Defend Cuba’s Persecuted Artist-Activists

Defend Cuba’s Persecuted Artist-Activists

158 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
Petition to
the government of Cuba

Why this petition matters

Started by Tom Diaz

The Cuban government continues its relentless persecution and imprisonment of artists who are advocating for basic human rights and a peaceful end to 63 years of single-party rule. These poets, musicians and writers have called on the international community for justice, but the regime continues to abuse them with impunity.

As artists, writers, journalists, members of arts institutions, and activists for civil liberties, we call on the Cuban government to respect the vital role of art in society by honoring the human right to freedom of expression. We call on the regime to immediately end the abuse of all its citizens, including brave artist-activists who are dreaming of a free Cuba in their prison cells.  

Two of these artists, Luís Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo “Osorbo,” are extremely ill after more than seven months in Cuba’s notorious maximum-security prisons. Each man has undergone multiple hunger and thirst strikes to protest the flagrant human rights abuses on the island. Last year, Amnesty International identified them as prisoners of conscience and repeatedly called for their release. But the regime continues to deny it has any political prisoners at all.

Luís and Maykel are well-known outside of Cuba for their art and their activism. Time Magazine honored Luis by selecting him for its Top 100 Most Influential People of 2021. Maykel co-wrote the hit “Patria y Vida,” a scathing rap that denounces the Cuban regime and became an instant anthem for Cuba’s pro-democracy movement. The regime punished, harassed, and jailed Cubans who sang it in public. But the 2021 Latin Grammys recognized the song’s brilliance with its top prize, Song of the Year, and a second award for Best Urban Song.

Luís and Maykel are in their cells and facing unjust charges in large part because of “Patria y Vida.” After the song was released, and it became the hymn of the protest movement, the regime intensified its harassment, detentions, surveillance, and house arrests of the two young men for their role in creating the song. (Luis is featured in the lyrics and the video).

Luís and Maykel are just two of the artists who are suffering because of their political views—and they are only a segment of the more than 900 documented political prisoners in Cuba.

Cuban artists have the right to free speech and freedom of expression. They should be able to paint, write, sing—create—and express their longing for freedom and political change. They should not lose their jobs, be beaten, detained, publicly defamed, or held under house arrest because they are critical of the regime. They should not be forcibly exiled, prohibited from leaving the country, or prohibited from returning to Cuba after traveling abroad. Government agents should not destroy their artwork, confiscate their supplies and equipment, or threaten and harass their families and friends.

“There is no justification for persecuting artists for peacefully expressing their views.” [Excerpt from December 8, 2021 statement by Pen International, Human Rights Watch, and Artists at Risk, co-signed by more than 300 leading international arts figures.]

As members of the international arts community, we demand that the Cuban government stop its cruel and brutal persecution of artists, writers and independent journalists for expressing views that are critical of the regime. 

The Cuban government must:

1.    Release artist-activists who’ve been arbitrarily imprisoned, like Luís Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo “Osorbo,” and are being held in filthy and inhumane conditions.

2.   Respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression, including the right to create, perform, and display one’s art freely and without censorship.

3.   Stop threatening, arbitrarily detaining, and harassing the families, colleagues, and supporters of artist-activists. 

“Throwing artists in jail or exiling them from the country forever – in response to their art, words, and ideas – is abusive and inhumane. We stand proudly in solidarity with Cuban artists. Art should be free from censorship and repression, in Cuba and everywhere.” [Same statement by Pen International et al.]

If you sign the petition, we would love to see a comment from you that explains the reason for your support, or the support of your organization.

158 have signed. Let’s get to 200!