Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)—Article 19 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”
The repeated arrest of eleven Cuban artists, all of whom are active members of a campaign against Decree 349, a new law aimed at restricting independent art and culture, is an intolerable affront to free expression, says PEN America.
Artists Tania Bruguera, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos and his wife Sandor Pérez Pita, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Amaury Pacheco Omni Poeta, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, Veronica Perez Vega, Miguel Yasser Castellano, Javier Moreno, and Adonis Milan were arrested on December 3, and their whereabouts are currently unknown. Performance artist Tania Bruguera was briefly released yesterday. However, while on her way to the Cuban Culture Minister to ask for the freedom of artists and to discuss Decree 349, the police arrested her again with artist Javier Moreno. Bruguera shared a photo of herself wearing a ‘No Al Decreto 349’ (No to Decree 349) T-shirt on social media, saying she will go on a hunger and thirst strike with her fellow artists if she is detained again. Decree 349/2018, one of the first pieces of legislation signed by Miguel Diaz-Canel since he succeeded Raul Castro as president in April of this year, institutionalizes censorship of independent art and culture and establishes violations for artistic services that are not regulated and recognized by official cultural institutions in Cuba.
“This decree is an attack against artistic freedom and the arrest of these eleven artists, in addition of the many artists already behind bars like rappers Maykel and Pupito, is more than an individual attack on free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. “This repression is not new, but represents a continuation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture’s policy to intimidate and censor critical and independent artistic voices.”
PEN America has also witnessed an alarming increase in arbitrary travel bans, detentions, and harassment of activists and artists by Cuban police officers leading up to December 7, when the decree will come into effect. Brief detentions are the standard response to opposition protests in Cuba, which considers dissidents to be mercenaries supported by the United States to subvert their own government.
Read more about Decree 349 and join the campaign here.
PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org
Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded. I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, Second Light, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”
The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others
“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA
“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton