El Sexto is Free! / Somos+

José Manuel Presol, 21 October 2015 — Yesterday we were thrilled to hear the news. Several media outlets have been in touch with the Cuban citizen, Danilo Maldonado Machado, and he himself confirmed it: He’s free and there are no charges!

Right now Danilo isn’t just any Cuban citizen. He’s known artistically as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), and he just spent 10 months as a prisoner. Ten months for having tried, only tried, to stage a public performance of his art, which someone considered offensive, and for which they detained and imprisoned him without charges. Ten months in a punishment cell, false promises of release and confronting injustice with the only weapon he had: a hunger strike.

Danilo, we repeat, isn’t just any Cuba citizen. He wasn’t in prison for releasing two pigs with the names Fidel and Raúl on their backs. He was in prison for defending his right of free expression. For defending my, your, our right of free expression. Everyone’s right of free expression.

But Danilo wasn’t alone. Hundreds, thousands of Cubans raised the protest inside and outside Cuba. They demanded freedom with their voices, their letters, the Internet, new technologies, with every means within reach. They got prestigious organizations like Amnesty International to join the petition for release and to name him as a prisoner of conscience.

Finally he’s free. We don’t deceive ourselves: Tomorrow he could still be detained for any reason. Also for any reason, he could be forced to leave Cuba. The tyranny continues, but there are four things we should keep in mind:

He obtained his freedom with words, formal protests, signatures by computer,  the cell phone, and he obtained it peacefully.

He obtained it through a common objective for many, very many, Cubans and, it is known, without the participation of any foreign government.

He obtained it through the strength, even though dispersed but every time more organized, of those thousands of Cubans.

For the first time we, with our struggle, have made the present Cuban Government surrender on something basic. Up to now we have obtained other surrenders: when the Mariel Boatlift crisis happened, during the Maleconazo, etc., but there always have been surrenders of the type, “Let the worms who want to leave go!” said Fidel. Now we got them to surrender, setting someone free inside Cuba, one of our brothers. They, the Marxists, know that this wasn’t a quantitative surrender; it was qualitative!

Can this be a turning point? Let’s hope so! Can this be a sign of weakness? Let’s hope so!

This won’t be the last battle, but it’s one we won. There will be many more. We’ll win some and lose some, but this shows us the path to follow: clear goals, demands through peaceful means, confrontation through words and without violence.

Let’s prepare ourselves since the battles are going to come, are coming, in days, weeks, months and decisive years. Change is nearer every time, but we must keep the words present that our companion, Joanna Columbié, reminded us of a short time ago in this same atmosphere, referring to our Proclamation of Independence on that tenth of October:

“Perhaps the blood we have to offer in this struggle isn’t physical, like that of others, but we also are ready to follow their example and obtain a triumph that, as Martí said, costs the same as all triumphs: “…blood, from the veins or from the soul.”

Translated by Regina Anavy