(New York, NY) – PEN America and PEN International are deeply alarmed by the detention of the Cuban artist, activist and art historian Carolina Barrero, who was arrested on Monday after attending a protest in Havana and is now being detained. 

“Barrero’s detention is yet another in the Cuban government’s ongoing campaign to stamp out dissent on the island. It is particularly cruel that she was arrested while attending a peaceful protest in solidarity with those who were detained following the July 11 protests and remain behind bars,” said Julie Trébault, the Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “This cycle of arbitrary detentions, discrimination, threats, and other forms of harassment perpetuated by the Cuban state and security forces embodies a form of mental and physical abuse that must stop. We demand the immediate release of Carolina Barrero and reiterate our call for an end to such blatantly arbitrary and unjust detentions.” 

Barrero is one of many artists who have been continually harassed and detained by the Cuban regime in recent months, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has been detained since July and recently embarked on another hunger strike at great risk to his health and well-being. 

Protesters gathered at the Juan Delgado Park in Havana on Monday to pray together and call for the freedom of those who were detained during mass demonstrations in July, which saw an unprecedented number of Cubans take to the streets to peacefully protest social and political inequities on the island. Witnesses reported that police responded to this newest protest with violence, beating several people, including an elderly woman and an eighteen-year old girl. Thirteen protesters were arrested, including Barrero, who was taken to La Lisa police station in Havana. 

Through her writing and activism on social media, Barrero has frequently criticized the Cuban government, leading to repeated detentions and ongoing harassment. She was placed under house arrest for over 100 days following the protests in July. On January 17, Barrero was detained along with other artists and activists after protesting the judicial proceedings related to the July 11 demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court. On January 28, Barrero was detained without cause for unspecified hours.     

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.


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.