14ymedio, Havana, 5 March 2020 — A group of artists, art and literature professionals, editors, journalists and intellectuals from Cuba and other nations signed a letter this week in support of the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who as of Wednesday had been detained for 72 hours. The summary trial will be held in less than ten days as revealed by members of the San Isidro collective to which the artist belongs.
“We want to clarify that Otero Alcantara has been the victim of a campaign of defamation and harassment orchestrated by the Cuban Government as part of its implementation of Decree 349,” reads the text.
The letter, which seeks to gather many more signatures through an online petition on the Avaaz.org platform, was released this Wednesday and has already been signed by artists such as Tania Bruguera, Coco Fusco, Heidi Hassan, Carlos Lechuga, Reynier Leyva Novo, Carlos Quintela, Magela Garcés or the art curator Solveig Font Martinez. Among the journalists who have supported the Otero Alcantara are, among others, Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Mónica Baró and Luz Escobar.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is facing a penalty of two to five years in prison for the crimes for which he is being investigated: outrage toward the national symbols and damage to property. According to activist Michel Matos, also a member of the San Isidro Movement, the artist was transferred to the Valle Grande prison on Wednesday “under a precautionary measure.”
The letter denounces that Otero Alcántara has suffered “multiple forced disappearances and detentions without judicial supervision that are human rights violations” and the accusation of “property abuse,” has the purpose of allowing the artist to be treated “as a common criminal.”
The Movement refuses to participate in any attempt by the State to “persecute and defame Otero Alcántara for the sole fact of being an artist and claiming his rights,” since they believe that after his arrest there has been a strategy that fosters “terror within the artistic environment and civil society, in order to win the complicity and silence of Cuban artists.”
“We refuse to cooperate with police and judicial repression. We refuse to testify against Otero Alcantara as a person, as a citizen of civic conscience or as an artist. The persecution of Otero Alcantara affects us all as artists, as Cubans and as human beings who love freedom and who respect their colleagues. Free Luisma*!” they conclude.
The authorities arrested Otero Alcantara last Sunday afternoon to prevent him from attending the LGTBIQ ’kissing call’ protest before the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television for the censorship of a scene from the movie Love, Simon in which two men kissed.
During the arrest, curator Claudia Genlui was beaten by a police and thrown to the ground on the public street, according to testimony. She clarified to the agents that, with Otero Alcantara, they were going out to get food because the protest call had been canceled, but their explanation was not heard. In addition, her cell phone was searched without documentation or an authorization for the search.
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