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News & Advocacy

We say NO to the Censorship of Cuban Artists

Joint letter

66 organizations and 81 artists share a message of solidarity - launched by PAR - a protection network for at-risk artists in Latin America and the Caribbean - with Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and all those who remain unjustly detained and charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Cuba.

The undersigned organizations and artists strongly condemn the unsubstantiated and outrageous charges relating to alleged contempt, defamation, and public disorder brought against Cuban artists Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, for which prosecutors have requested the punishment of ten and seven years imprisonment, respectively. We call on the Cuban government to drop these charges, release Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara, and put an immediate end to the constant harassment and abuse of artists.

Maykel Castillo won two Latin Grammys for his song Patria y Vida, which criticizes the Cuban government and became a viral anthem during the mass protests in July 2021. Otero Alcántara has become a prominent dissident voice through his powerful performance art. Both artists are members of the San Isidro Movement, a collective that has staged various protests against the government, leading to intense state surveillance. As a result of their art and activism, Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara have faced a sustained campaign of harassment and persecution since 2016. Most recently, Castillo Pérez was arrested on May 18 after the success of Patria y Vida, while Otero Alcántara was detained on July 11 following his participation in mass demonstrations during the July 2021 protests. Both have remained incarcerated in maximum security prisons ever since. 

A formal court order initiating an oral trial was issued on March 8, 2022. The charges against Otero Alcántara include “insults to symbols of the homeland,” “contempt,” and “public disorder,” and the charges against Castillo Pérez include “contempt,” “public disorder,” “defamation of institutions and organizations and of heroes and martyrs,” and “assault.” The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, PEN International, and CADAL have reviewed legal documents showing that the Prosecutor’s Office issued their sentencing request of ten years’ imprisonment for Castillo Pérez and seven years for Otero Alcántara.

A review of the charges against both artists makes it clear that they are being targeted for their peaceful exercise of their right to free expression. Their alleged criminal conduct includes using the Cuban flag in a series of photos, writing an offensive social media post, criticizing government officials, and posting memes about Cuba’s head of state. The cases against both artists are an obvious attempt to criminalize their art and their opinions. The goal of these charges has never been to administer justice nor to allow for free and fair discourse on issues of concern for the Cuban people, but to surveil, harass, detain, and silence those critical of the government.

These cases are part of the Cuban government’s broader campaign to intimidate, silence, and imprison artists and other creatives who dare to criticize them--a campaign marked by repression and human rights violations. Since the historic protests on July 11, 2021, Cuban authorities have pursued a series of unjust trials against those who took to the streets, many of whom are artists.

At least 39 artists were detained on July 11, and three were sentenced on charges of contempt: musician Abel Lescay, rapper-singer Randy Arteaga, and writer and poet María Cristina Garrido. The tactics employed by the authorities against dissenters--surveillance, harassment, detention, and silence--are both apparent and clearly abusive.

Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara were first arrested on May 18 and July 11, 2021, respectively, and remain in detention as their trial progresses. The long-term detention and extreme harsh conditions have taken a grave toll on their mental and physical well-being. Both Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara have faced worsening health conditions that require immediate medical attention. Following his most recent hunger strike in protest against his unjust imprisonment and the manipulation of his freedom by state security, Otero Alcántara told his family that he “suffered paralysis and had to be rushed to hospital." His partner said his condition has worsened and he finds himself at “constant risk.” Castillo Pérez's health has also drastically deteriorated as he awaits the results of a second biopsy conducted due to swelling in his throat and lymph nodes

The Cuban government’s pursuit of criminal charges against both artists is not justice--it is oppression. We demand that the authorities drop all charges against both Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and immediately release them from detention. We further call on the Cuban government to cease the harassment and threats against journalists, writers, and artists on the island, and to respect and guarantee international human rights law as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments. 

Signatories

Organizations


  • Acción Constitucional
  • ARTICLE 19 México y Centroamérica
  • Artist Protection Fund
  • Artistic Freedom Initiative
  • Artists At Risk Connection (ARC)
  • ArtsEverywhere
  • Auckland PEN
  • Berlin Opus Cuba
  • Cadal
  • Center for a Free Cuba
  • CIVICUS
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • Cuban American National Foundation
  • Cubalex
  • Cultura democrática
  • Democracy Council
  • Demóngeles, colectivo de artistas
  • Dansk PEN
  • Di.Verso
  • English PEN
  • Fondo de Acción Urgente para América Latina y el Caribe
  • Freedom House
  • Fundamedios
  • Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo a la Declaración
  • Fundación Acceso- Shelter City Costa Rica 
  • Grupo Ánima, colectivo de artistas
  • Human Rights Foundation
  • Hypermedia
  • Irish PEN
  • Independence Chinese PEN
  • INSTAR (Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt)
  • International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  • Movies that Matter
  • Movimiento de San Isidro
  • New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc
  • PEN America
  • PEN Argentina
  • PEN Austria
  • PEN Brazil
  • PEN Canada
  • PEN Catalan
  • PEN Centre of Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • PEN Chiapas Pluricultural
  • PEN Chile
  • PEN Club de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio
  • PEN Ecuador
  • PEN Eritrea
  • PEN Guatemala
  • PEN International
  • PEN Kenya
  • PEN Nigeria
  • PEN Norway
  • PEN Paraguay
  • PEN Perth
  • PEN Quebec
  • PEN Turkey
  • PEN Uruguay
  • PEN Zimbabwe
  • Philippine PEN
  • Prisoners Defenders
  • Provea - Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humano
  • Rialta, Alianza Iberoamericana para la Literatura, las Artes y el Pensamiento, A.C
  • San Miguel PEN
  • Swedish PEN
  • Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


Individuals
  • Lucía Leonor González Enriquez, performing artist
  • Patricio Villarreal Ávila, performing artist
  • Abu Abu Duyanah Tamayo, autor
  • Luis Dener, writer
  • Ariel Maceo Tellez, writer, poet and photographer
  • Jennifer Clement, writer, former President of PEN International
  • Gabriel Seisdedos, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  • Coco Fusco, visual artist
  • José Antonio Albertini, former President of PEN Cuban Writers in Exile
  • Christopher Merrill, University of Iowa
  • Alexis Romay, writer
  • Maria Matienzo, writer
  • Nonardo Perea, visual artist
  • Celia González, visual artist
  • Ileana Diéguez, writer
  • Yanelys Nuñez, art historian
  • Armando Chaguaceda, political scientist
  • Sara Martinez Castro, writer
  • Ladislao Aguado, Hypermedia’s editor
  • Carolina Barrero, historian
  • Tania Bruguera, visual artist
  • Anamely Ramos, art curator
  • Carlos Manuel Álvarez, writer
  • Rubén Chababo, cultural professional
  • Pablo César Rebollo, artist and professor
  • LeAnne Russell Rasco, filmmaker
  • Camila Ramirez Lobon, visual artist
  • Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, art curator and activist
  • Rafael Mondragón Velázquez, philologist
  • Eliezer Márquez Duany, (“el Funky”), musician
  • Ernesto Rojas Reyes, musician
  • Natalie Morales, actress and filmmaker
  • Alex Fumero, filmmaker
  • Amilkar Feria Flores, writer and visual artist
  • Solveig Font Martinez, art curator
  • Julios Llopiz Casal, visual artist
  • Miguel Yasser Castellanos Guerrero, visual artist
  • Ileana Botalin, designer
  • Javier Caso, artist
  • Richard Zamora (“el Radikal”), musician
  • Osvaldo Navarro Veloz (“NavyPro”), musician
  • Luis Alberto Mariño, violinist and performance artist
  • Ileana Diéguez, researcher
  • Salvador Pérez Franco, artist
  • Henry Eric Hernández, artist
  • Roberto Garcés Marrero, researcher
  • Lester Alvarez Meno, artist
  • Maria de Lourdes Mariño, art curator
  • Maribel Garcia González, interpreter and manager
  • Maria Matienzo, writer
  • Juan Enrique González, visual artist
  • Michel Estopiñán, researcher
  • Maria del Carmen Ares Marrero, playwright
  • Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, activist and scientific
  • Osmani Pardo Guerra, activist
  • Esteban Rodriguez López, journalist and activist
  • Jorge Luis Capote Arias, activist
  • Iliana Hernández Cardosa, journalist
  • Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola, academic
  • Evelyn Rodriguez de Villafuerte, psychologist
  • Eisbel Rojas, computer scientist
  • Alenmichel Aguiló, academic
  • Eduardo Testé Lino, researcher
  • Rubén Ortíz, theater artist and researcher
  • Gabriela Selser, journalist
  • Regula Venske, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  • Salil Tripathi, author and editor, Board Member of PEN International
  • David Francis, author and lawyer, Board Member of PEN International
  • Iman Humaydan, writer and activist, Board Member of PEN International
  • Ola Larsmo, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  • Danson Kahyana, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  • Eric Lax, writer, treasurer and Vice President of PEN International
  • Elisha July, writer, President of PEN Zimbabwe
  • Ricky Monahan Brown, writer, President of Scottish PEN
  • Helmuth A. Niederle, writer, President PEN Austria
  • Lien Carrazana Lau, writer, artist and journalist, Diario de Cuba
  • Katherine Bisquet, poet and editor
  • Hamlet Labastida, visual artist
  • Carlos Anibal Alonso, writer and editor
  • Sandra Santana, writer, former president of PEN Puerto Rico
  • Ivette Garcia Gonzalez, writer and activist


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