(NEW YORK  | LONDON)– PEN International and the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) today condemned the Cuban government’s detention of at least five artists and writers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian for their participation in peaceful protests that began Sept. 29.  They were detained on Oct. 1 and one of them reportedly suffered injuries in a violent arrest. The organizations called for the immediate release of the artists, and again raised a joint petition with 19 other organizations calling for an end to the repression and violation of the rights of artists and protestors in Cuba.

“There is no possible justification for the Cuban government to arbitrarily detain citizens including writers and artists for taking to the streets to peacefully demand their rights. The global PEN community reiterates its calls for the release of those unjustly deprived of their liberty.  We demand the release of those who are imprisoned for their writings and artistic expression critical of the government. Censorship and repression must end now,” said Romana Cacchioli, executive director of PEN International.

“After yet another wave of arbitrary and violent arrests that explicitly target Cuban artists and poets, whose only crime was to take to the streets to demand that their human rights be respected and their voices be heard, it is clearer than ever that the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel is focused on silencing the voices of its people and artistic community through any means necessary,” said Julie Trébault, ARC’s director. “We call on the Cuban government to set these artists free immediately and drop all charges against them. PEN America and our allies around the world will continue to monitor this situation closely.”

Visual artist José Adalberto Fernández Cañizares was violently detained on Oct. 1, in Havana’s Vedado district. The group “Justicia11J” reported that, following his violent arrest early Sunday morning, he required medical attention at the Calixto Garcia hospital for injuries inflicted on him during his arrest, before being transferred to a detention center.

On the same day, rapper Alejandro Guilleuma Ibáñez and poet Damián Pérez Gutiérrez were detained for demonstrating in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood. According to information from the Observatorio de Derechos Culturales, Pérez Gutiérrez was detained in Arroyo Arenas, Havana and taken to the 6th station in Marianao. He is under investigation for alleged charges of public disorder and assault.

Danilo Martínez Rojas, a designer, left his home in Vedado on Oct. 1 to join peaceful demonstrations taking place nearby. Public reports and documentation of the detentions by the Justicia11 group indicate that night he transmitted videos on social media documenting the demonstrations and citizens’ demands. On his way home he reportedly was ambushed by a paramilitary group dressed in civilian clothes, detained, and assaulted. In the early hours of the morning, Danilo Martínez was transferred to the 100 y Aldabó prison.

Rosmery Almeda Tapía, a writer who is known online as Alma Poet, was also detained following her participation in the demonstrations Oct. 1, as reported by the activist and poet Arián Cruz, who was also briefly detained and later released.

About the Artists at Risk Connection

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.

About PEN International

PEN International is a 101-year-old global volunteer-led movement that connects writers of all backgrounds and genres as well as cultural rights defenders, through community networks and 145 PEN Centres in more than 100 countries. Respected in the worlds of literature, media freedoms, and human rights, PEN holds that Freedom of Expression is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests, working tirelessly to give voice to the silenced and to provide solidarity and practical help to writers at risk. www.pen-international.org

About PEN America

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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], ,201-247-5057