Cuban Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara Released after a Month in Hospital Detention
Otero Alcántara’s detention and subsequent release mark latest in long series of harassment and intimidation tactics by Cuban government
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(New York, NY) — Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, founding member of the artistic collective Movimiento San Isidro, was released on May 31, 2021, after nearly a month of detention in Hospital Calixto García in Havana, Cuba. While Otero Alcántara’s release is a welcome and overdue development, his detention is yet another sign of the Cuban government’s growing repression against independent artists, as is the disappearance of dissident rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, PEN America said today.
“We are glad to hear that Otero Alcántara is finally free and will be able to meet with family and friends and continue his artistic work, but his forced internment should never have happened. This is one of the cruel and repressive techniques the Cuban government employs to silence the voices of dissident artists,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “The government’s constant harassment against Otero Alcántara and other Cuban artists must stop. As the aggressions increase, ARC, as well as our partner organizations in human rights and the arts, will continue to work to bring global attention to these inhumane and unacceptable tactics. We emphatically call for Cuba’s governmental campaign of harassment to end, and for Cuban authorities to halt all attempts to muzzle dissent and criminalize independent artists, writers, and activists.”
Otero Alcántara was detained on April 24 and began a hunger strike on April 25, calling on the Cuban government to respect his and others’ freedom of expression, return the works taken from his home, and compensate him for damages. He was ultimately released on May 31. His detention and subsequent release are the latest in a long series of harassment and intimidation tactics that the artist has faced as a result of his political activism and criticism of the island’s government. Otero Alcántara has been targeted by the state an estimated 31 times, including house arrests and arbitrary detentions, and has been under permanent surveillance.
In February, Otero Alcántara participated in the music video “Patria y Vida”—an explicit call for a change in government, which received five million views—along with rapper and activist Maykel Castillo Pérez (”El Osorbo”). On May 18, Castillo Pérez was arrested, handcuffed, and disappeared. According to public reports, Castillo Pérez is being held in the 5 y Medio prison on charges of disobedience, resistance, and contempt. On May 28, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned Castillo Pérez’s disappearance and called on Cuba’s government to shed light on his whereabouts immediately.
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. Their report, Art Under Pressure, details the effect of Decree 349, a regulation that gives authorities wide remit to limit the cultural sector on artists and activists in Cuba. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, please contact ARC.
**PEN America experts are available for interviews in English and Spanish. // Los expertos de PEN América están disponibles para entrevistas en inglés y español.**