**UPDATE: Nancy Alfaya was released in the early hours of Thursday, October 24. Follow @AtRiskArtists and @PENamerica for more details.**

(New York, NY) — As part of a disturbing trend of harassment and intimidation of independent artists and thinkers in Cuba, writer Jorge Olivera Castillo and his wife, social activist Nancy Alfaya, were arrested on Tuesday for the second time in recent weeks. Castillo was promptly released, but Alfaya has reportedly been detained and her location is unknown. Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, released the following statement:

“Jorge Olivera Castillo and Nancy Alfaya’s arrest, just a mere weeks after a previous arrest on September 30, is evidence of the Cuban government’s intolerable efforts to silence independent artists and restrict artistic freedom of expression. Jorge and Nancy have faced ongoing intimidation for months, enduring threats, fines, and detention from the Cuban police. Their persecution is rooted in a broader crackdown on artists that has followed in the wake of Decree 349, a 2018 law that criminalizes all independent cultural activity on the island. Decree 349 gives the authorities total control over artistic production and ensures that individual artists can no longer be independent. PEN America calls for Nancy’s immediate release and for and end to the imprisonment and repression of independent artists in Cuba.”

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.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892