Cuba: Artists and activists detained for eight hours

22 March 2016

During the American president’s visit to the country, Cuba has seen a crack-down on the opposition and activists. Two artists, rock musician Gorki and visual street artist El Sexto, were arrested on 20 March 2016 along with several other demonstrators from Damas de Blanco – the Ladies in White – during a pro-democracy demonstration.

The incident took place a few hours before the arrival on the island of Barack Obama – the first visit by a president of the United States in the last 88 years.

Miami New Times reported that over 200 men and women, activists and artists, who had accompanied the Ladies in White, were handcuffed and put into police busses. They were taken to VIVAC, a notorious processing center in Havana, where they were detained without explanation and released eight hours later.

When Barack Obama announced his trip to Cuba he said one of its purposes was to influence the situation of human rights on the island, at a time when the dissidence has denounced an increase in repression.

21 cases of violations on artistic freedom of expression
statistics2015_FeatureImageIn 2015, Freemuse documented 21 cases of violations on artistic freedom of expression in Cuba, including imprisoning of one artist and keeping two in prison, detaining two artists and prosecuting another.

» Read more about Freemuse’s annual statistics:
Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015
2015 country chart

About Gorki Águila
Cuba_gorki-200The leader of the band Porno Para Ricardo has never had an easy relationship with Cuban authorities. A controversial figure, Gorki has been arrested or detained numerous times during the past 15 years; sometimes because of his role as an activist, sometimes because of his artistic work, and sometimes due to the combination of both. In July 2015, Gorki dedicated a song to the Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White).

» Read more about Gorki on

About El Sexto
Cuba_elsexto-200In October 2015, the artist and activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as ‘El Sexto’, was released after having been detained for 10 months. The artist was first detained in December 2014 after police officers found a drawing of two pigs named Fidel and Raul that the artist was planning to use in a performance. Authorities explained to the artist’s family that El Sexto was detained because they considered him “counter-revolutionary”. During this period the artist didn’t face any trial or sentence.

» Read more about El Sexto on

Photo on top of this page: Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. Courtesy of @Jangelmoya on Twitter via #TodosMarchamos means: #WeAllMarch


» The Huffington Post – 21 March 2016:
Cuba Still Detaining Civil Rights Activists Praised By Obama Administration

» Fox News Latino – 21 March 2016:
Cuba begins releasing dissidents arrested after Ladies in White march

» Miami New Times – 21 March 2016:
Cuban Repression Accelerates for Obama’s Visit

» Artforum – 21 March 2016:
Dissident Street Artist Among People Imprisoned After Protest in Havana

» Reason – 21 March 2016:
Raul Castro Denies Cuba Holds Political Prisoners at Press Conference with President Obama

» Translating Cuba – 20 March 2016:
Ladies in White and Opponents Arrested After Sunday March in Havana / EFE, 14ymedio

» Translating Cuba – 12 March 2016:
Gorki Aguila Detained and Interrogated Returning To Cuba From US / 14ymedio

More about Gorki

» Freemuse – 16 November 2015:
Gorki Águila arrested again

» Freemuse – 1 December 2010:
Rock singer Gorki Águila again harassed by authorities

» Freemuse – 1 May 2007:
Imprisonment made Gorki stronger

» Freemuse – 17 March 2005:
The case of Gorki Carrasco

More about El Sexto

» Artsfreedom – 21 October 2015:
Graffiti artist released from prison after 10 months

» Freemuse – 28 August 2015:
Cuba: Freemuse calls for the release of imprisoned artists

» Artsfreedom – 28 August 2015:
Imprisoned artist El Sexto on hunger strike

» Artsfreedom – 26 January 2015:
Graffiti artist arrested over insulting leaders

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