14ymedio, Havana, 20 December 2017 — At least five artists have been released in recent hours after being detained by the police on Wednesday while trying to attend a performance at the independent art gallery El Círculo, as a part of the Endless Poetry Festival promoted by the Group Omni Zona Franca, which is celebrating the nineteenth edition of the event this year.
Among the people detained and later released are the artist Tania Bruguera, the actress Iris Ruiz, protagonist of the monologue entitled Psychosis that was going to be performed, Adonis Milan, director of the work, Amaury Pacheco and Yanelis Nuñez.
In statements to EFE, the Cuban regime opponent Rosa Maria Payá said that the whereabouts of the artists Lia Villares and Luis Manuel Otero were unknown. However, in a recent post on Otero’s Facebook page, Tania Bruguera reported that the activist is in “the 11th [police] unit in San Miguel.”
The presentation of Psycho was planned for this Wednesday night, based on a text by the British playwright Sarah Kane and under the direction of Cuban playwright Adonis Milán. The piece is one part of the concerts, talks and poetry readings making up the independent event.
From early hours “the whole gallery was surrounded” by the police, according to Milan, speaking via telephone with 14ymedio. The actress Iris Ruiz tried to access the premises but the officers and agents did not allow her to do so, and Lia Villares went down to clarify the situation. “In the end the two detainees were taken away in a patrol car,” confirmed the young director.
State Security agents surrounded the gallery and threatened those who remained inside the building. “Come out, we did not beat them, but we’re going to beat you,” the officers shouted, according to witnesses.
Hours earlier Milan and the plastic artist and curator of El Círculo Luis Trápaga, was “shoved” by police officers stationed in the vicinity while trying to enter the house-gallery, as reported to this newspaper.
At another time this week Milan was also blocked from entering the house to prevent his participation in the rehearsals for tonight.
El Círculo house-gallery has been subject, in recent months, to frequent operations by the police and State Security to prevent cultural activities ranging from film presentations to exhibitions and plays.
The most talked about incident occurred at the end of November when State Security blocked the premiere of the theater play The Enemies of the People, which only two people were able to attend. On that occasion, the police siege mounted around the gallery functioned as a method of pressure to intimidate the would-be audience members.
Under the motto “freedom, the helm towards poetry / poetry, the helm towards freedom” — verses from the recently deceased poet Juan Carlos Flores — the organizers of Endless Poetry seek to “create a space where poetry mixes with reality” and serves to know “where Cuban society is going.”
The members of the Omni Zona Franca group initially had their headquarters in the House of Culture in the Alamar neighborhood, east of Havana, but in 2009 they were evicted. Since then, most of them have had to deal with arbitrary arrests, threats and defamation campaigns launched from official institutions.
The Festival, which began as an alternative and independent event, has gone underground over the years, opting for venues in friends’ houses or in galleries far from the institutional circuit, as is the case of El Círculo.
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