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Global Statistics

All countries
101,483,628
Confirmed
Updated on January 28, 2021 4:17 am
All countries
73,169,759
Recovered
Updated on January 28, 2021 4:17 am
All countries
2,185,413
Deaths
Updated on January 28, 2021 4:17 am

After freedom protest and hunger strike, Cuban artist detained by police in Havana

Less than 24 hours after being released from a Havana hospital where he remained under surveillance, the police on Wednesday briefly detained artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. The artist, along with other members of the San Isidro Movement, staged an unprecedented protest that led hundreds of young people advocating for greater freedoms on the communist island.
Art curator Claudia Genlui, the artist’s girlfriend, was also detained, according to a video she posted on Facebook seconds before the arrest.
“At the moment, Luis Manuel is being detained again. The truce is once again broken,” Genlui said before an Interior Ministry official asked her to accompany her and snatched her phone, the video shows.
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In an interview with the Miami Herald in the afternoon, Otero Alcántara confirmed that he was detained while trying to leave the house where he had spent the night and was finally dropped at his grandmother’s house, under orders not to leave. Other members of the San Isidro Movement, started more than two years ago to denounce the lack of freedom for artists on the island, are also under a kind of house arrest, he added.
Otero Alcántara and other members of the San Isidro Movement began a hunger strike to protest the conviction of one of the group’s members, rapper Denis Solís, accused of contempt of the authorities.
On Thursday night, Interior Ministry agents arrested Otero Alcántara and a dozen artists, writers, journalists, and academics. Most were freed shortly after, but he was taken to a police station and transferred the next day to the Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana, where he remained under surveillance until Tuesday night when he was released after ending the hunger strike.
“The most difficult thing during the hunger and thirst strike, beyond the physical condition, is the feeling of impotence,” said Otero Alcántara, who has starred in several artistic performances criticizing the island’s government. “But at the same time, people have faith in that body and in the physical actions that the body does, which is the performance, the art, my discourse.”
The artist said he abandoned the strike in part because of the reaction it had elicited among young Cubans. The arrest of the group’s members last Thursday sparked an unprecedented public protest by young artists who gathered outside the Ministry of Culture on Friday demanding an end to the harassment of independent artists and greater freedom of expression for citizens.
“When you raise your head, you realize that there are many people around you, who love you, see themselves in you, and are recovering the desire to dream for a free Cuba,” he said. “Those people who were willing to be beaten, to risk their families gave me the breath of life I needed to continue fighting and to generating creative work to overthrow the system.”
Otero Alcántara said he believed the country was heading for political change.
“I see that the conditions for changes in Cuba are ready; in fact, we are at the center of the changes,” he said from Havana. “We want to see these big changes, and for the regime to change the next day, but those three or five hundred people who gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture and the fact they [the authorities] had to take out all their repressive arsenal during these days, already shows that the regime is changing.”
“My generation can no longer bear this reality, and this regime is breaking down,” he added.
The young artists who met with representatives of the Ministry of Culture on Friday night believed they came out of the meeting with an agreement on greater protections for freedom of expression for independent artists and a commitment to review the Solís case. The officials promised a meeting with the Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso.
But the government publicly rejected the dialogue proposal and presented the internal demands as part of a plot orchestrated by the United States government and Cuban exiles in Miami, a subject to which state television has dedicated several programs.
On Tuesday night, the prime time news show aired a video attempting to link Solis with Cuban exiles accused by the Cuban government of committing alleged terrorist acts. As examples of terrorism, the segment cites painting anti-government slogans, civil “acts of disobedience,” and alleged acts of sabotage that had not been made public until now. The video was produced by Razones de Cuba, a website linked to State Security that frequently publishes content against dissidents and opponents of the government.
The video does not provide evidence that Solís committed any violent act, and the rapper was not charged with terrorism. The San Isidro Movement promotes peaceful methods and uses the arts and poetry to question government policies.
In a political event organized over the weekend, Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the Trump administration for the protests. He said that in Cuba, the dialogue was only for those advocating for “socialism, for the revolution.”
On his Twitter account, Alonso echoed those accusations. He shared an image in which U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and several U.S. diplomats are identified as the “fathers” of the “San Isidro farce.”
“San Isidro, an imperial reality show act. The so-called MSI [the acronym of the San Isidro Movement] is an act of the reality show that Donald Trump turned his presidency into,” Alonso wrote.
Otero Alcántara rejected those accusations and insisted on demanding compliance with due process in the Solís case.
“We live in a totalitarian regime that violates our rights, and they have control of the information. One is like a sheet of paper: they write on top of you, crush you, crinkle you. The only thing one has is the capital earned from friends, my art, that relationship with my generation, and this is the only thing that can save us from all the insults and lies that the regime tells about us,” he said.
“We live in a dictatorship. Who can believe in the regime when it abuses you?”
MIAMI HERALD

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