17 December 2020
On 5 December, Cuban visual artist Tania Bruguera was released from detention after she was arrested and interrogated by State Security Agents, regarding the leadership of the 27 November Group, reported Artnews.
In a Facebook post, Deborah Bruguera said that her sister, Tania Bruguera was “kidnapped” by “people in civilian clothes”.
On 27 November, demonstrators gathered outside the Cuban Ministry of Culture to protest government control over the artists and artistic freedom.
Authorities met with some of the protesters—who are part of a 27N Group—and agreed to aim for greater freedom of artistic expression in the country.
After the 27 November meeting, the government had set a date for a second meeting, but it was postponed.
According to Hyperallergic, a group of artists and academics connected to the cultural community that participated in the 27 November meeting or belonged to Movimiento San Isidro are under house arrest “in order to avoid any interference from dissenters.”
The artists that were put under surveillance after 27 November are rapper Maykel Castillo, curator Anamely Ramos, Abu Duyanah Tamayo (Alexander Tamayo), writer and journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez and visual artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, poet Katherine Bisquet, visual artist Tania Bruguera, producer filmmaker Aminta de Cárdenas, visual artist Camila Ramírez Lobón, visual artist Julio Llopez-Casal, actor and theatre writer Yunior García Aguilera.
27 November 2020
According to direct reports, last night, at approximately 11:50 pm police broke into the Movimiento San Isidro headquarters and arrested the group – of which some members are on hunger strike – in a violent act. Reports further state that shortly before arrests, the government cut off Internet services in Cuba for almost an hour.
Today, art curator Anamely Ramos was arrested again after she was released following the raid on the Movimiento San Isidro headquarters on Thursday night.
In an interview on Facebook, she denounced the events and left to recover her belongings that were at the house of Movimiento San Isidro.
“I refuse to stay in my house with all my things in San Isidro and with Luis Manuel walking around Havana because they don’t know where they are going to take him,” she said before the arrest.
On 9 November 2020, musician, and member of the Movimiento San Isidro, a collective of artists that fight for freedom of artistic expression, Denis Solis Gonzalez, was violently arrested from his home by agents of the National Revolutionary Police in Havana, Cuba. At the time of his arrest, police officers did not present Denis with a valid warrant or reason for the arrest.
“Sentencing Denis Solis Gonzalez to eight months in prison and Didier Almagro to three years in prison for their artistic expression violates their basic human right to freedom of expression and is in breach of Cuba’s international obligations of the ICCPR,” said Sverre Pedersen, Freemuse Campaigns and Advocacy Manager, “We demand that the Cuban authorities release these artists from prison and drop all charges brought against them.”
We are extremely concerned for the state of artistic freedom in Cuba – and the resultant hunger and thirst strikes in reaction to these prison sentences – which illustrate the grave reality for artists under the current climate for artistic expression in the country.
The musician was incommunicado from the day of his detention until 18 November when he was finally permitted to contact family members. Further, Gonzalez was not offered the right to access legal defence.
On 12 November, in less than 72 hours, Gonzalez was sentenced to eight months in prison on the charges of contempt under the Criminal Procedure Law (LPP) from articles 359 to 383 and transferred to the Valle Grande Prison in Havana after facing a summary trial, as was informed by the Provincial Municipal Court. As Prisoners Defenders states: Contempt as defined in the Cuban law, it requires that it occur when the authority is “in the exercise of its functions or on the occasion or because of them” (art. 144.1 of the Criminal Code of Cuba). In this case, this requirement exceeded officers in their functions to the point of illegally searching the house and filming Denis in his private environment without giving or presenting or using a court order, arrest warrant or any reason whatsoever.
From 12-15 November, members of Movimiento San Isidro that were requesting information on the whereabouts of Denis Solis at the Police Station at Cuba and Chacón were daily arbitrarily detained for hours. On 16 November, after several attempts to find out the status of his case and where he was being held, police officers informed Movimiento San Isidro members about Gonzalez’s sentence and the location of his imprisonment.
On 13 November 2020 musician Didier Eduardo Almagro Toledo was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of contempt of court and public disorder as informed by the authorities to his family. He was accused of participating in an anti-government demonstration protesting power cuts in his neighbourhood on 4 August 2020 . According to reports from the musician’s friends and family, Almagro was beaten and denied the right to speak to his family following the detention. Although Didier is in Santa Clara Prison, the family hasn’t yet allowed access to the Trial Sentence.
According to Cuban organisation Cubalex, between 10 and 23 November 2020 authorities in Cuba have arbitrarily arrested more than 34 people, including Movimiento San Isidro artists, activists, journalists, and others who joined the demand for Denis Solis’ release from detention.
In particular, the peaceful protests demanding the release of Denis Solís have provoked an escalation of violence that ranges from the siege of the Movimiento San Isidro headquarters in Old Havana to cut off access to housing located in Damas 955, to more aggressive measures such as preventing food and water from being delivered to members.
This has triggered an extreme response by the artists, whereby six artists and activists have been on hunger strike since 18 November to protest the imprisonment of Gonzalez and call for his release. These activists include Esteban Rodríguez, Oscar Casanella, Iliana Hernández, Osmani Pardo and artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Osorbo, who were also on a water strike which has now ended. Cuban poet Katherine Bisquet joined the hunger strike on 21 November.
We, the undersigned, condemn the harassment, police violence, human rights violations and repressive acts perpetrated by Cuban authorities against artists, journalists, and cultural rights defenders in the county, including those relating to the peaceful demonstrations against Denis Solis Gonzalez’ detention and subsequent imprisonment.
We also support the calls of the Cuban artistic community to encourage the authorities in the country to engage in dialogues with the Movimiento San Isidro to prevent future consequences regarding the health of the artists and activists currently on hunger strike and to stop their repressive behaviour towards artists, journalists, and activists.
PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
Finnish Music Council
Finnish Musicians’ Union
CREO (Norwegian Musicians Association)
Artists at Risk AR-Perpetuum Mobile
FIM – International Federation of Musicians