14ymedio/ EFE, Washington/Madrid, 3 February 2022 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who had been held incommunicado since January 18, called his family on Wednesday. According to art curator Claudia Genlui in a Facebook post, the leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI) “is alive, but very weak and damaged.” The artist “maintains his hunger strike as well as all the demands that led him to such a drastic situation in recent days,” continues Genlui, who reports that he also maintains his position of “giving up the scarce resources he has as a prisoner: visits, calls, provisions.”
“He declares himself innocent and with the right to take, unconditionally, the decisions that concern him, for which he reiterates that the decisions to be able to travel are determined by him alone,” says the activist, alluding to possible negotiations that might culminate, as in the case of Hamlet Lavastida, in the release of Alcántara in exchange for exile. “Luis is a prisoner for being born, being and wanting to remain in Cuba,” says Genlui.
Also on Wednesday, the United States Government demanded the immediate release of the artist and dissident, denouncing that he was incommunicado and without access to his lawyer.
“The Cuban regime has held activist & dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara incommunicado since Jan. 18,” the administrator of the United States Agency for Development Cooperation (USAID), Samantha Power, wrote on Twitter.
“We urge our international partners to join us & demand his immediate freedom,” she added. Otero Alcántara began a hunger strike in the Guanajay prison in January approximately 20 days ago, according to the MSI.
The activist believes that the Cuban authorities are “keeping him as a bargaining chip” and looking for the right moment to release him if he leaves the country, something that he does not want to lend himself to.
He made this decision shortly after the prosecution rejected his request to change the precautionary measure that weighs on him, and to release him pending trial, after more than six months in preventive detention.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been in prison since July 11, before he was able to join the spontaneous anti-government protests of that day, 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. Although he was free pending trial, he was arrested and imprisoned 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.
He has previously carried out two significant hunger and thirst strikes. The first was in November 2020, to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís, and ended when the police stormed the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement, where he and other activists were gathered, arresting them and putting an end to the demand.
The second was at the end of April, to demand the end of the siege on 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.
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