(NEW YORK)– PEN America and PEN International today condemned Cuban authorities for sentencing Cuban artists and activists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo Pérez to 5 and 9 years in prison, respectively, marking the culmination of a year-long “ruthless and inhumane” effort  to punish them for their artistic expression and leadership in protest movements on the island. In a statement, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), PEN Cuba in Exile and PEN International condemned this heartbreaking news and expressed their deep sympathy and solidarity for these two brave artists and activists.

The two artists stood trial on May 30 and 31 and have been detained since the summer of 2021, subject to brutal treatment and trumped up charges — including defamation, insulting symbols of the homeland, public disorder, and resistance — that have been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups.

“Our hearts are with Luis Manuel, Maykel Castillo, and their friends and families in this unimaginably difficult time, as they come to grips with the reality of years behind bars for a sentencing that should never have happened and has no legal merit,” said Julie Trebault, the Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “This is a blow to artistic freedom in Cuba, and to the artists and activists in Cuba and around the world who have fought for the right to express themselves, whenever, wherever, and however they choose, and who have dedicated themselves to this expression in the face of a government and state security apparatus that has consistently chosen repression. The Cuban government may seek to extinguish independent expression on the island, but they will not be successful. PEN America and our partners around the world will continue fighting fervently for Cuban artists and their rights.”

“The repression wrought on the Cuban people by its government continues to worsen.  Today is a painful day, which sees the imposition of cruel and unjust prison sentences on artists Luis Manuel and Maykel. They represent the voice of many artists, activists and Cubans who took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate against the repression of their fundamental rights.  Cuba imprisons its artists, it imprisons its writers, it imprisons anyone who exposes and opposes the terror visited upon its citizens.  Imprisoning innocent people is an unjust and inhumane act. PEN International demands their immediate release. We will not cease to make censorship in Cuba visible, until justice is served,” said Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director of PEN International.

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 released A Safety Guide For Artists, a resource that offers practical strategies to help artists understand, navigate, and overcome risk, and features an interview with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera about the state of free expression on the island. 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.

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.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057