Otero Alcantara Leaves Havana Hospital After a Month of Forced Confinement

Screen captures of a video that Otero Alcántara made when he left Havana’s Calixto García hospital this Monday. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 May 2021 — “I am relatively well, from a physical point of view but, emotionally, [I am] worried about all my brothers,” Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara told CubaNet Noticias shortly after leaving Calixto García Hospital. The artist announced that health “tests” will be carried out outside the “control of State Security.”

The chronology of what he has lived through in the last four weeks begins to become clear. After arriving at the hospital on May 2nd, he spent a week drinking fluids “so I could be aware of what was happening with me at that time” and “to be able to think,” as he arrived at the health center “despondent,” he clarifies.

“A week after I was there, once again I started my hunger and thirst fasting,” he said. About a week after, he called off the strike and stated that for about 15 days he has been eating again, and that he has also hydrated.

He also said that, before issuing opinions on everything that the political police have published about him during his imprisonment, he prefers to see all the videos that they leaked and what they have said about his family: “I want to see everything that is happening, get updated to be able to judge what went on.”

“A week after being there, once again I started my hunger and thirst fasting”

In relation to one of the videos where he seemed to be very thin and which caused concern among his friends, he insisted that he spent about eight days without eating and drinking water, and “of course, he was emaciated,” he said.

“All my friends have to be on the street. State Security had a meeting with me before leaving, they warned me of a thousand things, but my friends have to be on the street now… We are connected,” said the artist, referring to the phrase that has become his life motto.

Shortly before, a note from the Provincial Health Directorate had reported that the medical team treating him had decided to “have him discharged from the hospital today.” The official note added that “during his hospital stay, his progress has been favorable, with clinical and laboratory parameters that are all within normal ranges.”

In addition, the note specified that for several days he “has been on a free diet, which meets nutritional needs” and that this has allowed for “weight gain and requirements for recovery of his energy.”

Otero Alcántara’s family was putting pressure on health personnel to achieve this goal. The artist had been held in the hospital for 29 days without being able to communicate with his friends and was only seen through manipulated videos, which were released by State Security.

Family sources confirmed to 14ymedio that the health authorities of the hospital had communicated that this Monday they were going to discharge the artist. At first, the family assumed that Otero Alcántara was going to leave the medical center last Friday, however, “that did not happen.”

The artist had been held in the hospital for 29 days without being able to communicate with his friends and was only seen through manipulated videos

Relatives said they went to Calixto García Hospital but they did not discharge him and the doctors reported that they would do so this Monday. In addition, they insisted that the activist would not return to his home on Damas Street, in the San Isidro neighborhood, Old Havana municipality.

“When he gets hold of a phone, Luisito is going to tell everything that happened, he is going to denounce everything and he will continue to be a plantado (an uncooperative prisoner),” Enix Berrio, who is Otero Alcántara’s close friend, told 14ymedio.

Some family members, Berrio assures, are upset with the actions of State Security and the authorities, who “have manipulated” the situation “at will… Initially, personal experience led them to believe that they were going to help Luisito and that we are the bad guys, that we wanted to drag him to hell, but the family verified that the G2 is a string of manipulators and that they are affecting Luisito,” he admonished.

Otero Alcántara went on a hunger and thirst strike on April 25th to demand that his rights be respected, after a month of police siege to his home. The activist also demanded the return of his artistic works or compensation for those that were destroyed by the political police.

After several days of fasting, in the early morning of May 2nd, he was taken from his home against his will to the Calixto García Hospital.  During his stay at the hospital, he had no communication with his colleagues at the San Isidro Movement (MSI) and very little with his family.

In addition, a police cordon guarded the surroundings of the Havana hospital. Although at the time of his admission the authorities confirmed that he was being admitted due to “referred voluntary starvation,” a few hours later they leaked the results of an analysis that supposedly were his vitals and that described a good state of health, even suggesting that one of the values was high due to high consumption of meat.

The government’s propaganda apparatus has not stopped campaigning to discredit Otero Alcántara, accusing him of receiving instructions and financial support from abroad

 During all the time he was held at the Calixto García, the political police published several videos of the artist, possibly filmed without his consent. At all times they alleged that he was in good health, without giving explanations about the reasons for his hospitalization.

The government’s propaganda apparatus has not stopped campaigning to discredit Otero Alcántara, accusing him of receiving instructions and financial support from abroad, while international organizations have expressed concern over the kidnapping of the artist.

Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience” on May 21st and urged President Miguel Díaz-Canel to release him “immediately and unconditionally.” They also demanded that he should receive medical care of his choice, periodic visits from his family and friends, not be tortured or suffer any other type of mistreatment, and have access to lawyers of his choice.”

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC) insisted that it is prosecuting “as violent repressors… those people who are cooperating with State Security in inflicting temporary or irreversible damage to Otero Alcántara at the hospital.” The executive director of the NGO, Juan Antonio Blanco, noted that the Cuban regime has already used “corrupt doctors and nurses in the past to torture using electroshocks, drugs and other practices.”

Translated by Norma Whiting


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