14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 July 2021 — Several independent artists and journalists were detained this Wednesday by Cuban State Security agents to prevent them from carrying out a protest action in solidarity with the artist Hamlet Lavastida, who has been under arrest in Villa Marista since June 26th. The action proposed a sit-in in front of the National Museum of Fine Arts at one in the afternoon this Wednesday.
Artists Katherine Bisquet and Camila Lobón were arrested when they tried to leave their home in Centro Habana, while reporter Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho was arrested near the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Art historian Carolina Barrero was also arrested when leaving her home and she is still being held at the Infanta and Manglar unit, according to the testimony of Valdés Cocho.
“Camila Lobón and Katherine Bisquet Rodríguez are in the Zanja station. I could see them and we made the sign of freedom with our hands. They took me out of Zanja Street so that I wouldn’t be in the same place as them. In Infanta and Manglar I met Carolina Barrero, we were able to intertwine fingers despite a call for attention from the officers who were guarding her,” the reporter said in a post on Facebook after being released a few hours later.
Bisquet was the one who launched the call to protest, and the text reads: “We call on friends and colleagues to demand the release of Hamlet, taking the pertinent health-protective measures at a sit-in in front of the Museum of Cuban Art this Wednesday, July 7th at 1 pm. The acts of punishment and repression will continue as long as we give up the ground of our rights to the Government. Let’s come together to defend Hamlet, which is to defend ourselves, and defend ourselves as a community. Let us not abandon ourselves.”
The artist also explained that Lavastida’s relatives have not yet received the judicial resolution from the Prosecutor’s Office, a document without which it is impossible to hire the services of a lawyer.
In a short video shared by Lobón and Bisquet on their social networks, can be seen the moment when a State Security officer prevents them from leaving the house and asks two other officers to arrest them for not following his orders
Young actor Daniel Triana, the only person who could reach the proposed protest location, told 14ymedio that he was arrested at the entrance of the Museum, a few minutes after arriving and sitting down. They took him under arrest to the Infanta y Manglar station and released him after a few hours.
“I arrived and they took me within minutes, there was no one else. I saw a colleague go by, but he kept going, it seems that he was investigating. They did not show me a warning sign, only a person from the performing arts spoke to me who said that he was going to attend to me from now on,” says Triana.
In a short video shared by Lobón and Bisquet on their social networks, the moment can be seen when a State Security officer prevents them from leaving the house and asks two other officers to arrest them for not following his orders.
Katherine Bisquet is a poet who has published in Cuba such titles as Something Here Is Decomposing, from Editores Sur Collection, a volume that was mentioned in the Wolsan-Cuba Poetry Prize in 2013. Camila Lobón is a young visual artist who graduated in 2018 from the Arts University, former Higher Institute of Art (ISA) and is collaborator of the International Institute of Artivismo Hannah Arendt (Instar), founded by the artist Tania Bruguera.
Both are among the most visible faces of the last year in the defense of human rights in Cuba, especially after participating in the protest in front of the Ministry of Culture in November of last year which led to the creation of 27N.
Hamlet Lavastida arrived in Cuba from Germany on June 21st, after completing an artistic residency at the Berlin gallery Kunstlerhaus Bethanien. The young man had already completed his six days of regulatory Covid isolation in one of the centers set up by the Government when he was arrested.
He is accused of the crime of “instigation to commit a crime” that can carry from fines of between 100 and 300 quotas* (which can imply between 100 and 15,000 pesos) to imprisonment from three months to a year. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, PEN America or PEN International, as well as the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien have condemned Lavastida’s arrest and demanded his unconditional release.
*Translator’s note: The Cuban Penal Code sets fines in terms of “quotas” and in this way can change the amount of all fines simply by changing the amount of one “quota.”
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