14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 30 November 2020 — Three of the five agreements reached on November 27 between independent artists and cultural authorities — beginning with the release of the young rapper Denis Solís, sentenced to eight months in jail for alleged contempt — did not last 24 hours, Tania Bruguera denounced in a press conference called this Sunday at the headquarters of the Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism (Instar), which she directs.
Bruguera, who accompanied some thirty artists in a meeting of more than four hours with the Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas, harshly criticized National Television for focusing on discrediting the San Isidro Movement and Denis Solís with alleged links to “terrorist” and “counterrevolutionaries.” In that “special program” they interviewed Vice Minister Rojas, who acknowledged that “it is not usual for us to have to react to a request formulated in this way.”
“There are police in the homes of artists, journalists and art critics,” Tania Bruguera told 14ymedio. “Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was in a hospital against his will, after he asked to go home. In addition, Fernando Rojas gave a distorted image of what happened at the meeting. Conclusion: in less than 24 hours they broke the agreements.”
Bruguera denounced that Rojas promised them that the government would not “defame and criminalize” the artists, and yet they were branded “mercenaries” in the media. Regarding the case of Denis Solís, the artist said that in the meeting with the vice minister “he was not asked to explain the legal processes of the country,” in reference to the long part of the official program dedicated to “due process,” “but to use his influence and power to intervene in [Solís’s] liberation.”
The artists present at the press conference called for an end to the repression and discrediting of the San Isidro Movement and demanded freedom of expression and association not only for themselves but for all citizens.
The filmmaker Gretel Medina told this newspaper that the demands they expressed “were not met” at the meeting but what happened “was unprecedented” and she considers that the first achievement of that day “was the union.”
“All of us who were before these officials agree, in one way or another, on the need to respect the right for every citizen, whether they belong to the creative community or not, to say what they think without fear of being repressed by State Security,” declared the visual artist Julio Llopiz-Casal.
Bruguera stressed that to decide the next steps, everyone’s opinions must be taken into account, because it is a heterogeneous group that is not only made up of the 30 participants in the meeting with the vice minister, but also others such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Anamely Ramos, who could not be there: Alcántara because he is hospitalized against his will and Ramos because of a police operation that prevents her from leaving her house.
Rapper Maykel Castillo ’Osorbo’, also under police surveillance, remains on a hunger strike and is in a “very delicate condition,” according to a statement from the San Isidro Movement on Sunday.
In the document, they note that on Saturday Iris Ruiz, Katherine Bisquet, Claudia Genlui, Michel Matos, Yasser Castellanos and Amaury Pacheco were detained for a few hours, when they left a visit to Maykel Castillo, and they ask that the “authoritarian opportunism be stopped in the context of the pandemic to avoid possible contagion as an excuse to isolate the members of this organization.”
In addition, they list other specific requests, among them, that “the Catholic Church” can visit Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara at the Fajardo hospital to “provide him with emotional support” and that “medical personnel proposed by the San Isidro Movement can verify the state of Maykel Castillo’s health.”
The group asserts that they distance themselves from “any violent act that is occurring or may be generated,” and urge the international community to continue “vigilant over the physical integrity of all members of this organization, other artists and activists determined to vindicate our rights to live in a country of freedoms.”
More than 70 students, graduates and former professors of the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) delivered a letter to the dean’s office on Saturday in support of Anamely Ramos, who expressed thanks on her social networks for the gesture. “The courage of my students in a moment as hard as this is something that I am still processing,” she expressed on her Facebook wall.
Meanwhile, the collective continues to receive more support from the art world. Figures such as Haydée Milanés, Carlos Varela, Leoni Torres, Yuliet Cruz, Fernando Pérez, Jorge Perugorría have been joined by the musician Cimafunk, who said, in a post on his Facebook wall, he was “proud” of his colleagues “because they are using their voices, their words and their peaceful behavior to share with us their realities and their vision of prosperity, well-being, freedom and peace.”
The recognized Afro-Cuban artist explains that he is not in Cuba at the moment “for family and professional reasons,” but he feels represented by the artists who demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Culture on Friday, “and those who were not there for various reasons, but who have shown us support from wherever they are.”
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