CubaBrief: Human Rights and the importance of solidarity with victims of repression while holding dictators and tyrants accountable

Today is International Human Rights Day, it provides an opportunity for reflection on the importance of a global human rights perspective, and the importance of democracies holding dictatorships’ repressors accountable and siding with their victims. Read Moisés Naim’s OpEd “Venezuela’s Fatal Embrace of Cuba” today in The Wall Street Journal. It is a cautionary tale of how the failure of solidarity with Cuban democrats, and legitimization of the Castro regime proved Martin Luther King Jr.’s aphorism: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, Castro, and Spain’s Felipe Gonzalez

Mary O’Grady observed in her July 17, 2017 column “How Cuba Runs Venezuela“, published in The Wall Street Journal, that “in 1989 Fidel was even a special guest at the inauguration of Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Today the ‘special guests’ are brutalizing Venezuela as the world wonders what went wrong.”

This was “rewarded” three years later in 1992 when Hugo Chavez tried to overthrow the government of President Andres Perez. Pardoned by Perez’s successor, Rafael Caldera, in March 1994 Hugo Chavez made his way to Cuba later that same year where Fidel Castro received him as a hero, not a failed coup plotter.

The “normalization of relations” did not have the desired effect in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez would continue to be mentored by Fidel Castro, the regime’s intelligence services and achieved power in 1999, where he remained until his death, only to be replaced by Havana’s puppet, Nicolas Maduro.

Free Venezuelans have now learned, like Cubans before them, that they must be the protagonists of change in their country. This does not mean abandoning international solidarity, but incorporating it into an overall nonviolent strategy to regain democracy.

FREEDOM, No more repression, Free Denis Solis. The one-person protest of Luis Robles that landed him in prison.

In Cuba the courage of nonviolent activists challenge the regime, and expose its violent and illegitimate nature as the case of Luis Robles Elizastigui, who was arrested on December 4, 2020, for nonviolently carrying a sign calling for freedom, no more repression, and the freedom of Cuban rapper Denis Solis. Video confirms that this is why he was arrested.

This action was multiplied by tens of thousands on July 11, 2021, and violent repression by regime forces radically escalated, but the international community is paying attention. The 14th Havana Biennial in Cuba opened to the public, but the focus is now on the “dozen invited artists [who] declined to participate in protest of the state’s actions,” reports Artnet.

For human rights to thrive it is necessary to hold dictators accountable, and speak up for victims of repression. Otherwise as Reverend King observed and too many Venezuelans are experiencing today, injustice and tyranny expand to new lands.

The Wall Street Journal, December 10, 2021

The Saturday Essay

Venezuela’s Fatal Embrace of Cuba

An oil-rich one-time ally of the U.S. has been quietly colonized by a much smaller, poorer neighbor. Now Venezuela is as wrecked and destitute as a country at war.

Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in Bolivar City, Venezuela, Aug. 2001. Reuters

By Moisés Naim

Dec. 10, 2021 11:00 am ET

In the first half of 2019, Venezuela began to suffer gasoline shortages. This, on its face, was preposterous. The nation had the world’s largest proven oil reserves—its refineries boasted the capacity to supply the country’s needs many times over. Yet drivers up and down the land found themselves waiting days on end in lines outside gas stations, bringing to mind the old joke about how if communists took over the Sahara it would run out of sand.

At the same time, tanker ships were departing from Venezuelan terminals full of oil. They did so in contravention of U.S. sanctions, turning off their satellite tracking devices to avoid detection and heading north-northwest…toward Cuba. This image tells the fundamental story of Venezuela’s multilevel disaster. Even amid crippling gas shortages that left Venezuela in economic free fall, Caracas’s priorities were clear: Cuba’s needs come first. Always.

People wait in long lines for gas at a station belonging to the state oil company in Maracaibo, Venezuela, May 17, 2019. Photo: Isaac Urrutia/REUTERS

If this order of business doesn’t seem to make sense, that is hardly unusual. Things keep happening in Venezuela that don’t seem to make sense, that weren’t even supposed to be possible. The country has bucked so many trends and plumbed such new depths that all common explanations seem to fall short.

Venezuela’s implosion isn’t simply the case of a Latin American basket case doing the things that basket cases do. For much of the 20th century, Venezuela was the poster child for the successful South American republic: democratic when its neighbors were despotic, prosperous when its neighbors were poor, and stable all through the vagaries of the Cold War. Venezuela carved out a niche as the country that the U.S. State Department could highlight to make its case that democracy could work in Latin America.

Hop into a time machine, go back to 1985 and ask 100 Latin America experts which country in the region they thought might fall to communist dictatorship by the year 2021. You would have heard plenty of concern about El Salvador and Guatemala, about Argentina and Colombia, even Brazil. But Venezuela? The notion would have seemed absurd.

And yet Venezuela’s democracy did implode, along with its economy, setting off the greatest mass migration of the dispossessed in Latin America’s history. One out of five Venezuelans has fled the country, a dismal parade of more than six million penniless, frail and desperate people straggling into neighboring countries in search of charity and shelter. Clarity on what exactly happened to their country is hard to come by. Too much happened there that was never supposed to happen.

Perhaps most sobering is what happened to Venezuela’s economy. For generations, economists have tended to portray development as a one-way process: Poor countries accumulate capital and technology and get gradually richer in the process. Even the term “developing countries” suggests a certain directional inevitability.

And for many decades, Venezuela certainly appeared to be “developing.” Indeed, from the time that its oil industry got going in the 1920s, Venezuela was a development star, with incomes growing steadily and a strong middle class emerging in a country with no history of any such thing.

Yet starting with the debt crisis of the early 1980s, the process stalled. The country’s politics became bitterly divided. Then, in the last 10 years, the development process slammed into reverse. Today, with incomes in free fall and people literally hiking to the nearest border to find something to eat, to call Venezuela a developing country is an absurdity, if not an obscenity.

A homeless man searches for food in Caracas, Venezuela, April 10, 2019. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

At the moment, according to researchers, 95% of Venezuelans are poor in terms of income. More than 3 in 4 Venezuelans live in extreme poverty and food insecurity. At around $3 a month, the legal minimum wage won’t feed a person for a day, let alone a family for a month. There is therefore little point in working: About half of the working age population has dropped out of the labor force, leaving remittances from relatives who have fled as the main survival strategy for about 40% of the population. GDP per capita has plummeted to levels not seen since the 1950s.

Hyperinflation set off this most recent and precipitous descent. Beginning in 2017, unbridled government spending, uncontrolled monetary expansion and a collapse in tax revenues led prices to rise out of control. Money became largely useless: Prices in local currency rose an estimated one million percent in 2018. At 45 months and counting, Venezuela’s hyperinflationary spiral is now the second longest in history, bested only by Nicaragua’s in the 1980s.

No part of life is spared the chaos. Water shortages are endemic in all major cities. Blackouts are common. Chronic gasoline shortages have ground public transport to a halt in many places: Bicycles have become the mode of transport of choice for those who can afford them. The healthcare system has collapsed, leading child mortality rates to spike to levels not seen in a generation. Diseases such as diphtheria and malaria, which were all but eradicated decades ago, are back. The sole bright spot? Murder rates have fallen because, some surmise, ammunition is in short supply and gang members have migrated to neighboring countries.

That a nation once as prosperous as Venezuela could regress to this dystopian state is the first and most sobering lesson of the Venezuelan experience—proof that development gains aren’t permanent. Mismanage an economy badly enough, and the progress achieved in a generation evaporates dizzyingly fast.

Another lesson is that bad government can be as destructive as a great physical calamity. The scale of Venezuela’s implosion would suggest that the country had endured a war or a string of ghastly natural disasters. No such affliction came to Venezuela. Rather, it turns out that a country can endure wartime levels of destruction without a war—stemming from no force more destructive than the terrible policy decisions of its own government.

Migrants line up to enter to Colombia from Venezuela near the border in Paraguachon, Colombia, June 8, 2019  Photo: Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

The main culprit is clear enough: socialism, in a particularly virulent and criminalized incarnation. A wave of expropriations beginning in 2005 put much of the country’s private economy in state hands. Those firms that remained private faced a wall of state controls that left them with little say over their own operations. Wages, prices, hiring and firing, production levels, imports, exports and investment—each became subject to minutely detailed rules thought up by socialist bureaucrats with little notion of how to run a business.

In time, businessmen who had retained control of their enterprises envied those who had been expropriated: At least the latter had received some nominal compensation, whereas the former were left in control of companies rendered worthless.

Private investment largely ceased. No sane entrepreneur would invest in an economy like Venezuela’s, unless in illegal businesses or in companies with close ties to corrupt military or government bigwigs. Of them, there were many: Bureaucrats across the growing state-owned enterprise sector looked for creative ways to extract value from the assets they controlled and ferret it away in offshore bank accounts. Soon, Caracas had turned into a major money laundering hub, with neophyte kleptocrats looking for savvier partners able to help them hide their loot.

Venezuela’s socialism was criminalized from the start, often serving as little more than a narrative that the powerful used to cover up their plunder of public assets. A ruthlessly extractive state elite ran through the nation’s economy like a plague of locusts, leaving virtually nothing behind.

How could such a destructive governance model take hold in a country with one of the most enduring democracies in Latin America? The question will keep academics busy for generations, but the first place to look for an answer is Cuba, which is where Venezuela found the model of state control that it would implement to such disastrous effect.

To call Venezuela under Hugo Chávez and Cuba under Fidel Castro “allies” is to understate the case. Beginning in the early 2000s, thousands of Cuban doctors, teachers, nurses, sports-trainers and community organizers poured into Venezuela as part of an oil-for-development-assistance deal that became an economic lifeline for the island while filling Venezuela to the brim with Cuban spies. Soon, Cubans were enmeshed in Venezuela’s state system at every level, and Chávez made little secret of the fact that he trusted them more than his own people.

He was guilty of only mild exaggeration when, in 2007, he declared that “deep down,” the two countries have “one single government.” Proof of this, if any were needed, came in 2013, when on his death bed Chávez appointed the most militantly pro-Cuban member of his entourage, Nicolás Maduro, to succeed him.

Cuban Communist Party leader and former President Raul Castro, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel take part in a solidarity conference in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 3, 2019. Photo: REUTERS

Here, too, what happened was something long thought impossible: Gradually, over the span of a few years, one of the U.S.’s most important regional allies had defected from its coalition and joined an enemy bloc—all without anyone’s firing a shot.

The left-wing critique of U.S. foreign policy couldn’t explain this turn of events. U.S. hegemony, especially in the Americas, was supposed to be ruthlessly effective. A country as strategically significant as Venezuela, with vast hydrocarbon and mineral riches, ought to have been a strategic priority for the U.S., its defection unimaginable. But in the wake of 9/11, decision makers in Washington had come to devote practically all of their attention to the Middle East, leaving Castro and Chávez free to deepen their alliance undisturbed.

Under the cover of Washington’s inattention, Venezuela experienced a kind of upside-down colonization, with the smaller, weaker country—Cuba—effectively taking over its larger, richer neighbor. The U.S. response, when it came, was first piecemeal and later ham-handed.

The Bush administration barely registered the scale of the problem. The Obama administration began imposing sanctions against individual regime figures—sanctions that could have been effective if they had been applied in concert with allies, but they often weren’t because Spain, Italy, Argentina, Mexico and others wouldn’t support them. Soon, Venezuelan kleptocrats were buying ranches in the Argentine pampas and castles in picturesque towns in Spain. When the Trump administration decided to heighten pressure on the regime, it levied sanctions against the Venezuelan economy—further impoverishing already desperate Venezuelans and driving millions to move to neighboring countries.

Only too late did the Trump administration grasp that sanctioning Venezuela did little to isolate its regime. Why? Because the U.S.’s strategic competitors—including China, Russia, Iran, Belarus, Turkey, Qatar and, of course, Cuba—stepped into the breach, creating an alternative international support system that sustained the Venezuelan dictatorship.

In return for long-term oil supply commitments, China provided billions in financing facilities to Caracas just as it was losing access to Western credit markets. Chinese firms sold riot control equipment to the Maduro government, Russia sold fighter jets and digital snooping tools. Iran set up car factories in Venezuela, Belarus tractor and prefab home factories. Turkey and Qatar became the linchpins of a system to launder the gold, diamonds and coltan mined from Venezuela’s southern jungles and turn them into an income stream for the regime.

This ad hoc international coalition was a little ramshackle at the best of times, but it was good enough to get the job done. It drained U.S. economic sanctions of their effectiveness, allowing the regime to hang on even as its people were catastrophically impoverished. Nevertheless, the Western left took up a well-funded propaganda campaign, called “Hands-Off Venezuela” and supported by the Venezuelan government, that called for “nonintervention” in Venezuela’s affairs, but in a strikingly lopsided fashion: Only the Western democracies were admonished to keep their hands off Venezuela, not the autocracies that propped up the regime.

Children play at Los Hijos de Dios settlement, once an empty field owned by the government and now occupied by about 60 families. Caracas, Venezuela, May 8, 2019. Photo: Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

It is one of the world’s great diplomatic clichés that the problems of a country are for that country’s citizens alone to solve. For Venezuela, penetrated to the marrow by Cuban communism and propped up by this disparate coalition of autocracies, such ritual exhortations are a cop-out—a call to leave Venezuela to the Cubans.

In a previous age, dictatorships tended to end when dictators flew off to a comfortable exile. Baby Doc Duvalier, Haiti’s bloodthirsty dictator, ended up in a château on the Côte-d’Azur. Uganda’s Idi Amin found refuge in Saudi Arabia, Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista in Spain.

All that changed when Chile’s former President Augusto Pinochet was indicted and arrested while visiting London in 1998. That move, an expression of the new human rights doctrine of “universal jurisdiction,” was meant to usher in a new era of accountability for serious human rights violations. For a dictator such as Maduro, however, it means that stepping down will land him in a jail cell, which has made him more obdurate in hanging on to power. No guarantee of immunity from any established democracy could seem plausible to a man who is at this moment being investigated for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Venezuela’s calamity was both impossible and overdetermined. Any one of its maladies—socialism, a state captured by criminals, draconian sanctions, hyperinflation—could have been enough to ruin a country. But the country might still have found the moral reserves to free itself from its troubles had it not been for one, ultimately determinative factor: Cuba.

Venezuela is being looted for the benefit of an outside power. Those tankers carrying oil north to Havana while Venezuelan drivers wait in line tell the story of its disaster more neatly than any analysis can or will. Venezuela is under stealth foreign occupation—no less real for having been invited in.

Mr. Naim, who served as Venezuela’s minister of trade and industry in the early 1990s, is Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. His new book, “The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century,” will be published by St. Martin’s Press in February.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-fatal-embrace-of-cuba-11639152017

Havana Times, December 9, 2021

Cuba: Luis Robles, a Year in Jail with No Trial or Sentence

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – Luis Robles Elizastigui was arrested on December 4, 2020, while protesting alone on the San Rafael Pedestrian Boulevard, in Havana, with a written sign asking for freedom, the end of State repression and rapper Denis Solis’ release.

Solis served his full sentence and was finally released in July 2021, when Robles had already spent eight months in prison. He has been in what they call “pre-trial detention” since his arrest, at the Combinado del Este prison. A year after his arrest, he has yet to go to trial and receive a sentence.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office is asking for a six-year prison sentence for Robles. Enemy propaganda and disobedience are the crimes he is being charged with.

The Cuban State could justify its lack of urgency in the case with the defense that the Criminal Procedure Code in force today doesn’t stipulate a time limit for pre-trial detention. However, citizens such as Robles, who are charged with crimes that can be sentenced with more than a one-year prison sentence, must be taken to trial or dismissed (released without any charges) within 60 days.

In spite of the above, there is no legal provision that establishes the release of a defendent who hasn’t appeared before the Court after 60 days in pre-trial detention.

The key problem here lies in the fact that the current Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that criminal investigations can be extended up to six months by judges or indefinitely by the Public Prosecutor’s Office which, as stipulated in Article 107, is “able to grant a new period for the final sentence of a case in a prepatory proceeding.”

Thus, the defendent could stay in pre-trial detention indefinitely, while their case isn’t taken to court.

Cuba’s new Criminal Procedures Law – passed in October 2021 by the National Assembly and whose effective date still remains unknown – does state that after a defendent spends a year in pre-trial detention, the Public Prosecutor’s Office or Court, depending on whom the responsibility corresponds to, must reach a decision about the deprivation of liberty.

This new legislation only guarantees a review after the defendant spends 12 months in pre-trial detention and that a ruling be made, which doesn’t mean the measure can’t be amended.

The most striking thing about Robles’s case, which proves just how politicized the Cuban justice system is, is that his investigation was closed and his case was presented in Court before March 18, 2020 at least, when the Provisional Findings of the case were presented. There is no legal reason for him to stay in prison without a trial.

The Provisional Findings were issued by public prosecutor Yanaisa Matos Legra. The document states that “provocations” are punishable. In this respect, the document reads that the 29-year-old man intended “to start an incitement in a crowded place” while exercising his right to protest.

The text also outlines the reasons why the citizen is being charged with disobedience. According to the Provisional Findings, Robles ignored police officer Vladimir Rodriguez Despaigne’s attempt to deter him; therefore, his attitude constitutes the crime he is being charged with.

Videos about Robles’ arrest that went viral on social media don’t show any attempt from the police to deter him. On the other hand, the explicit justification for charging him with the crime of enemy propaganda lies in the fact that Robles refused to leave the protest with his sign raised and continuously shouting “freedom”. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, this action led to disorder among the people present, and some of them joined him and shouted identical phrases, while others filmed what happened.

FREEDOM, No more repression, Free Denis Solis. The one-person protest of Luis Robles that landed him in prison.

Robles didn’t create the disorder, instead it came from the police intervention and the resulting arbitrary arrest.

The Provisional Findings were recognized by the Diez de Octubre Municipal Court in Havana. The institution set the oral trial against Robles Elizastigui for July 16, 2021. After anti-government protests on July 11th (11J), the hearing was canceled.

However, Cuban courts have tried and sentenced dozens of protestors after 11J. In the meantime, Robles continues to await his trial date for a much less significant event, from a criminal standpoint, than what happened during the July protests.

During his year in pre-trial detention, Robles has suffered constant violations of his human rights. On December 2, Luis Robles made a phone call to the Ladies in White’s main office and told them that he had been a victim of torture and psychological violence, that he had been chained for hours on end and had been sent to the punishment cell five times; the past two times for having reported the harassment happening inside prison. Since August, Cuban judicial authorities have denied him two changes in his preventive prison situation.

If trying Luis Robles was a repressive, unjust and disproportionate act before July 11th, trying him after 11J seems a lot worse.

https://havanatimes.org/features/cuba-luis-robles-a-year-in-jail-with-no-trial-or-sentence/

artnet news, December 9, 2021

The 14th Havana Biennial Has Opened to the Public—But the Show Has Taken a Backseat to the Protests Around It

Ahead of the biennial’s opening, more than a dozen invited artists declined to participate in protest of the state’s actions.

Taylor Dafoe, December 9, 2021

Cubans outside Havana’s Capitol during a demonstration against Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images.

Midway through last month, the 14th edition of the Havana Biennial opened—not with a bang but with a whimper. 

The state-sponsored exhibition, historically Cuba’s most important art event, has long had a dual nature. It’s a welcome platform for Cuban artists to introduce their work to the world, but also a tool of soft power for the local government. And because of the attention it brings, positive and negative, it has also been a hotbed for political action.

“The main purpose of the Havana Biennial is to project an image abroad of the Cuban art scene, that the state is so beneficent and that everything is so wonderful,” Cuban artist and writer Coco Fusco, a past participant in the show, explained to Artnet News. And yet, for invitees, the prospect of partaking can be too tantalizing to turn down: “Artists often make enough money in sales from that one event to live for a year or two,” she added. 

But this year, even in the wake of violent protests around government crackdowns, surging infections, and a drastic economic dip, turning down the invitation is just what many artists did. Indeed, it seems that opposition to the exhibition has overshadowed the event itself.

A Statement of Protest

Ahead of the show’s opening in mid-November, over a dozen invited participants declined to participate.

These include twelve of the participating artists: Yazmany Arboleda, Aimee Joaristi, Argüelles, Abel Azcona, Ursula Biemann, Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Carolina Caycedo, Terike Haapoja, Miler Lagos, Joiri Minaya, and Rosângela Rennó.

It also includes curators Nicolas Bourriaud, María Belén Saéz de Ibarra, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, as well as writer Laura Gustafsson.

Meanwhile, hundreds more signed an open letter calling for an across-the-board boycott. This included well-known figures such as Marina Abramović, Pablo Helguera, Teresita Fernández, Theaster Gates, Thomas Lax, Julie Mehretu, Cildo Meireles, Naeem Mohaiemen, Shirin Neshat, Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, Mari Carmen Ramírez, and Robert Storr.

“The institutions and functionaries that organize the 14th Havana Biennial are the same ones that have refused to listen to us,” the letter, penned by the activist group 27N, read. “They have condoned and participated in the violence perpetrated against Cuban cultural workers who seek greater autonomy for Cuban culture and civil rights for our citizenry.

“The problems we face cannot be reduced to an isolated case of censorship,” the document went on. “We are contending with a systemic effort by the Cuban government to silence those who think differently. The lives of people in the cultural field are at risk.”

The Background

In July of this year, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in a spate of protests against the Communist regime under Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel. Spurring them was a lack of basic goods, a rise in COVID-19 cases, and the government’s impingement of civil liberties, including a controversial censorship law, Decree 349. Over 1,000 artists and creatives were detained during the course of the protests.   

The 14th edition of the Havana Biennial arrived in this climate. “Futuro y Contemporaneidad” (“Future and Contemporaneity”) is the name of the exhibition, which for the first time is broken down into three different installments—or “experiences”—spread across its six months. The first two opened on November 12 and December 6, respectively.

The show isn’t driven by a cohesive theme but rather by a series of lofty—if somewhat cryptic—descriptions. According to the curatorial statement, the exhibition purports to be a “decolonizing space…for all those interested in a dialogue of coexistence” and “a platform for reflection on the development of civilization from the territories of art as a plural and decentralized space.” 

According to Prensa Latina, Cuba’s official state news agency, more than 1,000 “visual artists, gallery owners, writers, thinkers and political scientists” signed a petition in support of this year’s biennial. The news outlet also reported that the Biennial’s organizing committee confirmed the participation of 300 artists. And since its opening last month, the show’s Facebook and Instagram pages have been consistently updated with photos of events.

Conflicting Messages

Still, little information has seeped out of Havana about who actually is participating in the show. Few if any non-local news outlets have covered “Futuro y Contemporaneidad,” and the materials provided by the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, which is responsible for organizing the event, contain out-of-date information about artists who have since publicly withdrawn. 

For instance, the list of participating artists for the first installment listed on the website includes mixed-media artist Joiri Minaya, one of the artists who has publicly dropped out. Minaya explained in a statement shared on social media that she “corresponded for a while with [the] administration to understand what they were interested in and what the logistics would be, but I have not corresponded for more than a month, nor have I taken any steps to send my works.” She continued:

I have concluded that it is difficult, contradictory, even hypocritical, to be part of an event organized by a regime that violates the freedoms of dissident artists; that tortures, imprisons and deports artists for doing their work or expressing their opinion; that I consider will be a smokescreen to cover up a crisis… In solidarity with the Cuban artists repressed, imprisoned, tortured, violated, silenced, disappeared or deported for their art or thought, I will not participate in this event under these circumstances.

The organizers of the Havana Biennial did not respond to Artnet News’s request for more information.

An Ongoing Struggle

Tania Bruguera’s name is also among those signing the new international letter. In October, Bruguera agreed to leave her home country on the condition that the Cuban authorities release 25 political prisoners, among them fellow artist and activist Hamlet Lavastida and members of the 27N Movement. (Neither Bruguera nor Lavastida responded to inquiries from Artnet News.) 

Yet dozens of artists and dissidents, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo and members of 27N-adjacent San Isidro and Archipiélago movements, remain in some form of detainment. Scores of others are reportedly subject to surveillance, abuse, and other forms of punitive state action. 

In yet another letter this week, co-issued by the human rights advocacy groups PEN America, PEN International, and Human Rights Watch, over 300 cultural figures, Meryl Streep, Orhan Pamuk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Khaled Hosseini called on the Cuban government to “stop its unrelenting abuses against artists, release all arbitrarily detained artists, and drop all charges against them.” 

“Throwing artists in jail or exiling them from the country forever—in response to their art, words, and ideas—is abusive and inhumane,” the statement said. “We stand proudly in solidarity with Cuban artists. Art should be free from censorship and repression, in Cuba and everywhere.”

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/havana-biennial-controversy-2046606