Cuban Artist Bruguera Detained and Held Overnight
Plainclothes police forced her from her vehicle, likely in retaliation for her work defending artistic freedom
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(New York, NY) – Artist and activist Tania Bruguera was reportedly arrested by plainclothes police Friday night, likely in an effort to prevent her from commenting on the recent press conference from Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas. She was released early Saturday and is now under house of arrest. PEN America today condemned her arrest, calling it an affront to freedom of expression.
“Bruguera, who has vocally mobilized against the unjust sentencing of rapper Denis Solís González and the routine government censorship and harassment of Cuban artists, vanished Friday night after being in constant surveillance by state security forces the past ten days,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. “Bruguera’s arrest is just one more iteration of the Cuban government’s efforts to exert a vice-like grip over the cultural sector. Days before, she had been among a group of artists and activists who convened for a rare dialogue with officials from the Ministry of Culture. Her arrest is a blatant example of the hollowness of the Cuban government’s apparent attempts to meet protestors’ demands. We condemn Bruguera’s detention and call for an end to the ongoing harassment and imprisonment of artists and activists across the country.”
Around 9pm Friday night, while traveling in a car with visual artist Sandra Ceballos, police in plainclothes forced Bruguera out of the vehicle and detained her. Her whereabouts were unknown until Saturday morning when she was released. This is not the first time that Bruguera has faced detention in response to her activism—she has been arrested multiple times in the past five years for organizing performances and attending demonstrations calling for accountability, justice, and freedom of artistic expression in Cuba. In recent weeks, Bruguera has been one of the most outspoken critics of the government’s campaign of harassment, arrest, and surveillance of members of the San Isidro Movement, a collection of independent artists, activists, and intellectuals.
Her arrest is also part of a broader crackdown on artistic expression in Cuba, especially in the wake of Decree 349, a 2018 regulation that gives the government-wide purview to restrict the cultural sphere. Bruguera has been a vocal opponent of the decree, alongside other artists and activists like Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara—who has been arrested over 37 times since 2017—including earlier this week after undergoing over 10 days on hunger strike.
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.