14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 4 December 2020 – Cuba’s Ministry of Culture announced this Friday in an official note that it will not meet with the artists who, on 27 November, Vice Minister Fernando Rojas promised to open a dialogue with, arguing “that they have direct contact and receive financing, logistical support and propaganda backing from the United States Government and its officials.” Nor will the ministry, he says, speak “with the media financed by US federal agencies.”
Thus, the Government has unilaterally broken the agreements it had reached with the artists, who are now being called by the name “27N” (i.e., 27 November), after a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of Culture demanded to meet with the minister and was finally able to meet with the vice minister.
In its statement, the ministry does not recognize the reasons that led the group to raise the conditions and point out that it lacks “legitimacy and ethics” to address the institutions of Cuban culture.
The conditions were drafted and agreed upon after several debates between some of the 30 artists and intellectuals who participated in the 27N meeting, as a result, they explained, of the “persecution, harassment and criminalization” directed from the Government towards the participants of that meeting.
Among the conditions, 27N asks for “guarantees of security and protection” for those who are going to attend the meeting and “for those who want to be outside.”
In their document, sent to the Ministry of Culture by email, according to the official statement, the artists emphasized that the list of representatives sent to the Ministry is made up of people who were democratically elected by the 27N protesters and that therefore their presence in the meeting “cannot be negotiable.”
Another of the requests they made was that the lawyer Julio A. Fernández Estrada accompany them as legal adviser at the meeting.
The group noted that, as the topics on the agenda “exceed the powers” of the Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso Grau, they requested the presence of President Miguel Díaz-Canel, as well as authorized representatives from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice.
However, they explained that since the “agreements were violated,” and that in many of the official media only Vice Minister Fernando Rojas’ version of the meeting appeared, “with no possibility of our replying in that media,” and so they insisted that the independent press be present at the meeting with the minister, to cover the meeting.
As a last condition, the group requested that at the end of the meeting a joint public statement be made outlining all the agreements that reached between both parties.
“We do not consider it pertinent to appear at the meeting until these guarantees have been publicly given,” the group concluded its conditions.
In its note this Friday, the Ministry of Culture argues that “those who implemented this maneuver” have broken the possibility of dialogue by “trying to include” in the group people “who have excluded themselves” by “their attacks on national symbols, common crimes and frontal attacks on the leadership of the Cuban Revolution, under the guise of art,” without specifying who they are referring to, but clearly alluding to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
In a text published by 27N this morning the group presented itself as a collection of “artists and intellectuals who are committed to demanding our rights through civic and peaceful means” with the aspiration of “an inclusive and democratic society.”
“We do not accept acts of violence or vandalism. We do not respond to the interests of foreign governments. We work solely to meet the demands of many Cuban intellectuals, artists and communicators to speak to the Ministry and the competent authorities,” they declare in response to the official media, which accused them of being in the service of the United States and of promoting violence with attacks on the newly constituted stores in Cuba that take payment only in foreign currencies through specially issued bank cards.
They also urge the national mass media “not to misrepresent the purpose of this negotiation, or hinder the necessary dialogue with half-truths and calls for discord.”
They ask the National Revolutionary Police and the Department of State Security of the Ministry of the Interior to “abide by the fulfillment of their function as guarantors of legality and to stop the persecution and harassment to which we are being subjected.”
Finally, they call on all Cubans, as well as the press and citizen voices, to stand with them at this time.
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