CubaBrief: Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s 2010 extrajudicial killing should alert activists to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s plight today.

Cuban dissidents Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara

France 24 reported today that ” seven months after his arrest, loved ones of Cuban dissident artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara worry for his health, locked away mostly incommunicado in a high-security prison.” Family members and friends of Luis Manuel are right to be worried. The track record of the Cuban dictatorship towards nonviolent dissidents is not a good one.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is a poor, black Cuban dissident and human rights defender recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

Today marks the 12 year anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Orlando Zapata was a poor, black Cuban dissident and human rights defender recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

Orlando Zapata was a bricklayer, and a human rights defender while Luis Manuel is a performance artist, and a human rights defender.

Orlando Zapata was unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003, tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. He died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards repeatedly refusing him water. He had been jailed, and harassed before for his human rights activism, and demonized by the Castro regime.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was unjustly imprisoned on July 11, 2021, has been mistreated by prison officials, and periodically held incommunicado. ” The last time his girlfriend Claudia Genlui could speak to Alcantara, by telephone, was on January 18. Since then, he has started a hunger strike. It’s not his first'”, reports France24.

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012, issued a statement on the same day that regime officials had reported Orlando had died. Oswaldo Payá appeared in a photograph holding up a photocopy of the martyred human rights defender’s name and image.

“Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana’s Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.”

Facing the Embassy of Cuba in Washington DC tonight.

This is a worrisome pattern that has been repeated in other cases since 2010, and there is deep concern for the life of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and scores of other activists.

This is why today at 6:00pm outside of the Cuban embassy in Washington DC a vigil for Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and other victims of Castroism was initiated, and an online petition, that has already gathered over 500 signatures, continues to circulate calling for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross be granted access to all Cuban prisons.

France24, February 23, 2022

Fears grow for Cuban artist 7 months after arrest

Cuban dissident artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara has been held at a high security prison for seven months – AFP

Havana (AFP) – Seven months after his arrest, loved ones of Cuban dissident artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara worry for his health, locked away mostly incommunicado in a high-security prison.

Named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2021, the government in Havana considers the 34-year-old a mercenary in the service of the United States, which is calling for his release.

The last time his girlfriend Claudia Genlui could speak to Alcantara, by telephone, was on January 18. Since then, he has started a hunger strike. It’s not his first.

Then earlier this month, Genlui got a telephone call from a family member of a fellow inmate who reported that Alcantara “was not doing well, that he has lost a lot of weight, that he has almost no strength left to walk and that he hardly speaks,” she told AFP.

Alcantara is the leader of the San Isidro protest movement (MSI) of artists and intellectuals pressing for free speech and other rights in the communist island nation.

The Cuban government accuses him of political revolt funded by the United States, which has had sanctions in place against Cuba for six decades.

‘Extremely concerned’

On July 11 last year, when thousands of Cubans spilled onto the streets in a spontaneous outburst of anger against economic hardship and repression, Alcantara set out to join them.

But, already in the government’s sights, he was arrested shortly after leaving Genlui’s home, before he could even participate in the protest.

Since then, he has been held at the Guanajay maximum security jail 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Havana.

The charges against him include incitement to commit an offense, aggravated contempt and public disorder — all allegedly committed before last year’s mass protests.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “Seven months after peacefully standing up for human rights and fundamental freedoms, @LMOAlcantara awaits a trial that never seems to come.”

And the State Department said in a statement to AFP: “We are extremely concerned that Cuban authorities have unjustly made an example of Otero Alcantara.”

Alcantara, who defines himself as an “artivist,” has for years been a thorn in the side of the Cuban government with his provocative displays.

To protest a decree governing the work of artists in 2018, he sought to cover himself in human excrement outside parliament, but was arrested before the work was complete.

Once, he wore the Cuban flag over his shoulders for a month and was sued for insulting state symbols.

Last year, he spent almost a month in hospital following an eight-day hunger strike after authorities seized several of his works when he was arrested during a demonstration.

He was freed but rearrested several times for trying to leave his home, which had been surrounded by police who cut off his internet service and kept visitors away.

The entry in Time magazine calling Alcantara one of the most influential people of 2021 was written by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who said Alcantara’s “art, his unignorable fight for freedom of expression and his uncompromising stance against autocracy reveal the power of resistance.”

According to Genlui, the Cuban authorities have repeatedly offered Alcantara his freedom in exchange for exile, but he refuses.

“What motivates him, his goal, which is all of ours, is the freedom of Cuba,” she said.

Amnesty International has declared Alcantara a prisoner of conscience.

© 2022 AFP

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220223-fears-grow-for-cuban-artist-7-months-after-arrest

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, February 22, 2022

Twelve years ago on February 23, 2010 prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike in Cuba

“Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]” – Orlando Zapata Tamayo, letter smuggled out April of 2004*

Orlando Zapata Tamayo May 15, 1967 – February 23, 2010

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in his 1861 book, The House of the Dead  that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” What does this say about the Cuban government that has barred the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting Cuba’s prisons for decades?

Many Cubans have died over the past 63 years suffering cruel treatment at the hands of communist prison officials in the Castro dictatorship.

Tomorrow marks the death of one more. His name was Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a human rights defender who was unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003 and was tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. He died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards refusing him water in an effort to break his spirit. He is a victim of Cuban communism.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with photocopy image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012, issued a statement the same day that Orlando died and appeared in a photograph holding up a photocopy of the martyred human rights defender’s name and image.

“Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana’s Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.”

[ Full article here ]

https://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2022/02/twelve-years-ago-on-february-23-2010.html

Center for a Free Cuba
https://www.cubacenter.org/