A cool young man leaned out from the doorway of the building, and police cars were lined up on both sides. Stray cats passed by in search of scrap on a Havana night.
“I’ve been under police and national security scrutiny for two days,” said 32-year-old Esteban Rodriguez, a social media influencer. “They won’t let me out of the house.”
Climbing the awkward stairs, he guides me to his apartment. So I’m introduced to Anamely Ramos, an art curator who is desperately doing live streaming on Facebook. “I’m calling on the international community to see what’s happening in Cuba,” she said, staring at her cell phone camera.
Rodriguez and Ramos are members of the San Isidro movement, a group of artists who oppose laws that limit artistic freedom. The group performs irreverent, often provocative performances to make that claim. Little known a few weeks ago, this small group ignited an unprecedented large-scale debate about freedom of expression on a Communist-controlled island.
Earlier this month, group member rapper Dennis Solis was imprisoned for eight months for insulting police officers who entered his house. The San Isidro movement claimed that his imprisonment was illegal, and members launched a hunger strike.
The controversy swirled rapidly. Proponents claim that one member of the group did not eat for 12 days, and the government claims that the protesters received food delivery.
At the end of last month, police forcibly invaded Group headquarters for violating Cuba’s strict Covid law. Members were detained and subjected to Covid testing. Since then, everything has been released and I am eating now. The next day, more than 200 young artists and activists gathered outside the Ministry of Culture to make a rare public protest. During the 12 hours, demonstrators debated, read poetry, sang, and called for dialogue with the government.
“We are not only here for San Isidro, but here for our rights,” said playwright Unior Garcia, 28. “I want to live and work here as an artist. To do that, I need to guarantee creative freedom,” he said, saying he has never had a censored play, but a censored colleague. I know
Affordable access to culture is characteristic of the Cuban Revolution. Tickets for movies, theaters and operas usually correspond to just 30p. However, the sentiment through protests was that labeling people and art as either “revolutionary” or “counter-revolutionary” hindered creativity.
After dawn, 30 protesters were invited to the Ministry of Culture to meet with Deputy Minister Fernando Rojas. After a five-hour debate, authorities said they had guaranteed that all protesters would return home safely, and said talks with the ministry would continue this month.
Installation artist and dissident Tania Burgera, one of the negotiators, was temporarily detained and cross-examined by police before being dropped off with other negotiators.
The government as a whole has avoided criticizing artists and called for peaceful dialogue. State media cast the San Isidro movement as a US mercenary. State Television has released a video in which Solis tells interrogators that a Cuban-American in Florida has provided him with $ 200 to carry out political activities. “I was interested in money,” he said.
There is clear evidence that some of the San Isidro movement has a relationship with the US government.
Esteban Rodriguez works for ADN Cuba, a Florida-based online news agency that received a $ 410,710 grant in September from the US government agency USAID. The United States spends $ 20 million annually on anti-government media and a “promotion of democracy” program (critics say it is better described as a “regime change” program).
Rodriguez described the White House’s steps last month as “perfect” to ban the transfer of money from US families to Cubans. He falsely claims that most of the money sent is funded by the state. “If I were in the United States, I would have voted for Trump,” he adds.
Last week, the government organized a rally in Central Havana Park to marshall support. President Miguel Diaz Cannell told 5,000 people that the recent event was a “media show” and part of an “unconventional warfare strategy aimed at overthrowing the revolution.” He said Cuba has “a place of dialogue for all revolutionary things.”
Ray Montalvo, 31, of Troubadour, who played at the rally, said he had only recently heard of the movement on social media but didn’t like the way it was done. “Dialogue between Cubans is important, but when the United States is behind them, no one wants dialogue,” he said. “A large amount of blood spilled.”
The background of the protest is the dire economic situation of the country. Over the past two years, the Trump administration has imposed a series of strong sanctions, exacerbating the already long queue of basic commodities. Covid made things worse.
Negotiations between the Ministry of Culture and the artists broke down on Friday as some artists reported police cars outside their homes and house arrest lasted for several hours. Special forces are deployed in major public locations. There is an ominous feeling that sparks can fly if no agreement is reached.
Havana artists find their voice in a call to protect creative freedom | Cuba
Source link Havana artists find their voice in a call to protect creative freedom | Cuba