14ymedio, Havana, 3 December 2018 — At least three activists were arrested on Monday outside Cuba’s Ministry of Culture when they tried to protest against the enactment of Decree 349, which places strict limits on artists and the diffusion of art. Tania Bruguera, Michel Matos and Amaury Pacheco have been arrested, so far, although the figure could increase in the next few hours, according to actress and activist Iris Ruiz who spoke with 14ymedio.
The well-known artist Tania Bruguera was arrested at her home in Old Havana, while Michel Matos and Amaury Pacheco were arrested outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture in Havana, when they tried to participate in a call for a sit-in against the new regulations that will go into effect on December 7.
Bruguera had time to make a call when she was arrested, while the artists Yasser Castellanos and Verónica Vega, also involved in the protest, were prevented from leaving their home by several uniformed officiers, Ruiz said.
The whereabouts of Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara are unknown; they had agreed to call Ruiz at a specified time, but their phones are not shut off.
“Michel Matos, Tania Bruguera, Amaury Pacheco and Luis Manuel Otero had agreed to go on a hunger and thirst strike in the event that they were arrested,” Iris Ruiz explained to this newspaper. She also detailed that “the agreement was made in [the neighborhood of] San Isidro,” in Havana, where the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art is located, and that “the idea is to maintain [the strike] until they can meet with a representative of the Government who confirms the repeal of Decree 349.”
As a condition for abandoing the fast, the protesters also demand that the authorities publish “a public commitment to retract the measure in the media and social networks.”
The campaign against Decree 349 was set out last September in the San Isidro Manifesto, with which the movement sought to augment its actions to denounce the regulation of artistic performances. The campaign involves musicians, artists and writers. Amnesty International said last August that Decree 349 “augurs a dystopian artistic world in Cuba.” Similarly, the United States Government reacted to this situation by stating that “Under decree 349, artists suffer the indignation of having to obtain authorization to express themselves,” according to a tweet from the State Department.
Those who criticize the promulgation of Decree 349 regret that in all cases the artists must have prior authorization from the cultural institution with which they will be compulsorily affiliated in order to carry out presentations, which directly affects those who work outside of these state entities. The content of the presentations and artistic works will also be regulated.
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