14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2022 — Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, in jail since the protests on July 11, is in a “delicate state of health” after spending almost a month on hunger strike, art curator Claudia Genlui told 14ymedio.
“We had information from a person inside the prison that Luis Manuel is currently very weak and that he barely has the strength to speak,” said the member of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), which is led by Alcántara. “They have him in a cell with the rest of the detainees, he is very weak, we are all desperate. Let’s do something for him, let’s demand that the Cuban government release him,” warned Genlui.
An MSI statement published this Tuesday says that the strike began on January 18 and that it is the second he has carried out since he was imprisoned in the maximum security prison in Guanajay. The Movement explains that “they do not know how serious he is because the family has not been informed of anything” and that he does not know if a doctor “is watching him,” if he is in a punishment cell or if his body “is suffering irreversible damage.”
“What they do tell us is that he is very thin and that he can no longer speak. Luis needs us today more than ever,” adds the note, which also recalls that at the beginning of the month Alcántara managed to call a member from his family to tell them that he was alive but that he maintained the position of refusing food, visits or phone calls. “His demand is his immediate release.”
The MSI declares: “Luis does not want to die, nor does he want to be a martyr, he wants to live but in conditions of freedom, and for this reason he submits his body to this new strike. Prison is not an option for him. Nor is it for the dozens of strikers, who at this minute are plantados* against the regime.”
At the end of the statement, they called on civil society, the press and accredited diplomats on the island, the international community and the Cuban exile community to “show solidarity and concern” about the situation of Otero Alcántara. “We want and need living people to build the nation.”
For its part, the Government of the United States requested this Tuesday on its Twitter account the immediate release of Otero Alcántara and warned that he is being held in a maximum security prison “without formal charges or a trial date seven months after his arrest on July 11th (11J).”
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has become one of the most powerful voices of Cuban activism, art and opposition, Time magazine included him in its list of most influential people of 2021.
A victim of harassment and persecution by the political police since 2018, he has suffered dozens of arbitrary arrests without bowing down in his fight for freedom of expression in Cuba.
The repression against the artist intensified in November 2020, when several activists began a hunger strike to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís, until the police stormed the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement in Havana on the night of November 26 in Old Havana and arrested the 14 activists who were inside the building.
*Translator’s note: ‘Plantado’ — literally ’planted’ — is a term with a long history in Cuba which is used to describe a political prisoner who refuses to cooperate in any way with their incarceration.
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