Los Van Van, Chucho Valdés, Leo Brouwer and Other Cuban Artists Take ‘The People’s Side’

Cuban musician and producer Leo Brower. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid | 14 July 2021 — Voices of international Cuban artists, critical of the repression unleashed by the regime since Sunday’s protests, are multiplying. Among them are those of figures formerly related to the regime, and those of figures who have been very prudent in expressing their political opinion are striking, for example the musicians Leo Brouwer and Chucho Valdés, who signed a letter in 2003 justifying the execution of three young people for hijacking a ferry in an attempt to leave the country.

“The abuse of power has reached such sadness and pain!” Brouwer writes on Facebook. “I never imagined that the sectors in charge of order in Cuba would attack the ordinary and peaceful people of Cuba. When Cubans protest, there is no doubt that politics, or rather, political and military power, has been exceeded”, and he asks: “How can they live in peace?”

The members of the famous Van Van orchestra also spoke via social networks. “Cuba’s Van Van exists thanks to our people; therefore, we will always support the people, whoever they are, whatever they think, defend the ideology they defend, always with the utmost respect”, they publish. “We support the thousands of Cubans who demand their rights, we must be heard. Let’s say “no” to violence and outrage, let’s call for peace in our streets.”

“I am very saddened by what my people are suffering, including my family”, Valdés wrote in his official networks. “Enough of deceit and lies! International humanitarian aid is essential”

Chucho Valdés and Haydée Milanés spoke in the same sense. “I am very saddened by what my people are suffering, including my family,” Valdés wrote on his official networks. “Enough of deceit and lies! International humanitarian aid is essential”.

Milanés, who sided with artists who on November 27th achieved, in a peaceful demonstration, dialogue with the Vice Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, stated on Monday that the Cuban people “have peacefully taken to the streets with their demands” and that the Government has “the obligation to listen to them”. It is inadmissible, he asserted, “that the authorities are calling for a confrontation among Cubans. Enough of the repression, enough of the violence!”

Singer Leoni Torres, who had already spoken out in favor of Sunday’s protests and released a video clip with Willy Chirino last month, made a live broadcast from Havana on Tuesday, with his wife, actress Yuliet Cruz, condemning “the violence unleashed by the Government of Cuba against its people”. “There is no justification,” Cruz declares, “all this could have been avoided”. “You cannot repress people who are asking to be heard”, the actress continued. “They have their total and legitimate right to state what they don’t want, and it’s the rulers’ duty to listen and respond to that demand”.

Torres adds: “Fostering a civil war among Cubans is not the way. That was the worst decision the rulers could have made”.

Other musicians, who until now had never spoken out, are Pupy Pedroso, Elito Revé or Adalberto Álvarez.

Yunior García Aguilera, one of those arrested last Sunday, made public his resignation as a member of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists

“With pain and indignation, I see how my people are mistreated,” Pedroso wrote, “just for disagreeing with what they do not want, just for protesting”. And he expressed: “My people, I am on your side”.

Revé, for his part, stated that “violence is the incompetent’s last resort”. “Say no to violence against my people, brothers, friends, public and family”.

“It is impossible to remain silent about everything that is happening in our country”, said Álvarez. “The blows and the images I see of violence against people that go out to the streets to express peacefully what they feel, hurt me … The streets of Cuba belong to Cubans”, he argued. “To these people I owe what I am today and I do not care about anyone’s way of thinking” because “beyond political thought is the human right”.

Artist Lázaro Saavedra has gone further and, in a video comment that he shared on Monday, in which officers, dressed in uniform and civilian clothes, are observed attacking with sticks an individual who is defending a young man. He stands: ” I will no longer exhibit in any State institution in this country, and I am canceling my personal exhibition with my children for this year at Galería Habana”. There is no justification, says the artist among exclamations, “for this excessive use of force against civilians and particularly with the intervention of special troops.”

Similarly, playwright Yunior García Aguilera, one of those arrested last Sunday, announced his resignation as a member of the Union of Writers and Cuban Artists (UNEAC). “I cannot continue to belong to an organization that turns its back on a considerable part of the population, and chooses to show obedience to an abusive power. I cannot remain in a choir that sings praises to those who ordered the repression against young people and battle against Cubans. I cannot be part of a group of artists and intellectuals who have preferred silence or complicity”, García wrote on his Facebook page.

On Wednesday, popular comedian Ulises Toirac stated that the Cuban government “has taken the path of repression and has closed itself off from any possibility of understanding”. “I cannot support the people’s claims be answered with violence. It is not a people’s government that beats and subdues. I beg the forces of power not to comply with orders of unjustified violence. They are facing their relatives, their friends, those that they swore to defend”, he said.

Carlos Acosta, an outstanding dancer and choreographer, joined the expressions of support for Cubans who took to the streets this Sunday: “I am absolutely opposed to all kinds of violence and all kinds of intolerances. It is not a crime to want to be heard, it is not a crime to aspire and want a better country. Cuba deserves to reach maximum capacity in its development. The people need to be heard. A better future is possible for everyone, but in order to achieve it, we must know how to listen and live with our differences. In this, I trust and believe”.

“To be aired live in Spain, I hold the Government responsible for anything that may happen to me”

So far, there are no official deaths, injuries, or arrest figures. The Government has only acknowledged one deceased so far, a 36-year-old man who participated in a protest on Monday in the marginal neighborhood of La Güinera, in Havana. Civil organizations estimate about 5,000 arrested or investigated since July 11th, including 120 activists and journalists.

One of the arrests could be seen by Spaniards, live on open television this Tuesday. The well-known Cuban YouTuber Dina Stars, who had published a video of her participation in a peaceful demonstration in Havana on Sunday, was in an interview with the program Todo es Mentira, on channel four, when State Security agents broke into her home to take her to the Zapata and C station, according to the promoter. “Spain Live, I hold the Government responsible for anything that may happen to me”, she said, before having to cut off the communication.

According to Efe news agency, Edy Suárez, who witnessed the arrest, he and other friends went to the central station to inquire about the young woman’s whereabouts, but the agents explained that she had been transferred to another detention center several kilometers away, east of Havana.

“We don’t know her whereabouts. We are concerned”, Suárez told Efe, who hopes “that Dina’s example will help people show solidarity with other missing Cubans who were arrested on Sunday and whose whereabouts are unknown”.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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