(New York, NY) — According to social media reports, Cuban writer and poet Javier L. Mora was detained by police this morning after announcing on social media that he no longer wanted to be a member of a state-operated writers’ association. PEN America condemns his detention, and calls for his immediate release.

“Javier Mora’s apparent detention is yet another painful example of how Cuba has transformed even the expression of desire to produce art outside the confines of state-approved venues, into a criminal act,” Julie Trébault, the director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. Cuba’s artists, writers, and creatives continue to pay a high personal price for insisting on their creative freedom. We call for Javier Mora’s immediate release, and for the Cuban government to stop the criminalization of independent art and literature within the country.”

In the past several weeks alone, amid a spate of detentions and arrests targeting prominent writers and artists among others, PEN America and the Artists at Risk Connection have decried the government’s harassment of Cuban artists Hamlet Lavastida, Maykel Castillo, and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. In 2019, PEN America produced a report, Art Under Pressure, examining the government’s efforts to criminalize the creation of independent art within the country.

In the past few days, thousands of Cubans calling for reform have poured into the streets, in the country’s largest demonstrations in decades. The rallying cry of the protesters—“Patria y Vida,” or “Homeland and Life”—comes from a hip-hop song released a few months ago by a group of activist Cuban artists, including rapper Maykel Castillo and performance artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. Earlier this week, PEN America, alongside 38 cultural, media, and human rights organizations, jointly condemned the government’s repression of the protests and called on Cuba’s leaders to stop targeting its critics.

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.