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News & Advocacy

Cuban Artists Lead Protest Against Decree 349

Despite months of protests from artists, intellectuals, and activists, the Cuban government went ahead and allowed the new Decree 349 to go in effect on December 7, 2018. This new measure places severe restrictions on cultural activity that is not previously authorized by the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture has defended its decision to enact the Decree 349 notwithstanding heavy criticisms, saying the enforcement will be gradual and that it will announce additional regulations.

Independent and state-recognized artists alike have expressed strong concerns about the measure as soon as the decree was announced. Although the decree was signed by the new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez on on April 10, 2018, it was not published until July 10. It was shared on the Gaceta Oficial, a newspaper Cubans have difficulty accessing on the internet and even more trouble finding in print. Artists like Coco Fusco, Tania Bruguera, Yanelys Nuñez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, founders of Museo de la Disidencia have raised their voices against this decree that they believe would limit free expression and affect independent artists. Protesting artists have caught the attention of both national and international media by issuing a manifesto in Havana denouncing government censorship, organizing a series of protests and public performances, producing a protest music video, and gathering signatures for an open letter to President Díaz-Canel and Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso.

The Ministry of Culture has repeatedly defended itself saying that it has provided ample public information on the decree and many avenues to debate it. However, most discussion hosted by the government have been limited to state-recognized artists. Meanwhile, independent artists have faced rejection and repression. In the months prior to the enactment of the decree, artists protesting have been repeatedly detained. Some have continued to protest the government’s actions under detainment. For instance, the imprisoned rappers Maykel Castillo Pérez (aka El Obsorbo) and Lázaro Leonardo Rodríguez Betancourt (aka Pupito En Sy) went on a hunger strike.

On December 3, artists Tania Bruguera, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos and his wife Sandor Pérez Pita, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Amaury Pacheco Omni Poeta, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, Veronica Perez Vega, Miguel Yasser Castellano, Javier Moreno, and Adonis Milan were arrested as they were heading to a pacific gathering in protest of Decree 349. PEN America released a statement.

ARC and PEN America remain concerned about the harmful effects Decree 349 will have on creative expression and the rights of all artists in Cuba to free expression and opinion. We call for Cuban authorities to cease all harassment of artists critical of the decree and to release all artists currently detained for protesting Decree 349.

You can join us in this action by clicking the button above to share our tweet or by creating your tweet in support of the campaign using the hashtags #NoAlDecreto349 and #ArtIsNotACrime and tagging @AtRiskArtists.

On August 11, 2018, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was detained alongside journalist Yania Suarez, Yanelys Núñez, Michel Matos y Yasser Castellanos for organizing a concert against Decreto 349 without a permit. Image courtesy Yanelyz Nuñez Leyva

English Translation of Decree 349

DECREE No. 349/2018

WHEREAS: it is necessary to update the provisions of Decree No. 226
"Personal violations of the regulations governing the provision of artistic services," of 29 October 1997, and thereby establish the violations with regard to cultural politics, the provision of artistic services and different artistic manifestations, to determine the applicable measures, to define the authority to impose them and the ways to resolve the disagreements that arise.

THEREFORE: The Council of Ministers, in the exercise of the powers that are conferred in subparagraph (k) of article 98 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, hereby decrees the following:

CHAPTER I: Violations of Cultural Policy Regulations with regards to the Provision of Artistic Services

ARTICLE 1. Regarding cultural policy and the provision of the full range of artistic services established by the Ministry of Culture, conduct infringing upon the enforceable norms and provisions will be considered a violation of this Decree.  

CHAPTER II: Regarding Violations

ARTICLE 2.1. In the offering of artistic services, the following conduct shall be considered a violation:
a) he who approves or permits the realization of artistic services or the use of his equipment or facilities or those associated with the authorized commercial activity, without those artistic services having been approved and contracted by the cultural institution that authorizes the provision of said services.
b) he who realizes or permits the payment to an artist or an artist collective, without those services having been contracted by the cultural institution that authorizes the offering of these services;
c) he who as an individual artist or acting on behalf of a collective to which he belongs, offers artistic services without authorization from the entity designated to permit such activity;
d) he who, without authorization from the entity to which the artist or artist collective belongs, acts as a representative of that entity;
e) he who offers artistic services without being authorized to engage in artistic labor by means of an artistic job or occupation.

ARTICLE 2.2. The conduct referred to in subparagraphs a), b) and c) is considered to be very serious and those referred to in d) and e) are considered serious.

ARTICLE 3.1. It is considered a violation when a natural or juridical person, in the use of audiovisual media, exhibits content with:
a) the use of patriotic symbols that violates current laws;
b) pornography;
c) violence;
d) sexist, vulgar or obscene language;
e) discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other prejudice against human dignity;
f) anything detrimental to the development of children and adolescents; and
g) anything that violates the legal provisions that regulate the normal development of our society in cultural matters.

ARTICLE 3.2. The conduct outlined in the preceding paragraph is considered to be very serious.

ARTICLE 4.1. Similarly, when a natural or juridical person engages in the following conduct it will be considered a violation:
a) distributes music or carries out artistic presentations that generate violence through sexist, discriminatory, vulgar or obscene language;
b) establishes spaces for the sale of fine art without the required authorization, or without being registered with the Registry of Fine Art and Applied Art Creators;
c) does not use the established contracts for the artistic presentations;
d) does not comply with the required contracts in relation to the regulation of sound levels in the performance of live shows or activities of any other kind;
e) does not comply with rules regarding author's rights;
f) sells books with content that is prejudicial to ethical and cultural values; and
g) exceeds permitted sound and noise levels or uses electrical and other equipment abusively.

ARTICLE 4.2. The violations set out in points a), b), c) and f) of the last section are considered very serious and those outlines in point d), e) and g) are considered serious.

CHAPTER III: About the Measures

ARTICLE 5.1. The following measures will be applied in response to committing violations outlined in this Decree:
a) penalty;
b) fine; and
c) seizure of instruments, equipment, accessories and other goods.

ARTICLE 5.2. Together with the measures imposed for violations committed, the empowered authorities may:
a) immediately suspend the spectacle or projection in question; and
b) propose the cancellation of the authorization to engage in artistic work on a freelance basis.

ARTICLE 6.1. To determine the measure to be imposed, the empowered authority will abide by classifications of conduct outlined in this decree and the impact of each.

ARTICLE 6.2. If the infraction committed has been classified as serious, the fine imposed will be 1000 Cuban pesos and if the infraction is classified as very serious the fine will be two thousand pesos.

ARTICLE 6.3. Seizures can take place independently of or together with the imposition of fines, depending on the seriousness of the infraction.

ARTICLE 6.4. The penalty may be used exceptionally in cases of conduct that, irrespective of their classification in this Decree, the authorities determine that despite the political and cultural impact, even if they have some of the elements described in articles 2 and 4, they may not merit a more severe measure.

ARTICLE 7. The empowered authority that determines a violation and proves additionally that in the period of one year the same person has committed more than one violation as defined by this Decree or that that person has been fined will consider that person a recidivist and will impose a double fine and classify the violation as very serious.

CHAPTER IV: Empowered Authorities for the Imposition of Measures and the Resolution of Appeals

ARTICLE 8. The authorities empowered to inspect, to be cognizant of the violations represented in this Decree and to impose proper measures are the supervisor-inspectors designated by the corresponding authority of the Ministry of Culture, as well as the inspectors that are approved by the provincial directors of the special municipality of the Isle of Youth of Culture.

ARTICLE 9. The person upon who is imposed on one of the measures in this Decree may appeal in writing within ten days of being notified of the measure.

ARTICLE 10.1. The empowered administrative authority for recognizing and resolving appeals is:
a. the Ministry of Culture, for the cases in which the measures are imposed by the supervisor-inspector; and
b. the provincial directors and the director of the special municipality of the Isle of Youth of Culture, when the measure is imposed by an inspector in that area.

ARTICLE 10.2. The authority should resolve the appeal within 30 days of receiving it, by means of a Resolution. The adopted decision cannot be appealed administratively through any other means.

ARTICLE 11. The instruments, equipment, accessories and other goods subject to seizure will remain in the custody of the empowered authorities; once ten days have passed after the resolution of an appeal, if the appeal decision is in favor of the appellant, the seized goods will be returned; if not, the seized goods will be turned over to the corresponding representative responsible for the artistic endeavor. If there is no appeal, the seized goods will be turned over to the aforementioned authority.

CHAPTER V: Responsibilities of the Supervisor-Inspector or Inspector

ARTICLE 12.1. The supervisor-inspector or inspector that suspends a spectacle or an artistic presentation when a violation is proven to have occurred, and the circumstances call for intervention, in addition to imposing measures, should make a request to the corresponding institution, the provincial director of culture or the special municipality of the Isle of Youth, that it provides for the definitive suspension of the spectacle or artistic presentation in question.

ARTICLE 12.2. If the supervisor-inspector or inspector that requests the suspension of a spectacle or artistic presentation considers that the authorization to engage in such activities on a freelance basis should be nullified, he should write a report about the causes for the proposal of this nullification within 72 hours, and that report should be endorsed by his boss and presented to the appropriate authorities.

ARTICLE 13. In all cases, the applied measures will be made known to the highest authorities of the business entity that the violator has a relationship with. The application of disciplinary measures will also be made known.

Final Provisions

FIRST: The Ministry of Culture is authorized to determine complementary provisions needed to comply with the terms of this Decree,
SECOND: Decree No. 226 "Personal contraventions of the regulations on the provision of artistic services," of 29 October 1997, is hereby repealed.
THIRD: This decree enters into force from one hundred and fifty days after the date of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba.

PUBLISHED in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba.

STATED in the Palace of the Revolution, in Havana, at 20 days of April of 2018.

Miguel Diaz - Canel Bermúdez President of the Council of State and Ministers

A special thank to Coco Fusco for the translation of this decree to English.

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