Human Rights and
International Democratic Solidarity

Statements

Promotion of the Political Opening in Cuba

04-21-2022

Joint statement condemning the charges brought against Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara

62 organizations and 78 artists demand that the Cuban government release the artists Maykel «El Osorbo» Castillo Pérez, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Abel Lescay, María Cristina Garrido and Randy Arteaga, who were unjustly detained for exercising freedom of expression and argue that These cases are part of a campaign by the Cuban government itself marked by repression and human rights violations in order to intimidate, silence and imprison artists and creatives who dare to criticize them.
 

62 organizations and 78 artists share a message of solidarity - launched by PAR - a protection network for at-risk artists in Latin America and the Caribbean - with Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and all those who remain unjustly detained and charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Cuba.

The undersigned organizations and artists strongly condemn the unsubstantiated and outrageous charges relating to alleged contempt, defamation, and public disorder brought against Cuban artists Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, for which prosecutors have requested the punishment of ten and seven years imprisonment, respectively. We call on the Cuban government to drop these charges, release Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara, and put an immediate end to the constant harassment and abuse of artists.

Maykel Castillo won two Latin Grammys for his song Patria y Vida, which criticizes the Cuban government and became a viral anthem during the mass protests in July 2021. Otero Alcántara has become a prominent dissident voice through his powerful performance art. Both artists are members of the San Isidro Movement, a collective that has staged various protests against the government, leading to intense state surveillance. As a result of their art and activism, Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara have faced a sustained campaign of harassment and persecution since 2016. Most recently, Castillo Pérez was arrested on May 18 after the success of Patria y Vida, while Otero Alcántara was detained on July 11 following his participation in mass demonstrations during the July 2021 protests. Both have remained incarcerated in maximum security prisons ever since.

A formal court order initiating an oral trial was issued on March 8, 2022. The charges against Otero Alcántara include “insults to symbols of the homeland,” “contempt,” and “public disorder,” and the charges against Castillo Pérez include “contempt,” “public disorder,” “defamation of institutions and organizations and of heroes and martyrs,” and “assault.” The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, PEN International, and CADAL have reviewed legal documents showing that the Prosecutor’s Office issued their sentencing request of ten years’ imprisonment for Castillo Pérez and seven years for Otero Alcántara.

A review of the charges against both artists makes it clear that they are being targeted for their peaceful exercise of their right to free expression. Their alleged criminal conduct includes using the Cuban flag in a series of photos, writing an offensive social media post, criticizing government officials, and posting memes about Cuba’s head of state. The cases against both artists are an obvious attempt to criminalize their art and their opinions. The goal of these charges has never been to administer justice nor to allow for free and fair discourse on issues of concern for the Cuban people, but to surveil, harass, detain, and silence those critical of the government.

These cases are part of the Cuban government’s broader campaign to intimidate, silence, and imprison artists and other creatives who dare to criticize them--a campaign marked by repression and human rights violations. Since the historic protests on July 11, 2021, Cuban authorities have pursued a series of unjust trials against those who took to the streets, many of whom are artists.

At least 39 artists were detained on July 11, and three were sentenced on charges of contempt: musician Abel Lescay, rapper-singer Randy Arteaga, and writer and poet María Cristina Garrido. The tactics employed by the authorities against dissenters--surveillance, harassment, detention, and silence--are both apparent and clearly abusive.

Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara were first arrested on May 18 and July 11, 2021, respectively, and remain in detention as their trial progresses. The long-term detention and extreme harsh conditions have taken a grave toll on their mental and physical well-being. Both Castillo Pérez and Otero Alcántara have faced worsening health conditions that require immediate medical attention. Following his most recent hunger strike in protest against his unjust imprisonment and the manipulation of his freedom by state security, Otero Alcántara told his family that he “suffered paralysis and had to be rushed to hospital." His partner said his condition has worsened and he finds himself at “constant risk.” Castillo Pérez's health has also drastically deteriorated as he awaits the results of a second biopsy conducted due to swelling in his throat and lymph nodes.

The Cuban government’s pursuit of criminal charges against both artists is not justice--it is oppression. We demand that the authorities drop all charges against both Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and immediately release them from detention. We further call on the Cuban government to cease the harassment and threats against journalists, writers, and artists on the island, and to respect and guarantee international human rights law as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.

Signed,

Organizations

  1. Acción Constitucional
  2. ARTICLE 19 México y Centroamérica
  3. Artist Protection Fund
  4. Artistic Freedom Initiative
  5. Artists At Risk Connection (ARC)
  6. ArtsEverywhere
  7. Auckland PEN
  8. Berlín Opus Cuba
  9. Cadal
  10. CIVICUS
  11. Civil Rights Defenders
  12. Cubalex
  13. Cultura democrática
  14. Democracy Council
  15. Demóngeles, colectivo de artistas
  16. Dansk PEN
  17. Di.Verso
  18. English PEN
  19. Fondo de Acción Urgente para América Latina y el Caribe
  20. Freedom House
  21. Fundamedios
  22. Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo a la Declaración
  23. Fundación Acceso- Shelter City Costa Rica
  24. Grupo Ánima, colectivo de artistas
  25. Human Rights Foundation
  26. Hypermedia
  27. Irish PEN
  28. Independence Chinese PEN
  29. International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  30. Movies that Matter
  31. Movimiento de San Isidro
  32. New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc
  33. PEN America
  34. PEN Argentina
  35. PEN Austria
  36. PEN Brazil
  37. PEN Canada
  38. PEN Catalan
  39. PEN Centre of Bosnia & Herzegovina
  40. PEN Chiapas Pluricultural
  41. PEN Chile
  42. PEN Club de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio
  43. PEN Ecuador
  44. PEN Eritrea
  45. PEN Guatemala
  46. PEN International
  47. PEN Kenya
  48. PEN Nigeria
  49. PEN Norway
  50. PEN Paraguay
  51. PEN Perth
  52. PEN Quebec
  53. PEN Turkey
  54. PEN Uruguay
  55. PEN Zimbabwe
  56. Philippine PEN
  57. Prisoners Defenders
  58. Provea - Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos
  59. San Miguel PEN
  60. Swedish PEN
  61. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
  62. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Individuals

  1. Lucía Leonor González Enríquez, performing artist
  2. Patricio Villarreal Ávila, performing artist
  3. Abu Abu Duyanah Tamayo, autor
  4. Luis Dener, writer
  5. Ariel Maceo Tellez, writer, poet and photographer
  6. Jennifer Clement, writer, former President of PEN International
  7. Gabriel Seisdedos, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  8. Coco Fusco, visual artist
  9. José Antonio Albertini, former President of PEN Cuban Writers in Exile
  10. Christopher Merrill, University of Iowa
  11. Alexis Romay, writer
  12. María Matienzo, writer
  13. Nonardo Perea, visual artist
  14. Celia González, visual artist
  15. Ileana Diéguez, writer
  16. Yanelys Nuñez, art historian
  17. Armando Chaguaceda, political scientist
  18. Sara Martínez Castro, writer
  19. Ladislao Aguado, Hypermedia’s editor
  20. Carolina Barrero, historian
  21. Tania Bruguera, visual artist
  22. Anamely Ramos, art curator
  23. Carlos Manuel Álvarez, writer
  24. Rubén Chababo, cultural professional
  25. Pablo César Rebollo, artist and professor
  26. LeAnne Russell Rasco, filmmaker
  27. Camila Ramírez Lobón, visual artist
  28. Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, art curator and activist
  29. Rafael Mondragón Velázquez, philologist
  30. Eliezer Márquez Duany, (“el Funky”), musician
  31. Ernesto Rojas Reyes, musician
  32. Natalie Morales, actress and filmmaker
  33. Alex Fumero, filmmaker
  34. Amilkar Feria Flores, writer and visual artist
  35. Solveig Font Martínez, art curator
  36. Julio Llopiz Casal, visual artist
  37. Miguel Yasser Castellanos Guerrero, visual artist
  38. Ileana Botalín, designer
  39. Javier Caso, artist
  40. Richard Zamora (“el Radikal”), musician
  41. Osvaldo Navarro Veloz (“NavyPro”), musician
  42. Luis Alberto Mariño, violinist  and performance artist
  43. Ileana Diéguez, researcher
  44. Salvador Pérez Franco, artist
  45. Henry Eric Hernández, artist
  46. Roberto Garcés Marrero, researcher
  47. Lester Alvarez Meno, artist
  48. María de Lourdes Mariño, art curator
  49. Maribel García González, interpreter and manager
  50. María Matienzo, writer
  51. Juan Enrique González, visual artist
  52. Michel Estopiñán, researcher
  53. María del Carmen Ares Marrero, playwright
  54. Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, activist and scientific
  55. Osmani Pardo Guerra, activist
  56. Esteban Rodríguez López, journalist and activist
  57. Jorge Luis Capote Arias, activist
  58. Iliana Hernández Cardosa, journalist
  59. Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola, academic
  60. Evelyn Rodriguez de Villafuerte, psychologist
  61. Eisbel Rojas, computer scientist
  62. Alenmichel Aguiló, academic
  63. Eduardo Testé Lino, researcher
  64. Rubén Ortíz, theater artist and researcher
  65. Gabriela Selser, journalist
  66. Regula Venske, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  67. Salil Tripathi, author and editor, Board Member of PEN International
  68. David Francis, author and lawyer, Board Member of PEN International
  69. Iman Humaydan, writer and activist, Board Member of PEN International
  70. Ola Larsmo, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  71. Danson Kahyana, writer, Board Member of PEN International
  72. Eric Lax, writer, treasurer and Vice President of PEN International
  73. Elisha July, writer, President of PEN Zimbabwe
  74. Ricky Monahan Brown, writer, President of Scottish PEN
  75. Helmuth A. Niederle, writer, President PEN Austria
  76. Lien Carrazana Lau, writer, artist and journalist, Diario de Cuba.
  77. Katherine Bisquet, poet and editor
  78. Hamlet Labastida, visual artist


 
 
 

 
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