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Cuba shuts down dialogue, blames US for protesting artists who demand more freedoms

By Nora Gámez Torres, El Nuevo Herald on

Published in News & Features

It is a script Cubans know well.

Less than 24 hours after the Ministry of Culture reached an agreement in response to an unprecedented public protest by more than 300 young artists and intellectuals demanding freedom of expression and the release of several members of the San Isidro Movement, the Cuban government unleashed a wave of attacks against what Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel called a "media show" and an example of U.S. meddling in the island's internal affairs.

"They have put on a media show for us. There is an unconventional warfare strategy to try to overthrow the revolution," Diaz-Canel said at a political event organized by the government Sunday. "This is the last attempt by the Trumpistas and the anti-Cuban mafia. ... They had on their agenda that before the end of the year the Cuban revolution had to fall."

The Cuban leader shut down hopes of a dialogue with the young protesters who stood before the Ministry of Culture on Friday to protest the harassment of artists, journalists and academics of the San Isidro Movement, which was created a couple of years ago to advocate for freedom of expression on the island.

"We will not tolerate interference from the North. We discuss our problems among ourselves and sovereignly decide. And here, there is space for dialogue for everything that stands for socialism, for the revolution," said the Cuban leader, who wore a T-shirt with the Cuban flag.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, one of the San Isidro project founders, was arrested last year for wearing a Cuban flag as a garment during an artistic performance.

 

Alleging the violation of health protocols related to COVID-19 on Thursday night, members of the Ministry of the Interior broke into Otero Alcantara's house and arrested a dozen people, five of whom were on a hunger strike. Several were later released, but Alcantara was taken to the Manuel Fajardo hospital in Havana, where he remains under surveillance, members of the group reported Monday afternoon.

"It's a kidnapping," said Michel Matos, one of the movement coordinators, who pointed out that they had not had direct contact with Otero Alcantara.

Rapper Maykel Castillo Perez, known as Maykel "Osorbo," was also released but is reportedly continuing the hunger strike, Matos said. Castillo Perez would be willing to abandon the strike, Matos clarified, if Otero Alcantara asked him directly.

The strikers were protesting the eight-month sentence of rapper Denis Solis, accused of contempt of the authorities.

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