CubaBrief: Lech Walesa calls for nonviolent resistance to Castro regime. Jailed artist receives international award. Mass in Miami for victims of Matanzas oil fire.

“Nonviolent struggle both requires and tends to produce a loss (or greater control) of fear of the government and its violent repression. That abandonment or control of fear is a key element in destroying the power of the dictators over the general population.” ― Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy

Three events occurred this week that highlight the enduring power and strategic importance of non-violence for Cubans.

First, Polish dissident and former President of Poland Lech Walesa came to Miami and was hosted by the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance and spoke at different venues across the city. One of the most important was his speech and question and answer session on September 5th at the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami where he spoke of the importance of expanding tactics against the dictatorship, but within a nonviolent strategy.

The full speech and question and answer session are available online, but BabaluBlog highlighted a four minute 12 second excerpt in which he examined the Polish solidarity movement’s decision to battle communism in Poland using nonviolent means.

Second, Cuban dissident artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara— jailed by the Castro dictatorship since July 11, 2021 was one of six artists to receive the 2022 Prince Claus Impact award. Each recipient will receive €50,000.

“Once every two years, the Prince Claus Fund recognizes six trailblazing artists and cultural practitioners with Prince Claus Impact Awards. These Awards are presented to artists and cultural practitioners in recognition of both the excellent quality of their work and of their positive contribution to the development of their society.”

This act of solidarity with the jailed Cuban artist, who has repeatedly and nonviolently protested the Castro dictatorship’s systematic human rights abuses, demonstrates that he is not alone, and that the world is paying attention to his plight. Luis Manuel has also demonstrated that he can control his fear, and defy the totalitarian regime.

Third, on September 6, 2022 at 7:00pm at Saint Raymond Catholic Church in Miami, Florida Cuban exiles attended a Mass for the for victims of the Matanzas oil fire marking one month since the disaster started due to a lightening strike, and lack of maintenance of counter measures.

The Mass was presided over by Father José Conrado and Father Juan Lázaro Vélez. Both read out the names of the Matanzas oil fire victims.

During the mass, Father Conrado acknowledged that “although we are far from the Homeland, those of us who left to find freedom, also feel and suffer for Cuba, because the Homeland belongs to everyone” paraphrasing José Martí, the apostle of Cuban independence. Father Conrado issued a call in the name of Jesus and the Virgin “so that we Cubans break the spell of evil that has taken over the island” and for this he called for the unity of all Cubans, “those of the two shores”.

1. Adriano Rodríguez Gutiérrez, Matanzas;

2. Andy Mitchel Ramos Sotolongo, La Habana;

3. Areskys Quintero Orta, Mayabeque;

4. Diosdel Nazco Vargas, Matanzas;

5. Fabián Naranjo Núñez, Matanzas;

6. Leo Alejandro Doval Pérez de Prado, Matanzas;

7. Luis Ángel Álvarez Leyva, Matanzas

8. Luis Raúl Aguilar Zamora, La Habana;

9. Michel Rodríguez Román, Mayabeque;

10. Osley Marante Guerra, La Habana;

11. Osmani Blasco Sosa, Mayabeque;

12. Pablo Ángel López Martell, Matanzas;

13. Raciel Alonso Martínez Naranjo, La Habana;

14. Rolando Oviedo Sosa, Mayabeque

15 Juan Carlos Santana Garrido,

16 Elier Manuel Correa Aguilar

BabaluBlog, September 6, 2022

Video of the Day: Lech Walesa speaks at the Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami on the struggle for freedom

September 6, 2022 by Alberto de la Cruz

Lech Walesa was in Miami on Monday and spoke to Cuban exiles on the non-violent struggle against tyranny.

ArtNews, September 6, 2022

Jailed Dissident Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara Wins $50,000 Award

By Tessa Solomon

September 6, 2022 1:50pm

Cuban dissident artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara—whose imprisonment by the Cuban government drew international condemnation from human rights groups—is one of six artists to receive the inaugural Prince Claus Impact award. Each recipient will receive €50,000 (roughly the same amount in U.S. dollars).

The biannual award, established in 2021, are presented to artists and cultural leaders “in recognition of both the excellent quality of their work and of their positive contribution to the development of their society,” according to the Prince Claus Dutch fund, an independent organization based in Amsterdam.

The six recipients were chosen by a jury consisting of the Mexican curator Pablo León de la Barra, the Vietnamese American artist Dinh Q. Lê, the Congolese dancer and choreographer Faustin Linyekula, the Niger architect Mariam Kamara, and the Lebanese curator Maya El Khalil.

The five other recipients of the Prince Claus Impact are Ailton Alves Lacerda Krenak, an Indigenous Brazilian environmentalist and writer; the Senegalese-French film director Alain Gomis; the Moroccan artist Hassan Darsi; the Egyptian architect May al-Ibrashy and the Argentine poet María Medrano.

In a statement, the judges praised Alcántara “for his extremely accessible, honest and non-elitist art practice [and] for his tireless fight for freedom of expression in Cuba and his stance against censorship and political authority.” A spokesperson for the Prince Claus fund told the Art Newspaper that it was “working together with the people around Luis to make sure it is [the award amount] safeguarded until he will be released.”

Otero Alcántara, one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2021 and advocate for artistic freedom in Cuba, was sentenced to five years in prison in June by a Havana. Fellow activist Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, the author of the protest anthem “Patria Y Vida,” which won the Latin Grammy Award for song of the year in 2021, was sentenced to nine years alongside Otero Alcántara.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the artists were arraigned on a range of charges including public disorder, contempt, and, in Otero Alcántara’s case, “insulting national symbols,” due to his use of the Cuban flag in the performance piece Drapeau, in which he wore or carried the flag uninterrupted for a month.

Otero Alcántara is a cofounder of the San Isidro movement, an influential group of artists and activists demonstrating against the Cuban government’s crackdown on freedom of expression. Several of their members were targets by Cuban authorities during the historic antigovernment protests that spread across the island in 2021.

Otero Alcántara was detained on July 11, 2021, on his way to a protest in Havana, and was held for more than a year in a maximum-security prison without trial, despite a Cuban law that requires a trial within six months of an arrest. Friends of the artist have shared concerns for his deteriorating health and safety in prison. About after his arrest, he was listed as a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International.

“The judges have chosen artists and cultural practitioners whose work is of exemplary quality while at the same time addressing issues that have contemporary relevance and urgency,” the fund said in a statement.

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Hyperallergic, September 6, 2022


Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara Wins Prince Claus Impact Award

The jailed artist was praised for his activism against censorship and authoritarianism in Cuba.

by Jasmine Liu

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (photo courtesy Movimiento San Isidro)

Jailed dissident Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was one of six artists to receive the Prince Claus Impact award in its inaugural year. The €50,000 (~$49,500) biennial award, administered by the Prince Claus Fund, seeks to honor artists and other cultural figures “whose work and positive impact on their societies deserve much wider recognition.”

Other awardees include Ailton Alves Lacerda Krenak, an Indigenous Brazilian writer and activist; Alain Gomis, a French-Senegalese film director; Hassan Darsi, a Moroccan artist whose work explores public space; May al-Ibrashy, an Egyptian architectural engineer whose work focuses on heritage as a keystone of development; and María Medrano, an Argentine writer who has published three books of poetry.

Alcántara, whom the jury praised for his activism against censorship and authoritarianism, has been behind bars in Havana since July 2021, and was sentenced in June to five years in prison over trumped-up charges of “contempt, defamation, and public disorder.” The five judges said in a joint statement that they selected Alcántara “for his extremely accessible, honest and non-elitist art practice [and] for his tireless fight for freedom of expression in Cuba.” Given Alcántara’s incarceration, the Prince Claus Fund clarified that they would work with those close to him to ensure the disbursement of his award.

In 2018, Alcántara was a founder of the San Isidro Movement (SIM), a group of Cuban writers, academics, and artists formed to protest Cuba’s censorship of ideas in response to Decree 349, a new law at the time that required artists to seek permission before staging any public or private artistic shows. Over the course of his career, he has participated in several performance and social practice pieces as acts of civil disobedience, including instituting a Museum of Dissidence public art project and draping a flag over his body in direct contravention of a law regulating the use of national symbols. He has also regularly undertaken hunger strikes while in prison, leading Amnesty International to call him a “prisoner of conscience” and artists including John Akomfrah, Julie Mehretu, and Carrie Mae Weems to write to the Cuban government petitioning for his release.

In a letter written from prison and published by Hyperallergic in May, Alcantará wrote: “So many people I love now live in exile, without the possibility of returning because a dictatorship prevents them from doing so. The regime has destroyed my artwork and violated my rights and the rights of my friends in so many other ways.”

The award honors the memory of Prince Claus of the Netherlands and awardees are celebrated in a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. The Prince Claus Fund has a stated mission of recognizing artists hailing from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe, with a focus on areas where the freedom of expression is impeded.

Translating Cuba, September 8, 2022

A Cuban Priest Will Celebrate a Mass in Miami for the Victims of the Fire in Matanzas

14ymedio, Translator: Norma Whiting

José Conrado Rodríguez, born in 1951 in Santiago de Cuba, is one of the most recognizable critical voices against the government in the Cuban ecclesial panorama. (Facebook/José Conrado Rodríguez)

14ymedio, Havana, 4 September 2022 — José Conrado Rodríguez, a Cuban Catholic priest will officiate this Tuesday a mass in memory of the victims of the fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas. The ceremony, also accompanied by Father José Lázaro Vélez, will take place at 7:00 p.m. at Saint Raymond’s Church in Miami.

During the celebration there will also be a prayer for “peace, justice, national reconciliation and freedom for all Cubans.”

Conrado, born in 1951 in Santiago de Cuba, is one of the most recognizable critical voices against the government in the Cuban ecclesial scene. Accustomed to harassment by State Security, he was the author of two open letters to Cuban leaders and several books that address the issue of faith and civil society within totalitarianism.

The first of the letters, addressed to Fidel Castro in 1994, demanded that the president be held accountable for the resounding economic crisis of the Special Period. The second, sent to Raúl Castro in 2009, pointed out the need for a change for Cuba, to be in tune with the favorable international panorama and to improve the island’s own situation.

In 2021 and after several months without being able to leave Trinidad, the city where he works as a priest, Conrado gave an interview to 14ymedio about the “rise in social temperature” in Cuba. In his words, he attributed to the Cuban government a “very high share of responsibility” for the country’s misery, and pointed out that the authorities “are in no mood to listen, but that they will have to listen.”

This Saturday a “presidential decree” was issued to posthumously award six members of the Matanzas Fire Department who died in the fire

While representatives of various religious factions and civil society pay their respects to the deceased, the government has made their deaths a political cause.

This Saturday a “presidential decree” was issued to posthumously award six members of the Matanzas Fire Department who died in the fire, who received the June 6 Order, Second Degree.

The decoration was collected by relatives of the firefighters Dios del Nazco, Luis Ángel Álvarez and Pablo Ángel López, as well as the young recruits Leo Alejandro Doval, Adriano Rodríguez and Fabián Naranjo, who were completing their Compulsory Military Service at the time of the accident.

Since several relatives of the deceased, members of civil society and independent media denounced that young Military Service recruits had been sent to the front line of the fire, the Cuban government has done everything possible to rid itself of that responsibility.

The authorities have launched a national campaign to present the death of firefighters, who fell “in the line of duty,” as a “heroic epic.”. With medals, acts and speeches they have tried to cover up the negligence in the management of the fire and the death of several adolescents who did not have the training or the necessary equipment to face a disaster of this magnitude.

With 16 dead and 146 injured, according to official figures, the explosion at the Matanzas Supertanker Base has been described as the worst industrial disaster in Cuba’s history.

Although groups of skeletal remains were located after the fire was extinguished, the Cuban authorities admitted that it was impossible to identify them.