HAVANA TIMES – On Saturday September 25th, artist Hamlet Lavastida and writer Katherine Bisquet boarded a plane, after suffering prison time, home arrest, blackmail and police harassment for over three months. Escorted by State Security to get all of the paperwork they needed and on their way to the aiport, without time to say goodbye to their families and friends, they headed to Poland on a one-way trip.
Lavastida came to Cuba after finishing an artistic residency in Germany, on June 21st. Like everyone who travels to the country, he went to the place where he had to self-isolate because of COVID-19. On the seventh day, State Security went looking for him and took him to their headquarters at Villa Marista, where he was held for three months, supposedly because he was being investigated for Incitement.
According to Bisquet, the political police forced them both into exile as the only way to release Hamlet. “From the very beginning of Hamlet’s unusual arrest, and during the 90 days that he had been jailed under a baseless investigation, I, Katherine Bisquet, writer and activist, have been a target of harassment, coercion, illegal detention (home arrest for 65 days), psychological torture, illegal arrests and threats of being taken to trial by State Security.”
Lavastida is a visual artist that has challenged the Revolution’s discourse with his work and his own symbols, including the figure of Fidel. Bisquet has also become an uneasy person for the Government with her work and activism, especially since she took part in the sit-in at the San Isidro Movement headquarters, in November 2020. Both have suffered repression and harassment, as if they were criminals.
“Me leaving the country was the currency for his release,” Katherine explains, and adds that “many people linked to Hamlet, both friends and family, were subjected to this same pressure of blackmail.”
The Cuban government can’t hide its fear of artists. It has been exposed in the world’s eyes: it’s a government that represses, drives into exile and condemns anyone who thinks differently, at its own fancy. Over 800 people are still in Cuban jails, arrested for taking part in the July 11th protests, when so many Cubans took to the streets to demand Freedom.