Big names in literature and the arts call on Cuban government to release imprisoned artists | national

More than 300 writers and artists around the world have urged the Cuban government to immediately release artists detained after the July 11 protests, in a letter released Wednesday with support from PEN International, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection and Human Rights Watch.

“The Cuban government should immediately end its relentless abuses against artists, release all artists arbitrarily detained and drop all charges against them,” demanded the signatories of the open letter entitled “Let artists live and work freely” .

The statement points out that Cuban artists united in the San Isidro and 27N movements have drawn attention “to the Cuban government’s total disregard for human rights, in part laying the foundations for the massive protests that have erupted across the country. country on July 11, 2021 ”.

Several artists were arrested that day, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the freelance artist who challenged the government with his public performances; rapper Maykel Castillo, known as “Osorbo”, and music student Abel Lescay. All three have since been in prison.

In prison, Castillo won the Latin Grammy Award for best song of the year as one of the authors of “Patria y Vida”, a musical theme that inspired those who demonstrated against the government of the island. .

“Throwing artists in jail or exiling them from the country forever – in response to their art, their words and their ideas – is abusive and inhumane,” the letter said. “Art must be free from censorship and repression, in Cuba and everywhere.”

A diverse group of renowned names in literature, film and the arts from around the world signed the letter, including Oscar and Nobel laureates. Some are also activists or dissident artists, such as Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned for his political ideas, and Chinese cartoonist Badiucao.

actors Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and John Lithgow; writers Paul Auster, JM Coetzee, Jonathan Franzen and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and the American cartoonist Jules Feiffer are among the signatories.

A group of Latin American writers and filmmakers – including Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, Elena Poniatowska, Gioconda Belli, Sergio Ramírez and Arturo Ripstein – also backed the statement.

Cuban visual artist Hamlet Lavastida, who was arrested on the island this year and forced to leave the country after several months in Havana State Security Prison, is one of the signatories of the letter. Following the protests, other writers and artists like Tania Bruguera were placed under house arrest and harassed by the authorities. Bruguera, who left the island to take a job at Harvard, also signed the statement.

“The Cuban government’s crackdown on artists shows its extreme intolerance of criticism and dissent,” said Juan Pappier, senior researcher for the Americas at Human Rights Watch. “For years, the regime has used artists around the world to distract from their human rights record while persecuting and imprisoning independent artists in their countries. Today, 338 artists have signed this declaration and said “enough is enough”. “


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