The government has taken advantage of the July 11 protests to lock up hundreds of Cuban citizens.
HAVANA TIMES – On September 28th, Genlui posted her concern about the absence of news regarding Luis Manuel, on her Facebook page. “WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT LUIS. It’s been more than 15 days now since he tested positive for COVID-19, he should have the right to make a call today. IT’S HIS RIGHT.”
Otero was arrested on July 11th when he was heading to the Malecon in Havana, so as to join the protests that were taking place in different cities across the country. He was transferred, without a court hearing, to the Guanajay maximum-security prison. While the artist is a political prisoner, he is being charged with a host of fabricated crimes: contempt, attempt, incitement, public disorder, etc, charges which could put him behind bars for many years.
“Right now, I can say that anything might be happening. Luis told me he’s ready, he’s always been ready. So, why hasn’t he called me? Has he taken some extreme action? What does this mean? I NEED TO HEAR HIS VOICE and I don’t want any more excuses that he’s sick,” Claudia said referring to the COVID-19 isolation excuse. “If he doesn’t call me, I will assume he’s on a hunger strike (“I’m going downhill), just like he told me he would, and once again he will sacrifice his body to fight injustice.”
Hours later, she announced that she had received a call that confirmed her suspicions: “I have just been told that Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara has been holding a hunger strike since Monday September 27th. His body is weaker now more than ever, he has just been sick with Coronavirus and he has become weaker because of previous strikes.
Luis is asking not only for his own release, but for the release of every political prisoner.”
This will be Otero Alcantara’s third hunger strike. He held the first hunger strike in November 2020, when he and several others held a sit-in in his home in the San Isidro neighborhood of Old Havana. The second strike, at the same headquarters of the San Isidro Movement, was in late April this year, to demand the return of his artworks that had been stolen by State Security, and the end of the constant police siege he was under.
Both of these hunger and thirst strikes ended with the political police bursting into his home/studio and forcefully taking him to a hospital. He was “admitted” involuntarily after the second strike for almost a month, held incommunicado at the Calixto Garcia hospital, without access to his phone and without friends, family and activists being able to visit him.
The government has taken advantage of the July 11 protests to lock up hundreds of activists, opposition members, artists and other citizens who make them uneasy with their anti-government slogans and actions. In September, Luis Manuel was included on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in 2021.