Why The Cuban Government Rectified Its ‘Error’ With Otero Alcántara

Did the Cuban regime plan to condemn Otero Alcántara and send him to prison for a long time or just to scare him? (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 15 March 2020 — An intense campaign on social networks together with international pressure and voices of support that arose from the official sector itself have achieved the unthinkable: the release of the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. The photo of the activist, recently released from prison with his shaved head and surrounded by his young friends, is already a historical image.

The questions that this release opens are diverse. It is worth investigating the true intentions of officialdom when the artist was arrested on March 1. Were they planning at that time to sentence him and send him to prison for a long time or were they just planning to scare him? The answer to that question is known to only a few at the top echelons of Cuban power.

However, we see more certainties when we review the actions themselves. Unlike other repressive acts, the artist’s arrest was widely known minutes after it occurred. A live broadcast by curator Claudia Genlui alerted her Facebook contacts to what was happening that first Saturday in March when she was heading to a gay kiss-in to be held in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television. continue reading

The news of the violent arrest spread quickly because, as of December 2018, citizens of this country have been able communicate on social networks through mobile phones. In a few hours the first wave of solidarity arrived, the banners, the posters, the hashtags, the direct requests posted on the official accounts for the artist’s release and a letter of complaint that managed to summon activists, journalists and intellectuals from various countries.

The cross-sectional nature of Otero Alcántara’s artivism led to a wide range of voices denouncing his arrest. The performances in which he addressed the LGBTI agenda, through the actions in which he showed the economic abysses that separate Cubans, and reaching his questioning of authoritarianism, have won him sympathy from many sectors.

However, it was his artistic appropriation of the Cuban flag that aroused the most appreciation, as he took hold of a symbol that in recent decades has been practically hijacked by the political discourse of a party and an ideology. Many Cubans felt that they were recovering the national emblem, which became theirs again, when they saw the artist walk with down the street with it on his shoulders, and sleep or go to the bathroom with its blue stripes and its white star on the red background.

However, among the elements that played an even more decisive role for the release of Otero Alcántara were the demands from voices very close to the ruling party, such as singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez and plastic artist Alexis Leyva, known as Kcho. If you read between the lines of the official information regarding the meeting this Wednesday between Miguel Díaz-Canel and the artists, you can detect the conscience of the mistake made but not confessed.

“In the first place, the Revolution had to be defended. Then, if a mistake had been made, analyze it, criticize it, rectify it,” former culture minister Abel Prieto published on the Twitter social network. Although he did not specify what those blunders had been, just three days after writing the message Otero Alcántara was released. This time they had failed to get the artists’ guild to fully support the arrest.

Only a few artists, with a track record that shows them to be officials more than creators, joined the statement that they preferred “a Cuba without Alcantara,” which had a short life on social networks. They are the big losers of the day, because they lent their names to an act of public deception from which the regime itself withdrew, leaving them with their names tarnished.

This fracture of the artistic sector differs from the climate of rejection that the ruling party managed to build around Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, in 2014 when he was preparing as a piece of performance art to release, in a Havana plaza, two pigs with the names of Raúl and Fidel written on their. The international campaign for his release also involved numerous voices that achieved his liberation several months later, but within the Island most of the plastic artists remained silent or accused him.

This break in the repressive consensus has been vital in the case of Otero Alcántara. The artist himself recognized the uniqueness of what happened and as soon as he was released from prison some of his statements summarized it: “We are changing contemporary Cuba, we are working for a Cuban future and I am the proof.” State Security is “very afraid, very afraid of the things that were happening.” And so it is.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara is Released

The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara  (center front) received broad national and international solidarity. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 March 2020 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was released on Friday night, in a surprise turn in his case, which had captured broad national and international solidarity, as confirmed by curator Claudia Genlui on her Facebook account.

“Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been released!! We are connected,” published Genlui. Journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez released a photo of the artist smiling and surrounded by a group of friends.

“I am still in shock,” said Otero Alcántara a few hours after being released to journalist Mónica Baró of the magazine El EstornudoIn the interview, recorded early this Saturday morning, the artist acknowledges that being locked in a prison has been a “shocking” experience. continue reading

“You don’t know how much people love you or how much they admire you until these extreme situations happen,” said the artist, referring to the solidarity he found after leaving prison. In prison his head was shaved so he lost his curly hair that was also an emblem of his image.

“We are going to continue working and making free art,” he says. The news of his release he calls a “surprise.” Twelve days after his arrest, the artist was simply told that he was going to be released from prison, and State Security officials evaded giving details of the status of his judicial case, nor even if the trial against him will proceed.

“I need to speak to the lawyer because the Cuban judicial system is very ridiculous… but tomorrow they can build another case,” he said. “They have full control, of the imagination, of television and of everything.” Of “one hundred percent freedom, right now I have only five.”

“This shows that Cuba is changing and that we have strength and that is very encouraging,” he added. “They released me because many connected in that energy of ‘enough with the abuse’.”

State Security officials who were there at the time of his release advised him “not to make a fire from the fallen tree,” amid the tension the country is experiencing due to the arrival of the coronavirus.

A few hours earlier that same day, the organization Amnesty International had declared Otero Alcántara a prisoner of conscience, demanding his immediate release.

“It is absolutely shameful that the Cuban Administration continues to repress any voice that is not aligned with the official position,” the organization denounced this Friday in a statement.

Otero Alcántara is “imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his freedom of expression, and must be released immediately,” says the text, which lists the artist as “key leader of the opposition movement to Decree 349.”

The artist has been detained since March 1 for alleged crimes of outrage against the national symbols and damage to property.

The artist was to be presented for trial on Wednesday, March 11. However, the authorities notified his family that the oral hearing had been postponed, without offering a new date when it would be held.

The law provides penalties of between two and five years in prison for the alleged crimes of insult against the national symbols and damage to property. His case has unleashed a campaign of national and international support and his release has even been requested by artists close to officialdom, such as Silvio Rodríguez and Alexis Leyva, known as Kcho.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Amnesty International Declares Otero Alcantara a Prisoner of Conscience

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is “imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his freedom of expression,” denounces Amnesty International. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 13 March 2020 — Amnesty International has declared artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara a “prisoner of conscience.” “It is absolutely shameful that the Cuban administration continues to repress any voice that is not aligned with the official position,” the organization denounced this Friday in a statement.

Otero Alcántara is “imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his freedom of expression, and must be released immediately,” says the text, which lists the artist as “key leader of the opposition movement to Decree 349.”

“We urge the Cuban government to release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas.

“Cuba is the only country in the Americas that prohibits visits from Amnesty International,” notes the text. The organization calls on all LGBTI artists, journalists and activists to demand that the authorities release Otero Alcántara immediately and unconditionally.

The artist was arrested on March 1 and this Wednesday he was going to be put on trial, however, the authorities advised the family that the oral hearing had been postponed without saying the new date when it will be held.

Otero Alcántara is facing a sentence of between two and five years in prison for the alleged crimes of insult against the national symbols and damage to property. His case has unleashed a campaign of national and international support and his release has even been requested by artists close to the ruling party, such as Silvio Rodríguez and Alexis Leyva, Kcho.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Are We Facing A New Black Spring In Cuba?

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara will be tried for insult against the national symbols for trying to take away from the Government its monopoly on the Cuban the. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 11 March 2020 — Seventeen years ago, while the world was focused on watching the invasion of Iraq, the Cuban regime took advantage of the distraction to strike the repressive coup that came to be called the Black Spring. This March, as the international media dedicates its headlines to the coronavirus, the Plaza of the Revolution is tightening the screws of control. The most visible face of these new raids is the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has been imprisoned since Sunday March 1st for two alleged crimes, one of insult against the national symbols and the other of property damage.

Otero Alcántara creates a type of irreverent and social art that annoys the officialdom. The protest for the elimination of the bust of a communist leader to inaugurate a luxurious hotel in its place, also recalls in one of its installations the cache of weapons that Havana tried to pass through the Panama Canal bound for North Korea. A resident of San Isidro, one of the poorest areas of the Cuban capital, this artist born in 1987 has become the stone in the shoe of the stagnant Cuban Government.

The discomfort caused by Otero Alcántara among the island’s nomenklatura has several causes. He comes from a poor family, is mixed race and was born within the Revolutionary process. The authorities find it disturbing that, after having received a ‘free education and healthcare,’ as the official propaganda wearily repeats, he chooses not to applaud but to question. continue reading

To make matters worse, with his art he disassembles and desacralizes power by speaking to them on familiar and personal terms. They also reject his universal gaze, his successful use of new technologies, which have helped him to disseminate his actions, and his social commitment that places him in the uncomfortable category of artivist.

However, what Castroism is particularly bothered by is the crosscutting nature of Otero Alcántara, who has successfully included in his works the LGBTI agenda, the defense of animals, urban music, alternative literature, dissident postulates, the relationship between Cuba and the United States, the pains of exile, the rescue — beyond ideology — of national symbols, and criticism of Fidel Castro’s personal excesses. Irony, sarcasm and questioning mark his work with a freshness and spontaneity that many of those other creators – the ‘official’ ones from the gallery and catalog – have given up, preferring not to inconvenience power but rather to dedicate themselves to selling their art without getting into trouble.

For using the Cuban flag in several of his installations and performances, Otero Alcántara will be tried in a context in which police citations against activists are increasing, are arbitrary arrests and the violation of independent journalists’ freedom of movement. Probably in its heated offices the Communist Party is planning to make this trial an exemplary action that will permeate the whole of society, spurred on by the shortages, the inefficiency of the system and the dysfunctionality of the institutions. In response to the lack of bread, fear.

As in March 2003, the Cuban regime hopes to take advantage of global distraction to deal a further blow to citizen liberties. The Black Spring returns, but it remains to be seen how we are going to react to it now.

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This text was originally published by Deustche Welle’s Latin America page.

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Whispers That Come

Silvio Rodríguez participated in the repudiation rally that was carried out against his fellow troubadour Mike Porcel in the turbulent days of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980. (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 7 March 2020 — Following the censorship of the documentary Sueños al Pairo (Dreams Adrift), which was removed from the programming of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition, the fact that singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez had participated in the repudiation rally that was perpetrated against his fellow troubadour Mike Porcel in the convulsive days of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980.

It was not necessary for the Revolution to collapse in order for the icon to fall to pieces. It was enough for the fool to reveal that he failed to define himself by hiding the body. It was enough for him to confess that he wasn’t able to understand, then, that they were inviting him to such shit.

To clear himself of guilt without going through the humiliating (for him) apology, he has simply explained that all he did was whisper something in front of his victim’s door. The same door that others tried to knock down. continue reading

Forty years later, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara sits in jail awaiting a trial in which he can be sentenced from two to five years in prison for an alleged crime of property damage and for insulting national symbols.

With few, and honorable, exceptions, the plastic artists have kept an unfortunate silence, although they know perfectly well that the accusations are only a way of hiding the artist’s rebellion against the abuses of power, substantiated in decree 349. A vice minister has had the cynicism to clarify that Luisma, as his friends call Luis Manuel, is not being prosecuted for defying the unfortunate decree, but for other contraventions.

In a very short time some individuals will decide if the artist had the right to run down the street draped in the flag of his country, or if he should pay such audacity with the jail.

They are people who have names and surnames, mothers, children, friends. They probably even have religious beliefs and will find themselves in the dilemma of choosing between fearing the earthly consequences more than the divine ones. They will worry more about what happens this week or this month than what a future without a foreseeable date can hold.

This time it will not be necessary to spend another forty years to unveil the crime, nor will it be possible to mask with a whisper the sentence issued by the executioners. The volume of the voice, no matter how low, does not reduce the weight of the sentence, or the fault of those who unfairly impose it.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Challenging Her Dismissal from the Historians Office to Denounce "Arbitrariness"

Genlui is prohibited from entering the office if she is not accompanied by the administrator or a specialist. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 January 2020 — Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, a worker at the Office of the Historian, was fired at the end of December after giving a talk on independent art at the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Genlui filed an appeal with the Attorney General’s Office this week despite her distrust of the usefulness of the process.

“I do not believe I will get my job back and much less the position that I had within the Office of the Historian. They were very clear and it goes beyond whether or not I committed an infraction. It has long annoyed them that I was in that position. When, in April, I commented on the arrest during the Biennial of Luis Manuel Otero, who was arrested supporting Daniel Llorente, there was already pressure placed on my to step down, but I decided I would not,” she tells 14ymedio.

As she recalls, at that time the pressure also came from her boss, who sent her a message saying she should ask to leave the workplace because she came out in defense of the artist, who is also her partner. “It didn’t seem fair and I didn’t ask to leave. I stayed there, but it generated a lot of tension,” she adds. continue reading

Although Genlui does not have good expectations fpr the outcomes of the process she has started now, she argues that she has decided to carry it out “to give visibility to the process” and to expose “all those cracks and arbitrariness that they have committed and are committing.”

For the curator there are many intellectuals and people who “were once linked to a position within the institutions as workers and, for thinking differently or relating to people who think differently, were subjected being fired from their workplace or other sanctions, as is the case with Oscar Casanella.”

Now the Prosecutor’s Office has a maximum period of 60 days to respond to the art historian, who handed them a copy of the legal document sent by her lawyers on December 30. “In that appeal the facts are narrated as they happened,” she claims.

The workers of Factoría Habana, the art gallery from which she was expelled, reject the measure imposed on her, according to her version. “One of them protested because in the meeting that was held to talk about my expulsion he was not allowed to be present while he was on vacation and only found out about it through the networks. Upon returning he made his position clear, as did my other two colleagues. Even the administrator has supported me at all times,” she says.

Despite this, Genlui is prohibited from going to the office if she is not accompanied by the administrator or a specialist. “The other day I wanted to go up to pick up some things that I had left. The fact that they wouldn’t let me pass was shocking to me, but it’s the order they have been given,” she explained. “Concha Fontenla, my director, neither defended me nor condemned me, just simply sent me a message to tell me that she wished me luck and, more recently, another to wish me a Happy New Year.”

The historian says that the fair thing would be for there to be a trial in which she can state all the reasons why she considers the measure unfair and where she can learn the true reason that she has been permanently fired from her job.

Before being fired Genlui held the position of principal specialist of Factoría Habana, which, in practice, made her director of the institution. In addition, she is part of the San Isidro Manifesto and has carried out several works related to independent art and curatorships such as the Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara project, The Flag Belongs to Everyone.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Historian’s Office Employee Fired After Giving an Independent Talk

Genlui held the position of principal specialist for Factoría Habana, an art gallery of the cultural network of the Office of the Historian, which, in practice, made her the director of the institution. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 December 2019 — Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, now a former official of the Office of the Historian, has been fired from the agency after presenting a talk on independent art at the embassy of the Czech Republic in Havana, as she denounced to 14ymedio this Thursday, shortly after being notified of her expulsion. “Today they went to my office and gave me the official document where the final separation from the center is applied as a sanction,” she says.

Genlui held the position of principal specialist for Factoría Habana, an art gallery of the cultural network of the Office of the Historian, which, in practice, made her director of the institution. In addition, she belongs to the San Isidro Movement and has carried out several works related to independent art and curatorships such as the project of her partner, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, La Bandera es de Todos (The Flag Belongs to Everyone).

The Office of the Historian accuses Genlui of hiding information knowing that she should not do so, since the young woman did not tell the agency that she would participate in the conference after a circular was circulated on November 30 indicating that any worker should notify their superiors of contacts with an embassy. continue reading

“I interpreted it as that, if the embassy invited you to an event, you must notify them,” said the young woman, who suspects that the order was issued precisely because of her case. “I do not think it was accidental that this mail began to circulate through the networks of the Office of the Historian just when the contact appears for me to speak at the Czech embassy of independent art and the San Isidro Movement. It seems like a total injustice,” she says.

To Genlui what has happened seems “extreme” and she will appeal the measure. “I have always maintained an impeccable conduct within the Office of the Historian and it seems to me that having contact with an embassy and having allegedly violated an order from my immediate boss is not a sufficient reason for a person to be permanently separated from a workplace. They could have applied another measure, such as dismissing me from my position or lowering my salary, but no, the  determination was radical and I think it was planned from the first moment,” she argues.

The historian never believed that she should be held accountable for activities carried out outside her working hours that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) was also aware of. In this case it was the conference: Knowing the Artist I: The work of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

“Minrex communicates with the ambassador of the Czech Republic and tells him that the only condition for the conference to be given is that Luis Manuel is not present at the talk, which fell on my shoulders,” she explains. The artist, who planned to accompany her to the place, was arrested that December 11 and was released precisely at 5:30 p.m., just half an hour before the event.

“I did not notify [them] of the presentation because at first I was scheduled for non-working hours, until now they have never told me anything. I am a very young director but I always maintained an ethics according to the system, respecting the ideas and positions of my coworkers,” she said.

Hours before the conference at the embassy, Genlui was summoned to the Department of Cultural Management of the Office of the Historian, where Michael González and Katia Cárdenas, general director of Heritage and director of Cultural Management respectively, were waiting to ask why she had not reported her activity.

“As a civil servant it was my responsibility to give notice of such actions so that Eusebio [Leal] would approve whether or not I could give the talk. They maintain the opinion that I owe myself to the institution to which I belong, whether or not it is my working hours, and that is why I had to notify him, because if I did not they would apply the maximum measure for violating an immediate order from Eusebio, first, and secondly from Katia and Michael.”

Genlui clarified to her bosses at that time that she would go ahead because she could not cancel it in such a short time frame nor did she want to, since her participation was related to her interests as a professional “as much or more than the Factoría Habana could be.” The consequences have not been long in coming.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara Released on Tuesday

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested on Monday afternoon. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 June 2019 — The police released artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on Tuesday afternoon after he spent 24 hours in the San Miguel del Padrón police station, the independent artist explained to 14ymedio.

By telephones, moment after his release, Alcántara related that he was arrested on Monday in the middle of the street. The artist claims State Security officers along with uniformed National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who led him to a patrol car.

The arrest came shortly after Alcántara announced his participation in a performance at the Museum of Dissidence in Cuba, which consisted of holding the Cuban flag on a balcony for a period of 24 hours at a ninety degree angle. During the arrest, the police confiscated one of the banners that he was going to use in the artistic action. continue reading

May the country contemplate you with pride? is the name of the performance that, despite the repression, was carried out. “We did everything, the reading, the action with the flag and then a party,” one of the members of the San Isidro Movement told this newspaper.

“Once again they talked to me about public space, they say that everything inside the house is fine but they will not allow anything to happen in the public space. I told them that the balcony was part of my house but they say no, and well, we can go on like this for 70 years because I am going to continue making my art despite the arrests,” explained Otero Alcántara.

This work is the last of the series SeUsa, a work that received criticism from officialdom. In particular, the peformance with the American flag was described as “annexationist” by Fernando Rojas, the vice minister of culture.

In his Twitter account Rojas wrote “Thousands of exhibitions, hundreds of artists, millions of Cuban men and women, the great popular festival of visuality in Cuba, that three annexationists will not tarnish. They dressed children in the US flag and made them parade down the street, they abuse goodness and innocence.”

Last April, the artist, who is also a member of the San Isidro Movement, suffered an arbitrary detention that prevented him from carrying out this action, planned in the context of the XIII Havana Biennial.

The piece was a tribute to Daniel Llorente, “The man with the flag,” and consisted of young people from the neighborhood running 66 meters wearing a T-shirt with the Cuban flag and holding the American flag on their heads. The action recalled the protest of Daniel Llorente, on May 1st of 2017, in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Otero Alcántara is known on the island for his rebellious art and was one of the most visible faces in the fight against Decree 349, which restricts the freedom of creation of artists. In 2016 he created the Museum of Dissidence in Cuba with Yanelys Nuñez, a project that aims to approach the history of the Island with an independent and critical view.

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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.

The B Side of the Biennial

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested on Thursday, the day the Biennial began. (14y middle)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2019 — On Thursday, April 11, while in the halls of the National Museum of Fine Arts the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozcowas preparing an exhibition, and on the terrace of the Spanish Embassy the duo Clandestina finished mounting its installations, the independent artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested in Damas Street when he carried out one of the actions he had planned for the XIII Biennial of Havana.

The most important artistic event in Cuba started with wide coverage in the official and foreign press. The media announced new features such as the multiplication of stages of the Havana-based event, which this year is also happening in Pinar del Río, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Camagüey, and the motto of the Biennial — “The Construction of the Possible” — and the participation of more than 300 creators from 52 nations.

But none of them spoke of the flip side of the event. The arrest of Otero Alcántara came during a performance with which he was trying to pay tribute to Daniel Llorente, known as ’The Flag Man’ since he was arrested in 2017 while ’crashing’ the May Day parade waving an American flag. According to Eliezer Llorente, his son went missing more than two days ago. continue reading

The writer Abu Duyanah Tamayo, who witnessed the arrest, told this newspaper that when he arrived at the artist’s street, in the neighborhood of San Isidro, “they were putting him and two other boys in the patrol car.” According to his testimony, the boys were running toward their homes “because the police came screaming” but the officers entered the houses, took them out and took them away.

“They took the phone from Luis Manuel, and they tried to take ours from us when we arrived , but in the end we resisted and they didn’t.”

“The Biennial is a whole energy that gets into every corners and I am an artist and the Biennial is mine too,” Otero Alcántara had told 14ymedio before his arrest, when he had not yet specified a date or place for the action.

“I have three projects, and one of them is a tribute to the man of the flag, a race that will be called Daniel Llorente and in which every Cuban of and age can participate. It will be a 66 meter race, the distance Llorente ran in the Plaza of the Revolution on May 1st. Everyone who runs has to do it with an American flag and a Cuban flag, the first three will have their prize and their medal,” he explained.

The artist, who days before suffered another detention to warn him of the consequences if he went ahead with the performance, says he senses fear in the Government “This is a symbolic regime that has never been able to solve anything on a practical level, everything is hope, the illusion and the symbolism, “he said.

Installation of the clandestine duo in the Embassy of Spain. (14ymedio)

Otero Alcántara’s actions are part of the “Se USA” project. “The other work I’m going to do is a walkway outside my house, on the street, and with models that will be people from the neighborhood.” I will make a fashion show with 10 designs that I chose among the more than 80 that Chanel had when she did hers in the Prado, combining those Chanel designs with garments that Cubans wear a lot, in shorts, lycra, shirts, t-shirts, handkerchiefs, with the imagery of the American flag.”

As an artist, he is interested in talking about “that ultra-pathetic nationalism and patriotism” that power builds “to dominate, control and tell you that you are a traitor,” if you do not do things as they planned. “Why can’t Daniel Llorente go out with the flag if he wants. Why to you wantto make me an enemy, I feel like an enemy but I have to assume it because you impose it on me?” he protests.

This edition of the Biennial should have been celebrated in 2018, but its organizers postponed it because of the damage caused by the passage of Hurricane Irma. This decision gave rise to a group of independent artists, among whom, as a visible face, was Otero Alcántara, who took the initiative to organize the #00Bienal last year, an alternative call that was demonized and repressed by the Government and cultural authorities.

Hall of the Universal Art building of the Museum of Fine Arts with the pieces of the artist Gabriel Orozco. (14ymedio)

Since 1984 the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, together with the National Council of Plastic Arts and the Ministry of Culture, among other institutions, have been responsible for organizing the Havana Biennial.

The galleries of the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro de La Habana, the Havana Collage, the Ensemble Workshop, the National Museum of Fine Arts and independent studios such as Del Castillo Art Studio or El Apartamento will remain open until May 12 as part of the exhibition.

In the last decade, with the birth of alternative spaces, activities that take place in independently managed galleries have also been added to the event and are included as part of the collateral actions. Provided they abstain from any criticisms of the Government, they will be allowed to exist.

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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.

An Open Letter on the Situation in Venezuela

Protesters in Venezuela support of Juan Guaidó on January 23. (jguaido)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio,  Ernesto Hernández Busto, 15 March 2019 —  Poor Venezuela! After having undertaken what it announced as a radical process of social transformation, a process intended to mark a turning point in Latin American ideology and guarantee a project of social equality baptized as “21st century socialism,” today the country has ended up becoming a despotic compound, where not only are the most basic political rights violated, but one in which a person can barely survive with a minimum of dignity. From the promised emancipation to compulsory destitution; from the dream of the continental left to the prototype of failure, despair and exodus: such is the sad journey of the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution.”

Given the serious political and humanitarian situation that Venezuela is going through today, we the undersigned, Cuban intellectuals who reside inside and outside the island, demand that the Cuban Government ackknowlege the evidence of the social and humanitarian disaster, refrain from intervening by any means in the political conflict of that nation, and withdraw its numerous “cooperators,” both civilian and military, who are working in that country. After six decades of a failed revolution, after the collapse of that “Cubazuela” celebrated for years by the Castrochavism, it is time for Cuba to stop exporting or stirring up conflicts in other countries under the pretext of ideological solidarity, and to ensure they can subsist with their own resources, without exploitation or interference of any kind.

Signers of this open letter

Ernesto Hernández Busto, writer; Ladislao Aguado, writer and editor; Carlos A. Aguilera, writer; Janet Batet, curator and art critic; Yoandy Cabrera, academic; María A. Cabrera Arús, academic; Pablo de Cuba Soria, writer and editor; Enrique del Risco, writer and academic; Armando Chaguaceda, political scientist; Paquito D’Rivera, musician, composer and writer; Néstor Díaz de Villegas, writer; Manuel Díaz Martínez, writer; Jorge I. Domínguez-López, writer and journalist; Vicente Echerri, writer; Abilio Estévez, writer; Gerardo Fernández Fe, writer; Alejandro González Acosta, writer and academic; Ginés Gorriz, producer; Kelly M. Grandal, writer; Natacha Herrera, journalist; José Kozer, poet; Boris Larramendi, musician; Felipe Lázaro, writer and editor; Rafael López-Ramos, visual artist; Jacobo Machover, writer and academic; Roberto Madrigal, writer; María Matienzo Puerto, writer and journalist; L. Santiago Méndez Alpízar, writer; Michael H. Miranda, writer and academic; Carlos Alberto Montaner, writer and journalist; Adrián Monzón, artist and producer; Lilliam Moro, writer; Luis Manuel Otero, artist and activist; Amaury Pacheco del Monte, writer and artivist; Geandy Pavón, photographer and visual artist; Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, writer and academic; José Prats Sariol, writer; Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, writer; Alexis Romay, writer; Rolando Sánchez Mejías, writer; Manuel Sosa, writer; Armando Valdés-Zamora, writer and academic; Amir Valle, writer; and Camilo Venegas Yero, writer and journalist.

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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.

"The Fight Against Decree 349 Will Continue," Insists Amaury Pacheco After Being Released

Group of artists who promote the campaign against Decree 349. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 December 2018 — On Wednesday, around eight-thirty in the evening, Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero were released, according to what they told 14ymedio when they left the Vivac de Calabazar Detention Center after protesting Decree 349.

“First we were in the eleventh unit of the San Miguel de Padrón police station, there we spent Monday night and on Tuesday they took us to Vivac (the State Security detention center), and when we arrived they did not want to accept us because Luis was on-strike and they returned us to the unit but in the night they accepted us (at Vivac) and we stayed there until they let us go. During the interrogations they told us that if we protested again in front of the Ministry of Culture they would accuse us of illegal association and demonstrating without permission.”

Núñez explained that Luis Manuel Otero, after leaving prison after more than 48 hours on hunger and thirst strike, had taken a soda. continue reading

On the other hand, on the night of Tuesday, the artists Amaury Pacheco and the producer Michel Matos were released, according to Pacheco himself, speaking to14ymedio after being released

Both were detained in the midst of a repressive wave by State Security against a peaceful sit-in in front of the Ministry of Culture (Mincuult) headquarters as a part of the campaign against Decree 349. Pacheco explained that his hunger strike will be maintained “as long as any artist is in prison” and he will return this morning to the Ministry of Culture if Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero are not released during the night.

Pacheco said that when he arrived at the Ministry of Culture on November 3, both he and Matos were detained and that they spent most of their time in the police unit of the municipality of Regla. “Michel was taken first to Guanabacoa but then they brought him to the same jail where I was in Regla, there they interrogated us and told me that if I went back to Mincult I would be imprisoned for one to three years,” he said.

This newspaper was also able to speak with artist Tania Bruguera after she was released on Tuesday night after her third arrest, including her first arrest at the beginning of the protest. “They held me from nine in the morning until nine at night but they did not take me to a unit, they left me inside the car until three thirty in the afternoon at La Puntilla and then they took me to a house that is beyond Lenin Park, by way of Calvario,” explained the artist.

She says that at every moment the agents told her they would take her home but when she expressed her desire to return to the Ministry of Culture, that proposal was postponed until finally at nine o’clock in the evening they left her at the door of her house. During the detention in the house where the artist was taken, they offered her water and food, even though she had told her captors that she was on a hunger and thirst strike.

“They took me to a room with a table covered with food, I told them I was not going to eat, then they gave me a cold water bottle but I told him to keep it and later they also offered me ice cream but I also refused,” says the renowned artist.

“You know how I react when someone is imprisoned because it happened in 2014, I will talk with no problems when no one is being held prisoner,” Bruguera told the agent.

The musician Sandor Pérez Pita, from the reggae group Estudiantes sin Semilla (Students without Seed), was also released in the afternoon.

The artist Amaury Pacheco had affirmed that he maintained his hunger and thirst strike until they released the rest of the artists and that “the fight against Decree 349 continues.” In a video posted on his social networks he said this entire battle is being fought “for art, for freedom of expression.”

In conversation with 14ymedio, Tania Bruguera said that the intention was to return on Thursday to the Ministry of Culture to demand again the release of Yanelys Núñez Leyva and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara to establish a dialogue with the institution and to ask for a response.

Artists from several countries have mobilized since Tuesday in favor of the release of the group of artists who oppose Decree 349. The director of the Tate Modern gallery in London, Frances Morris, expressed on Twitter that these arrests clearly illustrate the threats many artists around the world are facing.

Also this Wednesday afternoon a public session was held in the Turbine Hall to say “No to Decree 349” and provide support to detainees through an open microphone to those who wish to participate.

The Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor of the US State Department wrote on its Twitter account that “the Government of Cuba continues to criminalize freedom of expression while besieging artists and journalists to discourage protests against Decree 349.”

Meanwhile, Silvio Rodríguez wrote a comment on the blog Segunda Cita that “Decree 349 may have very good intentions but I’m sure it would be better if it were discussed with the artists.” He added that “it was something cooked up among the few” and that in his opinion “a disposition of this scopes must have a more democratic origin, and a purpose.”

“Perhaps there should be a moratorium on the decree, until an acceptable modification is discussed and resolved, and I do not know whether I will be able to work abroad as I have been doing, starting next year. I began to work on my own in the face of the very inefficient state contracting and coordination mechanisms,” the troubadour wrote.

Deborah Bruguera, Tania’s sister, wrote: “While on the phone with Tania Bruguera, Lt. Col. Kenia took her in a car, right at the corner of the MINCULT.” The artist sent a public statement “of the artists who have called for the sit-in at the Ministry of Culture of Cuba,” that her sister shared on social networks.

We reproduce the text in its entirety:

We have decided to make a call to sit peacefully and respectfully to camp, meditate, read poetry, dance, paint or perform any artistic activity in front of the Ministry of Culture because:

1: The artists of all the demonstrations, have carried them out in an organized way and through institutional channels to request the repeal of Decree 349 and its subsequent drafting with the assistance of the artists.

2: Even though these groups have met with leaders of the Ministry of Culture, the promises that they have made to respond have not been met and, failing that, a technical article was published in the Granma newspaper on November 30, justifying the validity of the current Decree 349, along with a bombardment on national television of programs with explanations in favor of 349 in its current format. This seems indicative to us that Decree 349 will not be repealed because this seems to be an action with the purpose of setting the population against our demands.

3: [The government] has commented that regulations and corrective rules will be made for the implementation of Decree 349. This seems insufficient because, given that the Decree has serious errors of representation and puts artists in a state of vulnerability, by criminalizing them and their works, we do not believe that it is appropriate to proceed with how to implement the Decree, if not the Decree itself.

4: December 7th is approaching, the date on which Decree Law 349 will become effective. We are asking for a meeting open to all with the Minister of Culture to inform us what has been the result of the meetings held with the artists and what will happen with Decree 349.

We want to receive from the Ministry of Culture the same respect towards us that we have had towards them. We will continue presenting ourselves to the Ministry of Culture to ask for our right to a response and open meeting with all the artists.

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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 Government Puts the Brakes on Full Implementation of Decree 349, Proposing it be Gradual

Deputy Minister Fernando Rojas said that those who oppose the Decree want to present it as “an act of censorship” (EFE / Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 December 2018 — The Cuban government has decided to stop the full implementation of Decree 349, a few days after it also backed off on fully implementing a package of measures to control the private sector. On Cuban TV’s Roundtable program this Friday, Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso, announced that the unpopular Decree 349 will only be applied in a “consensus” and “gradual” manner.

Alonso blamed the controversy generated by the decree, which would regulate artistic expression, to problems of interpretation and defended the need to put an end to “vulgarity, bad taste, intrusion and mediocrity.” However, he acknowledged that the Decree, which went into effect on December 7, still does not regulate “certain areas of art promotion and cultural services that currently have no legal standing.”

The minister responded to the flood of criticism that Decree 349 has provoked, but avoided naming the artists who have staged numerous protests outside the Ministry of Culture, such as Tania Bruguera and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, or others who have expressed their discontent in social networks, including the well-known actor Luis Alberto García. continue reading

None of the voices that have opposed the regulation were present on the television program, which featured Fernando Rojas, Vice Minister of Culture; Rafael González Muñoz, president of the Hermanos Saíz Association; and Lesbia Vent-Dumois, president of the Association of Plastic Artists of the government-run Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), who argued in favor of implementing the measure.

Rojas said that “the enemies of the Revolution want to present Decree 349 as an act of censorship” and  Rafael González Muñoz mentioned the criticisms “published in the blog Segunda Cita,” but without mentioning its author, the troubadour Silvio Rodríguez, a figure strongly allied to the official ideology who, in recent months, has been launching criticisms of the management of Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Decree 349 has caused an earthquake in the island’s artistic community, where independent and alternative spaces have grown in recent years. In a country where there is an increasing number of recording studios in private homes, private premises that hire musicians or comedians directly, and producers of audiovisuals outside government institutions, the regulations constitute a return to the times of greater centralism.

The measure establishes that atists must be linked to cultural entities under government control and, only then, can they obtain the necessary permits to present their work in spaces open to the public, such as private galleries. To ensure that it is applied, the Ministry of Culture enlists a group of inspectors who can close an exhibition or end a concert if they consider that it is not part of the cultural policy of the Revolution.

The artists see in these powers a political underpinning, disguised as a fight against vulgarity, and one that could start a witch hunt against uncomfortable and creative works that openly criticize the ruling party.

Article 2.1 of the Decree lists among the offenses that will be penalized that of providing “artistic services without being authorized to perform artistic work in a position or artistic occupation.” A point that Rojas nuanced this Friday, when he stressed that it is not a battle against amateur artists and that it is not mandatory to stay in a state institution.

During the program, there were interviews with the troubadour Heidi Igualada, with Digna Guerra, director of the National Choir of Cuba, and with the actor Fernando Hechavarría, but none of them criticized the Decree. Fernando Medrano, a choreographer from Camagüey, added that the regulations were conceived to confront “uncouthness, vulgarity and bad taste.”

All the guests of the program alluded to misunderstandings and misrepresentations that had fomented the dissatisfaction around the regulation, and Lesbia Vent-Dumois detailed that with the Decree “knowing how to read is knowing how to interpret,” which meant that “they could not read.” The official criticized the critics of the measure as “ignorant” and “ill informed.”

For his part, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the most well-known faces against the regulations, believes that Friday’s official statements are intended to “dampen the commotion raised by the campaign against the Decree among artists.” It is a strategy “to divide the campaign, but the campaign will continue.”

“From the legal point of view, what matters is the Decree and not what a minister who can be dismissed tomorrow says,” the artist said. “Once again legality in this country is ignored,” and he lamented that several artists “were manipulated” in the interviews that were broadcast on the Roundtable program.

Decree 349 details up to 19 “contraventions” or violations of the law, including organizing concerts, recitals or exhibitions without the authorization of the Government or divulging audiovisual or culturalcontent that is violent, pornographic, discriminatory or offensive towards national symbols.

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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 Customs Confiscates Opposition T-Shirts at Havana Airport

T-shirts against Decree 349 seized by Cuban Customs at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, November 6, 2018 — The campaign against Decree 349, an article in the the proposed new Cuban constitution which includes strict rules on artistic expression in public spaces, has collided with Cuban customs restrictions. Upon her return to the island, artist and activist Yanelys Nuñez reported on social media that customs officials at José Martí International Airport  had confiscated eight T-shirts with anti-decree slogans she was bringing from the United States.

On Sunday Nuñez and a fellow artist, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, returned from a three-day trip to Miami, where they had been participating in an artistic event. The items, which were produced in the United States by Cuban-American designer Coco Fusco and were adorned with an illustration by Alén Lauzán, were seized after customs officials had inspected their baggage. Two of the shirts belonged to Nuñez and the other six to Otero. continue reading

“As soon as they saw ’349,’ they told us it was subversive propaganda,” the activist explained to 14ymedio. She and Otero had travelled to the United States to participate in an event organized by a not-for-profit organization, Creative Time, entitled “On an Island: Defending the Right to Create,” at which they made a presentation critical of Decree 349.

The artist has already said she will file suit in Havana to reclaim the two shirts that were confiscated and is currently receiving legal advice.

Before boarding their flight to Miami, Nuñez and Otero were detained at the airport while their luggage was being searched. Though authorities did not confiscate anything at the time, the delay caused them to miss their flight on American Airlines. Later that afternoon they were able to catch another flight to Miami on the same airline.

The main complaint of those critical of Decree 349 is that, in every case, artists must obtain prior approval from a cultural organization, which they are forced to join, before executing their work. This requirement directly impacts those who create work outside a state-sponsored framework. The result is that the content of their work is subject to regulation.

The campaign against Cuba’s Decree 349 is important to Yanelys Núñez because “the government survives on its image.” Her goal is for more artists and cultural institutions to “speak out against this blatant censorship by the Diaz-Canel government.” She plans to continue exerting significant pressure to achieve its repeal.

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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.

Cuba’s Independent Artists Denounce the "State of Exception" They’ve Faced Since 1959

Yanelys Núñez, Nonardo Perea, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Luis Manuel Otero, Soandry del Río, and Michel Matos in a protest action against Decree 349. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana | 17 September 2018 — The group of independent artists who since July have been carrying out a campaign against Decree 349 reports that “since the triumph of the Revolution, in 1959, there has existed a state of exception when it comes to the freedom of artistic creation and expression” in Cuba and that a considerable number of “creators and cultural projects have flourished from their own will and creative capacity, but then been taken down by the powers and the official institutions that rule national life.”

The text is part of the San Isidro Manifesto, presented this past Wednesday by the group as one more of their actions against the rule that regulates artistic presentations in private spaces and against which they have been mobilizing since July. The document, which is circulating on media, is signed by Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Yanelys Núñez, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos, Hamlet Lavastida, Soandry del Río, Verónica Vega, Lía Villares, Yasser Castellanos, and Tania Brugera, among others. continue reading

Its launch took place at the venue of the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI), in the San Isidro neighborhood of Old Havana, and musicians, poets, writers, audiovisual directors, producters, and plastics artists joined the act.

Yanelys Núñez read the text, which invites “any individual who feels like part of this phenomenon that today we call ‘the independent'” to participate in the campaign aimed at the repeal of Decree 349, and urges a dialogue that will allow the review of cultural policies that the State institutions are attempting to impose.

Later, the attendees made a pilgrimage to the Malecon to ask the patron of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, for the annulment of the law.

The manifesto mantains that the law “legitimizes the use of judicial action to punish the free creation and determination” that belongs to them as artists and individuals and says that it “stimulates corruption” through the creation of the figure of the supervisor-inspector “taking into account that inspectors are one of the most corrupt sectors of the regulatory apparatus of the State.”

On July 10 the Council of Ministers approved Decree 349, focused on “the violations regarding cultural policy and over the provision of artistic services” which will enter into full force in December.

The artists who defend the repeal of the law believe that this “is destined not only to control and intimidate artists and creators from various branches of the national culture, but also in the private business sector, to impede a natural and organic relationship inside the different spheres of Cuban society.” In addition, they believe that it “threatens with legal warnings, fines, and seizures of equipment or property used as a platform for the creation and dissemination of independent works.”

The decree grants to the “supervisor-inspector,” they emphasize, the authority to suspend immediately any performance or show that he understands to violate the law, having the ability to go to the extreme of canceling the self-employment license to practice work.

“We understand exactly that any nation in the world must regulate its internal activities, receive taxes if those become lucrative, just as they must safeguard internal order and peace,” point out the artists. However, in their view it is “inadmissable to accept the existence of a confusion of laws” that only aims to control the artistic sector and “punish it for its independent expression and action.”

The group of artists believes that the “only logical aim” this law appears to have is to maintain “the ideological primacy in a highly centralized state.”

Some of the artists complain that the official press has tried to distort the intention and origin of the campaign against Decree 349 and clarify that they are only asking institutions to listen to them and that they are not calling for “either neither anarchy nor confrontation.”

However, they maintain that these laws and rules are impossible to comply with because “they don’t adjust to the national reality at the present time” and because they are “abusive, disproportionate, and they violate international norms and agreements.” For this they direct their proclamation “to all men and women of good will” and invite their support.

“We are determined to come together as a group to begin a collection of sociocultural actions like this as calls for international attention to halt the imposition of a complex of laws that insults all Cubans,” they state.

On more than one occasion this group has suffered political repression for trying to carry out public acts to support and defend their campaign against the decree. On August 11 various artists who wanted to participate in a concert at the MAPI venue suffered the repression of police who showed up at the place along with officials from State Security to stop the action. On that day, which ended with the detention of several of the artists, neighbors from the San Isidro neighborhood went out to the street to condemn the conduct of those in uniform.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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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 Artists Arrested Protesting in Front of the Capitol Against Decree 349

Left: Yanelys Núñez, after covering her body with excrement as a protest for the new controls on cultural diffusion. Right: The moment of the arrest of the other participants. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.  continue reading



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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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.