Cuba: Alert from Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara arbitrary detention and the increasing attacks against freedom of artistic expression

11 March 2020
Image: Statement signatories

Since Decree 349/2018 was sanction by the Cuban government, independent artists have taken a leading role through peaceful and courageous actions in their opposition against censorship and the demand for freedom of artistic expression.

Decree 349/2018 establishes contraventions on the provision of artistic services that are neither regulated nor recognised by Cuba’s official cultural institutions: a clear violation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“Movimiento San Isidro” a collective of independent artists, writers and intellectuals was organized to oppose Decree 349 and the restrictions against freedom of thought and freedom of expression stated at the decree. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is a prominent member of the movement that rejects the attacks on freedom of artistic expression by means of peaceful activism. Since its creation, members of this movement have suffered threats, attacks, harassment, and imprisonment by the Cuban government.

During the past 30 months, Otero Alcántara has been the victim of 32 incidents of harassment. Of these, 22 have been arbitrary detentions, several including the use of force and violence, the majority of the detentions in solitary confinement and short periods of disappearance. Generally, the authorities refuse to inform about the place where they keep Otero Alcántara detained. In 2019, the authorities arrested him 15 times, and four so far in 2020. None of these arrests have been judicially supervised. At least six Habeas Corpus have been submitted in his favour. The Provincial Court of Havana has only responded to two. During 2020, Otero Alcántara has been banned from leaving the country two times.

Last arbitrary detention happened on 1 March at 2:30 pm when Otero Alcántara was detained in front of his house on his way to a protest at the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, convened by the LGTBQ community.

Since the second day of this arbitrary detention, he has been imprisoned at Valle Grande prison, where he is awaiting for a summary trial due to the accusation of “insulting national symbols” that was to take place today 11 March at 9 am in Havana but was suddenly postponed without a new date. According to Cuban law, the procedure for summary trails, make the notifications only two days before the trial, comes only through an oral sentence, any written document would be produced, and there are only five days for the appellation.

In Cuba, a system of prior censorship is established for cultural activities, arts and other forms of expression, violating freedom of expression and the right to the full development of human personality and the enjoyment of cultural rights.

In countries where innocent people are persecuted based on demanding basic human rights through peaceful means, the responsibility lies not only on repressive governments but also on those who contribute to sustaining its repressive mechanisms or remaining shamefully neutral in the face of systematic violations of fundamental freedoms.

In this regard, the organizations who adhere to the present statement ask all democratic governments to be present at Otero Alcántara’s trial and to convene through their embassies in Havana a press conference in which they publicly:

  • Insist on the fulfilling of the right to due process for Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
  • Ask the national authorities to guarantee public access to the hearing.
  • Support the peaceful demonstrations that are happening now in Havana’s streets asking for Otero Alcántara´s freedom, and reject any arbitrary detention related.
  • Ask for the end of all types of repression against HRD´s, independent artists and journalists in Cuba by the Cuban government.
  • Call for the immediate release of independent artists, activists, journalists and political prisoners.
  • Reject the systematic banned against HRD´s, independent artists and journalist to travel abroad for political reasons.
  • Demand the ratification by the Cuban government of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Demand legal recognition of freedom of association, assembly, expression and peaceful protest.



Civil Rights Defenders

Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL)


Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos

Movimiento San Isidro

La Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD)


Human Rights Foundation

Programa Cuba – Universidad Sergio Arboleda

Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana


Extituto De Política Abierta

People In Need

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