(NEW YORK / LONDON) – Thirty organizations and PEN centers have signed on to an open letter led by PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), PEN International, and the PEN Cuban Writers in Exile Center, calling on the Cuban government and State-influenced outlets to immediately cease all efforts aimed at discrediting the renowned Cuban multidisciplinary artist, Tania Bruguera, and the IV INSTAR Film Festival.

“Cuba is one of the few countries in the region that imprisons artists, journalists, and writers for exercising their freedom of expression…. Safeguarding art and artists is imperative, as they constitute vital components of a flourishing, equitable, and healthy society,” the letter says.

Bruguera was forced to leave Cuba in 2021 as a result of government pressure and persecution for her artistic work, and is the founder and director of the Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism (INSTAR). INSTAR launched its film festival in 2019, with the goal of amplifying independent film, especially in countries where freedom of artistic expression is under attack. 

Over the past couple of weeks, Cuban public officials, government-affiliated artists, and other entities have participated in an extensive campaign of harassment against INSTAR and Bruguera even while in exile, publicly discrediting both and accusing the film festival of being linked to foreign intelligence agencies. This includes at least one instance where they imply the festival of endorsing terrorism against Cuba, in another instance equating it to an attack on Cuban culture. 

The signatories of the letter demand an end to the harassment and attacks against Cuban artists in exile, along with those who remain on the island. The letter concludes: “In particular, we call on the Cuban authorities to stop the ongoing smear campaign against Tania Bruguera and the INSTAR festival, and to put an end to all state-sponsored actions aimed at undermining free thought and artistic expression among the Cuban people.”

The letter comes on the heels of the launch of ARC, PEN International, and Cubalex’s report, Método Cuba: Independent Artists’ Testimonies of Forced Exile. Published in July 2023, Método Cuba amplifies the testimonies of 17 artists and cultural professionals, among them Tania Bruguera, who were subject to intense and, in many instances, escalating intimidatory tactics as a result of their artistic expression. Sustained and exhausting repression forced artists to confront an impossible choice: continue to suffer the harassment at the hands of the Cuban State or enter into exile, effectively abandoning their families, artistic communities, and the professional careers they built in the country.


Contact: Dietlind Lerner, [email protected] tel. +1 310 699 8775