NEW YORK—The repeated arrest of 11 Cuban artists, all of whom are active members of a campaign against Decree 349, a new law aimed at restricting independent art and culture, is an intolerable affront to free expression, said PEN America today.

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 on December 3, and their whereabouts are currently unknown. Performance artist Tania Bruguera was briefly released yesterday. However, while on her way to the Cuban Culture Minister to ask for the freedom of artists and to discuss Decree 349, the police arrested her again with artist Javier Moreno. Bruguera shared a photo of herself wearing a ‘No Al Decreto 349’ (No to Decree 349) T-shirt on social media, saying she will go on a hunger and thirst strike with her fellow artists if she is detained again. Decree 349/2018, one of the first pieces of legislation signed by Miguel Diaz-Canel since he succeeded Raul Castro as president in April of this year, institutionalizes censorship of independent art and culture and establishes violations for artistic services that are not regulated and recognized by official cultural institutions in Cuba.

“This decree is an attack against artistic freedom and the arrest of these eleven artists, in addition of the many artists already behind bars like rappers Maykel and Pupito, is more than an individual attack on free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. “This repression is not new, but represents a continuation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture’s policy to intimidate and censor critical and independent artistic voices.”

PEN America has also witnessed an alarming increase in arbitrary travel bans, detentions, and harassment of activists and artists by Cuban police officers leading up to December 7, when the decree will come into effect. Brief detentions are the standard response to opposition protests in Cuba, which considers dissidents to be mercenaries supported by the United States to subvert their own government.

Read more about Decree 349 and join the campaign here.

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. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.


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.

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