the equipment, printed matter and stickers.

Villares was also questioned about her links with the distribution of stickers and documents about the Cuba Decides campaign, which promotes the holding of a plebiscite in Cuba to change the political system of the island.

At first after the search, Villares was taken to the 21st and C Police Station, in Vedado, and Trápaga was taken to the Zapata and C station. On Friday night she was transferred to another station in San Miguel del Padrón.

Villares was released a little before 8 o’clock on Saturday night and Trápaga a few minutes later. “They spent all their time asking me where I had gotten everything from and what I was going to do with the Cuba Decide pamphlets,” says Villares.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

My First Encounter with State Security

The only performance of ‘Hamlet Machine’ in Santiago de Cuba. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Adonis Milán, Havana, 6 December 2017 — For the past two years I have been directing an independent group called Persephone Theater. We recently premiered the play Hamlet Machine, by the German author Heiner Müller, with a staging that shows the overwhelming parallelism between the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and present-day Cuba.

I traveled with this work to the province of Santiago de Cuba to give performances on November 24 and 25. When I arrived, I received a phone call from a compañero in State Security asking me if I had received a police summons. I explained that I am out of Havana and he said he would call me as soon as I return.

On the day of the first performance in Santiago, a jury of censors belonging to the Provincial Council of Performing Arts and Party cadres from that province were waiting for me in the theater. They demanded to see the work before it was shown to the public. continue reading

After countless technical setbacks to staging the performance for the censorship commission, they finally decided to let the performances go forward but said: “This is a very difficult week since it commemorates the death of the Comandante (Fidel Castro) and anything could be misinterpreted or taken as a offense to his memory.”

Despite how draining this situation was for the actor and the technicians, the performance went on as planned that night. However, the work was suspended by State Security the following day: it was November 25, the date on which Fidel Castro died.

On returning to Havana, I learned that the repression had also touched the capital. Those in charge of the Museum of Dissidence, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Yanelys Núñez, were arbitrarily arrested and threatened. The police entered the house-galleryof the artists Luis Trápaga and Lia Villares where they planned to present The Enemies of the People, directed by the film director Miguel Coyula and written by the actress Lynn Cruz. In addition, they questioned artist-activist Tania Bruguera and her guests who were conducting the second stage of the Behavior Art Workshop.

On my second day in Havana, the Sate Security compañero calls me again, this time on my home phone. He summons me for a meeting at 5:00 in the afternoon at the police station on Cuba and Chacón, in Old Havana. Arriving at the station I am received by a boy in his mid-twenties, handsome and even kind, I could hardly believe it, I was expecting a troglodyte.

He leads me to the second floor of the station, an empty, cold and chilling place, nothing like the downstairs crowded with police, people and posters of the Revolution on the walls.

We entered a computer room where he introduced me to Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Muñoz, a middle-aged man. Then we go to the back of the room where there is a small office. I have to empty my pockets and remove my phone so I can not record the interrogation.

They want to know my relationships with other censored artists, warn me that Luis Manuel Otero, Yanelys Nunez, Lynn Cruz, Miguel Coyula, Lia Villares and Tania Bruguera are counterrevolutionaries, and that any link with them or their spaces would bring me problems. They warn me that my interests and needs as an artist are in danger because I see myself with these people disaffected with the Revolution.

The fundamental reason behind the citation was that a week before I spontaneously distributed a promotion for Cuba Decides at the press conference for the Biennial00, an independent event organized by the artist Luis Manuel Otero. They added the word “counterrevolution” again to describe the Cuba Decides campaign led by Rosa María Payá, whom they accused of being a “mercenary.” The whole time they tried to tear down the people who oppose the Castro regime, even demeaning the work of the opposition artists with ridicule.

The youngest of the State Security agents tells me that he had attended one of the performances of my work Hamlet Machine, that’s why his face was so familiar to me. Since when is State Security following me? They had done research among my neighbors, checked my Facebook wall and even had my phones tapped.

At the beginning of the interrogation I had shown myself before them, making jokes so as not to feel intimidated. After a few hours, all my defense mechanisms were dismantled. The fear arrived, the fatigue of revisiting the same subject, and apathy in the face of what I was hearing. All my energy collapsed.

In the end, what they wanted was for me to work for the Department of State Security (DSE) as an informant, to give them information about the censored artists with whom I relate, especially about Tania Bruguera. They wanted me to inquire about their sources of economic support because they said that someone abroad produced these dissident activities, a head that united the artists, activists and opponents against the Castro government.

If I complied with their request to be a chivato (snitch), and they would provide benefits for my theater group and they would give me a project within the National Council of Performing Arts (CNAE), where I would have a staff of actors and later an official headquarters.

They asked me to sign a document in which I committed to work for State Security. I asked that I be allowed to read the document, to which the lieutenant colonel replied “If you read it, you sign it.” Since the theater runs through my blood, I think of the most naive idea of all, to pass as a double agent and provide false information to State Security. I was playing in a scene that had nothing to do with fiction.

Finally, they take out the document, in which the heading, “Juramento” (Oath) is written in large letters, a word that made me back down. But it was too late or at least that’s how they made me feel. They had to change the paper, since the first one was stained with ink because my hands would not stop sweating because of nerves. I filled in the form, in which they asked me for for personal information and later I signed it.

Then the lieutenant colonel tells me that he is the one who attends the Book Institute and the other colleague would soon start attending the CNAE (Naitonal Theater Arts Council). They express their disagreement with the work Departures and with its director, Nelda Castillo, and ask me if I have any kind of link with her. They say that they will give me a kind of course where I would learn how to get information from people and they want me to tell them what plays have ideological problems. So the repression is beyond whether you are an independent artist or an artist who works for within an institution.

They say goodbye to me with an affectionate handshake, as if to let me know that I am part of them. Before leaving, they let me know that what we are talking about can not be communicated even to my pillow and they urge me to do theater that has nothing to do with politics. The interrogation lasted about four hours.

As soon as I am out in the street I think about everything. I see that playing double agent is not child’s play and how dangerous it can be. Of course working as a chivatón for Security goes against my principles, although they believe that being an artist, young and gay, I would be easy to manipulate. They were wrong. Because I would never betray my faith, devotion and respect towards art and artists.

We artists are and will be the true revolutionaries, we place our trust on a revolution of thought and work. We believe in freedom and respect for individuality, we believe in true democracy. We have faith in the change to come.

A few days ago, after telling all this to my friend the actress Lynn Cruz, she sent me this text message: “Adonis dear. Nobody remembers who governed in Spain when Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, but everyone knows who Don Quixote is. Governments happen but art is forever. Judas believed that betraying Christ was the thing of a single day, and you see what happened. These are moments of definitions, create, write, do work, defend your theater, resist like Carlos Celdrán, Carlos Díaz, Nelda Castillo. They all started in the rooms of their homes. The force is not in the body, but in the wonder of the minds. Live art forever! I love you so much. Work for yourself and your art.”

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Regime Frees Activist Lia Villares

The activist Lia Villares. (FACEBOOK / MARTÍ NEWS)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 23 December 2017 — Activist  Lia Villares was released this Friday morning after being detained since Wednesday, activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo said in her Twitter account.

Villares, in addition, was fined 500 pesos by the authorities, according to Martí Noticias.

During the arrest, “her interrogators told her that she had committed crimes, and in order to prove it to her they showed her a photograph that she had taken some time ago with two policemen. In the photo she appears with a fan with the logo of the CubaDecides opposition initiative” directed by Payá Acevedo, according to the Miami media. continue reading

In the cell where she was detained, the activist wrote with a stone on the wall “Art Yes, Censorship No. I am free.”

“They tell me that this is a damage to property and carries a fine of 500 pesos,” she explained.

Villares  was arrested Wednesday along with other artists when they tried to attend the staging of the play Psychosis.

Among those arrested and then released were Tania Bruguera, actress Iris Ruiz (protagonist of the monologue that was to be performed), Adonis Milán (director of the play), poet Amauri Pacheco, art historian Yanelys Nuñez, another person identified as José Ernesto Alonso and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

The plot of the piece revolves around a person enclosed in a very small space showing obvious signs of madness who wants to leave the place.

The version that was presented was inspired by the events of 2010 at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, popularly known as Mazorra, where  26 patients died of hunger and cold. In the monologue direct allusions were to be made to Raúl Castro and terms such as “dictatorship” were used.

The independent gallery El Círculo is subject to constant repression by the regime. State Security also closed this independent space in April to prevent the presentation of the documentary Nadie, by Miguel Coyula, which deals with the life of the poet Rafael Alcides.

Likewise, the political police set up another operation last November to prevent public attendance at the work “The Enemies of the People”  directed by the documentary filmmaker Miguel Coyula, which fictionalized the final minutes of Fidel Castro.