(NEW YORK – LONDON) –  PEN America and PEN International today condemned the temporary detention of at least six artists and activists in Cuba on Wednesday, including Yordanka Battle Moré, Adelth Bonne Gamboa, Rosmery Almeda (known as Alma Poet), Yamilka Lafita (known as Lara Crofs), Yulier Rodríguez, and Arián Cruz (known as Tata Poet). The artists were arrested and detained for several hours before being released. PEN America and PEN International denounced the detentions as part of the Cuban government’s continued targeting of artists for exercising their fundamental right to free expression.

“The arbitrary arrests of multiple young members of Cuba’s artistic community are part of a broader systematic effort to silence dissent and to curtail artistic freedom in the island,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC). “Despite their quick release – they spent a few hours in detention – they committed no crime and should not have been detained in the first place. We denounce the Cuban state’s efforts to stifle the voices of the artists and activists fighting for a future in which artistic freedom of expression can thrive on the island.”

On Wednesday, the YouTuber Yordanka Battle Moré and activist Adelth Bonne Gamboa were separately summoned by State Security. Concerns about their safety prompted other artists and activists to accompany  Moré and Gamboa as they met with authorities at two separate Havana police stations. Each activist was detained along with their entourages . During detention, the security forces reportedly subjected the artists and activists to threats, including menacing phone calls to family members.

Upon being released, the artists and activists took to social media to denounce the abuse they suffered from the Cuban authorities. According to Adelth Bonne Gamboa, the street artist Yulier Rodríguez was detained without a citation for accompanying Gamboa to the police station. After his release, Gamboa refused to leave the police station without Rodriguez. Activist Tata Poet reportedly joined him in person at the station. They were both detained shortly after.

Numerous Cuban artists have been arbitrarily arrested and detained by state forces in the last two years following a sharp crackdown on artistic freedom and political dissent on the island. Many of these artists remain imprisoned today, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcantará, Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez, and María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez.

“In an impressive demonstration of solidarity and bravery, the artists and activists stood up against the Cuban security forces to demand the release of those who remained in detention,” said PEN International Executive Director Romana Cacchioli, “The international community must follow their example and continue to stand with the Cuban people to demand the respect and protection of fundamental rights to freedom of expression. By arbitrarily detaining and threatening its own citizens, the Cuban state continues to act unjustly and inhumanely.”

In November 2022, PEN America, PEN International and Civil Rights Defenders launched Voces Presas [Incarcerated Voices], a campaign to bring awareness to the struggles of artists currently imprisoned in Cuba. More about PEN America’s work on Cuba and Latin America can be found in ARC’s 2022 report, Art in Turmoil, and Spanish-language podcast, ¡El Arte no Calla!

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

About the Artists at Risk Connection

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. ARC recently established a grantmaking initiative for at-risk visual artists from Ukraine and Eurasia, including an emergency fund for basic living expenses as well as a resilience grant to help artists sustain their creative practices. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

About PEN International

PEN International promotes literature and defends freedom of expression. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. PEN International was founded in London, UK, in 1921, simply as PEN. Today it operates across five continents through 145 Centres in over 100 countries. PEN International is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Learn more at https://pen-international.org/

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057