‘The Cuban Government is Slowly Assassinating’ Otero Alcántara in Prison

Otero Alcántara was declared a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2022 — Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has rejected the rights he has as a prisoner because he considers that he should not be one, according to art curator Claudia Genlui, who was able to speak with him in what he says was “his last call.”

“He called to communicate, briefly but firmly, that he is at the limit,” the activist wrote on her Facebook profile.

Genlui affirms that the artist and member of the San Isidro Movement, who has been in the Guanajay prison, Artemisa, for more than half a year, had hopes that the precautionary measure of provisional freedom that he requested last December would be accepted, but it was denied by the Prosecutor’s Office, which considers him to be a “social danger.”

“With the denial of this request, the regime demonstrates once again that its only intention is to humiliate him, to treat him like a criminal when he is not,” says Genlui, who warns that there will be no more opportunities to save the artist, who is at the limit. “He himself has said BASTA (sic. – ‘enough’),” she adds.

Otero Alcántara has refused, according to this information, to receive visitors, food and calls. “It’s over. He knows, like all of us, that being in prison is not a dignified option, that his freedom is being manipulated by State Security and that they are keeping him as a bargaining chip. The path that Luis Manuel has taken is not for that, he will only leave Cuba as a free citizen when he decides and with the ability to return when he wishes. That is a right,” says the art curator.

The negotiations for Otero Alcántara to be released have been going on for months, according to the artist and activist Tania Bruguera, speaking from the United States, where she is now living temporarily. Bruguera said in October that an attempt was being made to reach an agreement such as the one that led to the departure from Cuba of the artists Hamlet Lavastida and Katherine Bisquet, who went to Poland after being released from prison in exchange for their exile.

However, the stumbling block in this case, according to Bruguera, has been Otero Alcántara’s refusal to accept a release in exchange for leaving the country, a situation that also the case with the rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo.

“The Cuban government is slowly assassinating an artist who has only shown us light, who has built that hope to which we cling today. Now more than ever he needs us, trusts in us,” Genlui added in her post on Tuesday, in which she ensures that she will continue to report any news.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been in prison since July 11 and is accused of public disorder, incitement to commit a crime, and contempt. These crimes were charged to him when, in April 2021, he attended a birthday party in which the residents of the neighborhood where he resides ended up singing Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life). Although he was free pending trial, he was arrested and jailed on July 11 when protests began across the country. In 2019 he was also accused of “insulting national symbols” for a performance with a Cuban flag, although the case was dismissed in 2020.

The repression against Otero Alcántara that the State had exerted since 2018 hardened in November 2020, when he began a hunger and thirst strike together with several activists to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís. The action ended with the police raid on November 26 at the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement in Old Havana, where the members of the group were meeting, and the arrest of the 14 activists who were inside the building.

This event prompted the protest of a group of artists and intellectuals on November 27 at the entrance of the Ministry of Culture to ask the authorities of the sector for solutions. Two months later, the events led to a new dispute in which the officials ended up dealing blows to the protesters.

At the end of April, Otero Alcántara again declared a hunger and thirst strike to demand an end to the police siege outside his home. State Security entered his home at dawn and transferred him to the Calixto García hospital, where he remained for a month controlled by the security forces without explanation.

Last year, the American magazine Time named the artist one of the 100 most influential people of 2021.


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