(New York, NY) — Exactly one month ago, Cuban authorities arrested and detained rapper and activist Maykel Castillo. Today, PEN America, along with CADAL, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America, condemned the Cuban authorities for their arbitrary detention of Castillo and called for his immediate release.

“The fact that Castillo has been kept in prison for more than a month—and that his family, friends, and supporters have been kept in the dark as to his condition and the reasons for his arbitrary detention—is simply unacceptable,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and we condemn this callous disregard for basic human dignity and rule of law. Castillo has faced repeated attacks, detentions, and harassment for more than a year, simply for expressing his creativity and using his platform as an artist. This is yet another distressing development in Cuba’s assault on artistic freedom of expression—and artists themselves.”  

“We condemn the growing persecution of independent artists for the mere fact of expressing their political dissent. Freedom of expression and artistic freedom are fundamental human rights and should not be criminalized. We demand the release of musician Maykel ‘Osorbo’ Castillo,” said Cecilia Noce, freedom of artistic expression defense project coordinator at CADAL.

Castillo disappeared on May 18, his whereabouts unknown. News outlets later reported that he had been held in custody and transferred to Pinar del Río provincial prison on May 31, accused of crimes such as “resistance” and “contempt.” It remains unclear where he was during that week. Castillo’s detention is part of a larger crackdown in Cuba against artists who have faced scrutiny for their commentary on the regime and who have played leading roles in protest movements across the country. Castillo is one of the featured artists in “Patria y Vida,” a music video that is critical of Cuba’s government, which received over 5 million views. A member of the San Isidro Movement, he was also one of the main promoters of the #NoAlDecreto349 campaign, which has pushed for artistic freedom in the country. 

In an interview with Reuters in April, Castillo said, “As much as they try to discredit the work we are doing, it doesn’t work. I am not anyone’s agent. I am a free citizen.”

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.**