14ymedio, 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 Estornudo. In the interview, recorded early this Saturday morning, the artist acknowledges that being locked in a prison has been a “shocking” experience.
“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.
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.