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News & Advocacy

"No justification" for persecution: International artists demand freedom for Cuban artists

December 8, 2021

In the last several months, the campaign of persecution and harassment against artists in Cuba has reached terrifying new levels. On July 11, after historic mass protests broke out across the country, police and security forces carried out arbitrary arrests and physical attacks against peaceful protesters, detaining more than 1,120 artists and creatives. At least 50 artists have been under house arrest, imprisoned, or criminal investigation in recent months.

Artists have been on the frontlines of the protest movement in Cuba for months, using their platforms to draw national and international attention to social and political inequities on the island. Now, over 300 prominent figures from the arts are calling on the Cuban government to immediately stop its abuses against Cuban artists in a powerful statement co-signed by PEN International, the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, and Human Rights Watch.

Signatories include Meryl Streep, Orhan Pamuk, Paul Auster, Elena Poniatowska, Isabel Allende, Jules Feiffer, and Khaled Hosseini, as well as notable Cuban artists, including Tania Bruguera, Coco Fusco, and Hamlet Lavastida.  

Our letter calls on the Cuban regime to respect the fundamental role that art and artists play in society, and immediately stop harassing artists for engaging in political and social critiques of the regime while exercising their right to creative expression.

Read the full text of the letter below.

Artists from around the world send this message to the Cuban government:


We, the undersigned artists—along with PEN International, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), and Human Rights Watch—call on the Cuban government to respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression, including artistic freedom, in Cuba. The Cuban government should immediately stop its unrelenting abuses against artists, release all arbitrarily detained artists, and drop all charges against them.

Art is powerful. Regardless of discipline, art allows us to reveal truths about our society and ourselves, promote dialogue, express our cultural identity, and bear witness to inhumanity. Artists can rally our communities and serve as a beacon of light amid darkness. It is because of the power of art that many governments, including the Cuban government, fear and condemn artists.

Cuban artists, including from the San Isidro, 27N, and Archipiélago movements, have drawn domestic and international attention to the Cuban government’s callous disregard for human rights, partially laying the foundation for the massive protests that erupted across the country on July 11, 2021. For years, these independent artists have organized peaceful demonstrations and increasingly used the internet to mobilize protests and report on abuses. For instance, the viral song “Motherland and Life” (Patria y Vida), which repurposes the Cuban government’s old slogan, “motherland or death” (patria o muerte) to criticize repression in the country, was later sung by demonstrators during protests.

In response, the Cuban government has systematically targeted Cuban artists, including, more recently, those who participated in the July 11 protests. Several dozen have reportedly been arrested, detained, or placed under house arrest. Several remain in detention and face bogus criminal charges. Others are under house arrest and subject to constant surveillance. Many others who fled the country have not been allowed to return and will remain in exile for the foreseeable future.

There is no justification for persecuting artists for peacefully expressing their views. We call on the Cuban government to respect the fundamental role that art and artists play in society and immediately stop harassing artists for engaging in political and social critiques that are not in line with the government’s rigid ideology.

Throwing artists in jail or exiling them from the country forever – in response to their art, words, and ideas – is abusive and inhumane. We stand proudly in solidarity with Cuban artists. Art should be free from censorship and repression, in Cuba and everywhere.


Jane Aaron

Héctor Abad Faciolince

José Luis Acevedo Daza

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ben Andoni

Folu Agoi

Ayad Akhtar

Shahidul Alam

José Antonio Albertini

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Masih Alinejad

Isabel Allende

Diane Alméras

Angélica Altuzar Constantino

Ileana Álvarez González

Asieh Amini

Carlos Anibal Alonso

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Marie Arana

Homero Aridjis

Salman Asif

Reza Aslan

Jessica Atal 

Fidaa Ataya

Paul Auster

Nadezda Azhgikhina

Asiel Babastro


Alec Baldwin

Jürgen Banscherus

Peter Barbey

Lee Bellavance Diamond

Gioconda Belli

Carlos Betancourt

Katherine Bisquet

Erling Borgen

Beatriz Bracher

Luis Brandoni

Nick Brandt

Marta Breen

Mogos Brhane

Roberto Briones

Roberto Brodsky

Tania Bruguera

Ahmed Burić

Romana Cacchioli

Lydia Cacho

Jennine Capó Crucet

Adriana Carranca

Jorge Castañeda

Iliana Cepero

Francisco Céspedes

Baltasar Cevc

Helena Chávez Mac Gregor

Suhyun Choi

Sandra Cisneros

Jorge Encinas Cladera

Jennifer Clement

Isabel Coixet

Sarah Cooper

Anton Corbijn

Armando Correa

Jeff Cowen

Ricardo Cravo Albin

Luis de la Paz

Maria del Pilar Clemente

Fanny del Rio

Enkel Demi

Jeanne Demuth

Denise Desautels

Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez

Reinier Diaz Vega

Nelson Dino

Ana Dipp

Jan J. Dominique

Theophilus Donoghue

Rita Dove

Christopher Durang

Gregorio Duvivier

Jennifer Egan

Kai Eide

Álvaro Enrigue

Louise Erdrich

Maria Eugenia Ayala

Lena Falkenhagen

Jules Feiffer

David Francis

Julia Franck

Jonathan Franzen

Julia Fullerton-Batten

Coco Fusco

Inga Gaile

Angye Gaona

Yunior Garcia Aguilera

Ivette Garcia González

Dominique Gaucher

Sylvia Geist

Cris Gera

Ulrike Gerold

Daniel Giménez-Cacho

Amber Ginsburg

Jorge Glem

Jacques Godbout

Susanne Goga

Francisco Goldman

Mónica Gómez

Adam Gopnik

Nina Gorfer

Eric Gottesman

Scarlett Hooft Graafland

Nicholas Griffin

Niall Griffiths

Lev Grossman

Jean-Louis Grosmaire

Wendy Guerra

Lars Gule

Agnete G. Haaland

Solomon Hailemariam

Jaime Hales

Signe Hammer

Daniel Handler

Wolfram Hänel

James Hannaham

Linda Hansen

Dennis Haskell

Tom Healy

Elke Heinemann

Georges Hélal

Elizabeth Hemmerdinger

Alban Nikolai Herbst

Ramón Hernández

Khaled Hosseini

Iman Humaydan

Tanya Huntington

Siri Hustvedt

David Henry Hwang

Tiina Itkonen

Bianca Jagger

Jeffrey James

Elisha July

Wanuri Kahiu

Kätlin Kaldmaa

Sofia Karim

Mary Karr

Entela Kasi

Lucina Kathmann

Nicholas Kawinga

Phil Klay

Hubert Klöpfer

José Kozer

Enrique Krauze

Ebo Krdum

Konstantin Küspert

Marco Kusumawijaya

Maira Landa

Ola Larsmo

Hamlet Lavastida

Eric Lax

Chang-rae Lee

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

Svenja Leiber

Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Levi

Luciana Levinton

Gwyneth Lewis

Christoph Links

John Lithgow

Julio Llopis

Aurora López Cancino

Jorge Mañes Rubio

Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Luis Alberto Mariño Fernández

Lesley Marshall

Émile Martel

Yann Martel

Sara Martinez Castro

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Michel Matos

Colum McCann

Jay McInerney

Layda Melián

Dinaw Mengestu

Claire Messud

Arno Rafael Minkkinen

Marta Minujin

Herman Mondaca Raitieri

Ricardo Montaner

Milena Montaño Cavero

Rosa Montero

Charles Montpetit

Rick Moody

Michel Mouffe

Silvanos Mudzvova

Paul Muldoon

Maximillia Muninzwa

Victor Muñoz

Besnik Mustafaj

Perumal Murugan

Azar Nafisi

Ahmed Naji

Toni Navarro

Ralf Nestmeyer

Hege Newth

Sylvie Nicolas

Lynn Nottage

Yanelys Núñez Leyva

Kurt Oesterle

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Nduko o'Matigere

Andrés Oppenheimer

Begoña Osés

Raquel Otheguy

Amaury Pacheco del Monte

Orhan Pamuk

Gregory Pardlo

Daniel Pedreira

Michel Perea Enriquez (Nonardo Perea)

Izet Perviz

Virginia Phiri

Juan Enrique Piedrabuena Ruiz-Tagle

Claudia Piñeiro

Robert Pinsky


Elena Poniatowska Amor

Antonio Prata

Ahmet Prenci

Francine Prose

Marilyn Pupo

Shwan Dler Qaradaki

Alicia Quiñones

Selma Raljevic

Sergio Ramirez

Alejandro Riaño

Elvira Rodriguez Puerto

Germán Rojas

Anamely Ramos

Claudia Rankine

Farvash Razav

Elif Refig

Molly Ringwald

Arturo Ripstein

Alix Ritchie

Romina Ressia

Kurt Roessler

Alexis Romay

José A. Ruano

Karina Sainz Borgo

Fakhri Saleh

Salomón Salcedo Baca

Arturo Sandoval

Francis Sánchez

Philippe Sands

Sandra Santana

John Ralston Saul

George Saunders

Simon Schama

Steve Schapiro

Stacy Schiff

Manfred Schlösser

Eugene Schoulgin

Torsten Schulz

Dread Scott

Alice Sebold

Daniel Seekersway

Gabriel Seisdedos

Tanya Selvaratnam

Ingeborg Senneset

Oleg Sentsov

Enrique Serna

Oumar Farouk Sesay

Jan Schlegel

Kim Schwanhäuße

Helene Schmitz

Flamur Shala

Paata Shamugia

Omaid Sharifi

Guillermo Sheridan

Musa Sheriff

Gary Shteyngart

Jane Smiley

Kiki Smith

Bosco Sodi

Andrew Solomon

Burhan Sönmez

Chak Sopheap

Alec Soth

Vee Speers

Art Spiegelman

Cornelia Springer

Kjersti Løken Stavrum

Richard Stengel

Siri Stolt-Nielsen

Tom Stoppard

Michi Strausfeld

Meryl Streep

Rose Styron

Dariel Suárez

Aatish Taseer

Elma Tataragic

Rae Marie Taylor

Jennifer Teo

Danielle Thibault

Ma Thida

Colm Toibin

Mauricio Tolosa

Carles Torner

Edmundo Torrejón Jurado

Daniel Torres Rodriguez

Julie Trébault 

Calvin Trillin

Salil Tripathi

Margarita Trushina

Tanja Tuma

Scott Turow

Anne Tyler

Kanchana Ugbabe

Luis Alberto Urrea

Alexis Valdés

Mario Vargas Llosa

Carlos Vásconez

Astrid Vehstedt

Burkhart Veigel

Oscar Vela

Leni Velasco

Xavier Velasco

Regula Venske

Mélissa Verreault

Lia Villares

Félix Villeneuve

Ayelet Waldman

Per Wästberg

Peter Wawerzinek

Jacob Weisberg

Catrina Wessels

Tara Westover

Herbert Wiesner

Tobias Wolff

Kacey Wong


Gabriel Zaid

Moisés Zamora

Our apologies for the missing accent over the "i," we are working on this issue. / Nuestras disculpas por la falta de acento en la "i", estamos trabajando en este asunto.

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