CubaBrief: 10 yrs after his death, Oswaldo Payá inspires free Cubans. 33 more Cubans sentenced for 11J protests. Cuban dissident artists featured in Documenta 15

“The world is engulfed in struggles for democracy — in Ukraine and Belarus, in Cuba and Burma, in Russia, China and Venezuela, among others. People are risking their lives to secure the right to speak, think, worship and associate as they wish. What does it take to square off against a powerful authoritarian regime? There are important lessons from the life and work of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, who died in a suspicious car wreck 10 years ago,” says author and journalist David E. Hoffman in his OpEd “Payá never saw freedom, but 10 years after his death, he inspires Cubans fighting his fight” published on June 17, 2022 in the Miami Herald. Next week on June 22nd he will be in Coral Gables at Books and Books to talk about his new book about the murdered dissident leader. This presentation will take place one month prior to marking the day on July 22, 2012 when Oswaldo Payá, and Harold Cepero were murdered by the Cuban dictatorship’s secret police.

Pulitzer prize winning author and contributing editor to The Washington Post David E. Hoffman will be discussing his new book “Give Me Liberty: The True Story of Oswaldo Payá and his Daring Quest for a Free Cuba,” on Wed, Jun 22, 2022, 7:30 PM EDT at Books & Books located at 265 Aragon Avenue Coral Gables, FL 33134. Event is free and you can register here.

This book presentation and the ten year observance of the murder of two Cuban dissident leaders will take place in the aftermath of the historic 11J protests in 2021, and the ongoing show trials by the Cuban dictatorship to silence Cubans who took part in the demonstrations demanding freedom, and an end to the dictatorship.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today, June 17th, that another 33 participants in the July 11 – 13 protests in Cuba “received their final sentences” … “reported the Attorney General’s Office.” On Thursday night, the prosecutor’s office published a statement informing “that of the 33 participants in the protests in Havana and in the neighboring province of Mayabeque, who had appealed their sentences in the first instance, ’30 were sentenced to imprisonment’, 20 of them between five and 10 years and another 10 between 10 and 18 years.” Two others were sentenced to “correctional work without internment”, and a third to “limitation of liberty.”

These political show trials, and the draconian prison sentences have an objective: to instill fear in the Cuban people, and silence dissent.

Havana does not permit international or domestic oversight of prison conditions, good statistics on its overall prison population are difficult to come by, and the Cuban regime infrequently provides data on prisons that cannot be independently verified. The UN Committee Against Torture on April 29, 2022 reported that the Cuban government had not provided prison population figures since 2012. Information is provided sporadically, and is misleading.This also sends a message to Cubans that the dictatorship can do whatever it wants with them in the crowded and unaccountable jails that even the International Committee of the Red Cross do not have access to.

Cuban artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, recognized by Time Magazine in 2021 as one of the 100 most influential people in the World and Maykel Castillo “Osorbo” who won two Latin Grammys in November 2021 remain jailed for exercising their artistic expression to criticize the Cuban dictatorship.

The efforts to silence Cuban dissidents is failing on the international scene, and free Cubans are reaching new audiences.

Documenta is an art exhibition in the city of Kassel in Germany that takes place every five years for 100 days. The next documenta takes place this year starting on June 18, 2022, and is called Documenta Fifteen, and according to Artnet involves 1,500 artists.

Tania Bruguera in one of the rooms occupied by INSTAR in Documenta 15.SASCHA STEINBACH

This year’s edition “includes a special presentation by Tania Bruguera and the Cuban collective Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (Instar) that highlights the difficulties Cuban artists are facing at home. ” … “Instar was founded in May 2015 by Bruguera in Havana after a marathon 100-hour collective reading of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which artists say is relevant to Cuban conditions today,” reports Artnet

“Among the participants is Hamlet Lavastida, the Cuban artist who was jailed in 2020 before being exiled into Poland last September. He’s showing work at this year’s Documenta as part of a collective of anti-government Cuban artists. Lavastida’s is not the only recognizable face. The installation also includes a drawing of rapper and activist Maykel Castillo Osorbo, who’s still in prison in Havana, alongside a multimedia timeline that charts recent events in Cuba and its ongoing political crackdown. An adjoining room has a list of artists who were or are political prisoners in the country, plus printed face masks depicting the artists on spikes. ‘The political gesture with our Instar is to bring all the people who have been erased from Cuban culture, because the Cuban government says they’re not artists,’ Bruguera told Artnet News, standing barefoot on a carpet installation showing a map of Cuba. ‘But they’re here [at Documenta], so of course they are.’”

Miami Herald, June 17, 2022

Payá never saw freedom, but 10 years after his death, he inspires Cubans fighting his fight

| Opinion By David E. Hoffman Updated June 17, 2022 3:49 PM

Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya during an interview with the Associated Press in Havana, Cuba, in 2006. Javier Galeano AP Photo

The world is engulfed in struggles for democracy — in Ukraine and Belarus, in Cuba and Burma, in Russia, China and Venezuela, among others. People are risking their lives to secure the right to speak, think, worship and associate as they wish. What does it take to square off against a powerful authoritarian regime? There are important lessons from the life and work of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, who died in a suspicious car wreck 10 years ago. In studying Payá’s years-long quest for democracy and human rights for a new biography, “Give Me Liberty,” I found that he took a hard and lonely road. He was surveilled and threatened by state security and lacked the means or resources to reach people.

[…]

David E. Hoffman is the author of “Give Me Liberty: The True Story of Oswaldo Payá and his Daring Quest for a Free Cuba,” to be published June 21 by Simon & Schuster. He will discuss the subject of his book, Oswaldo Payá at 7:30 p.m. June 22, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets are free. Click here to register.

[ Full article here]

https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article262630712.html

AFP, June 17, 2022

In Cuba, a final sentence for 33 more July 11 protesters

By AFP

Another 33 participants in the July 11 and 12 demonstrations in Cuba received their final sentences, bringing to 414 the number of people convicted of those events, some of them with up to 25 years in prison, reported the Attorney General’s Office.

The protests that broke out last July 11 to the shouts of “We are hungry” and “Freedom” left one dead, dozens wounded and more than 1,300 arrested, hundreds of whom are still in prison, according to the civil organization Justicia 11J.

In a statement published Thursday night, the prosecutor’s office informed that of the 33 participants in the protests in Havana and in the neighboring province of Mayabeque, who had appealed their sentences in the first instance, “30 were sentenced to imprisonment”, 20 of them between five and 10 years and another 10 between 10 and 18 years.

Two others had their prison sentences commuted to “correctional work without internment”, and a third to “limitation of liberty”, which also does not imply their imprisonment, added the prosecutor’s office, which did not specify the age of the convicted.

In another statement issued on Monday, the prosecutor’s office reported the final sentences of 381 demonstrators, including 36 who received sentences of up to 25 years in prison for sedition.

Those convicted took part in the riots, the largest recorded on the island since the triumph of the revolution in 1959.   

The government had reported on January 25 that 790 people, including 55 under the age of 18, had been indicted for the July demonstrations.

Cuban authorities claim that the demonstrations were orchestrated from the United States, whose government has considered the sentences imposed excessive and has insistently demanded that Havana release all prisoners.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Washington had sanctioned five Cuban officials for their role in the “unfair” trials and imprisonment of participants in last July’s protests.

This is a response to officials “who deny Cubans their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Blinken added, without naming names.

https://ticotimes.net/2022/06/17/in-cuba-a-final-sentence-for-33-more-july-11-protesters

Artnet News, June 17, 2022

Shows & Exhibitions

Cuban Artists Show Up En Masse to Documenta, Bringing Their Plight at Home to the Wider Art World

Tania Bruguera may be the best known name at the show, but dozens more Cuban artists will partake in the event.

Artnet News, June 17, 2022

Members of the Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR). Photo: Artnet News.

This year’s edition of Documenta, which involves some 1,500 artists, includes a special presentation by Tania Bruguera and the Cuban collective Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (Instar) that highlights the difficulties Cuban artists are facing at home.

Among the participants is Hamlet Lavastida, the Cuban artist who was jailed in 2020 before being exiled into Poland last September. He’s showing work at this year’s Documenta as part of a collective of anti-government Cuban artists. 

Lavastida’s is not the only recognizable face. The installation also includes a drawing of rapper and activist Maykel Castillo Osorbo, who’s still in prison in Havana, alongside a multimedia timeline that charts recent events in Cuba and its ongoing political crackdown. An adjoining room has a list of artists who were or are political prisoners in the country, plus printed face masks depicting the artists on spikes.

“The political gesture with our Instar is to bring all the people who have been erased from Cuban culture, because the Cuban government says they’re not artists,” Bruguera told Artnet News, standing barefoot on a carpet installation showing a map of Cuba. “But they’re here [at Documenta], so of course they are.”

Another of Instar’s projects is a to-scale facsimile of the home used by the Espacio Aglutinador collective for alternative art exhibitions that were censored by the government. The important space in Cuba has been active since the 1990s despite attempts to shut it down.

These works, which were made collaboratively, are all on view at Documenta Halle, one of the main venues for Documenta 15, which opens to the public on June 18.

Instar was founded in May 2015 by Bruguera in Havana after a marathon 100-hour collective reading of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which artists say is relevant to Cuban conditions today.

“Freedom is the main tool of artists,” Bruguera said. She was initially invited by Ruangrupa, the curatorial collective behind the show, and, as per this year’s collectivity concept, she’s invited scores of artists to work together.

Two of the three Instar exhibition rooms will change over every ten days throughout 100 days to maximize the platform for Cuba’s political artists. Independent theater groups and publishers are also partaking in events.

“When you’re [fighting] an oppressive state, you’re proud to be an ex-convict,” Lavastida said. “They claim we’re trying to overthrow the government, and that I was a lead part of it. It’s true.” His contribution is a large wall mural that depicts the floor plan of the political prison in Villa Marista, where he was jailed.

Bruguera praised Ruangrupa and the efforts around the exhibition.

“Everybody is working towards a common goal. It’s not that foreign to us as a concept, but it’s great to see at such a scale,” she said.
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https://news.artnet.com/art-world/instar-documenta-15-2132472