Prominent Artists Denounce Police Violence in Cuba

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – Writers and artists, including Argentine composer Fito Paez, Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura, and Cuban filmmaker Fernando Pérez, have signed a letter condemning the police violence exercised on May 18, 2024, against anthropologist Jenny Pantoja and historian and essayist Alina Barbara López. López is the co-director of CubaXCuba — Civic Thought Laboratory — and both were traveling from Matanzas to Havana to protest publicly and peacefully.

The letter is signed by more than 220 personalities who pointed out that “the use of force, the criminalization of dissent, and imprisonment do not solve the real problems of Cubans.” Among the signatories are musicians, journalists, filmmakers, sociologists, entrepreneurs, architects, doctors, engineers, digital creators, activists, and retirees.

The text of the letter expresses solidarity with the political prisoners in Cuba and with those who have suffered from the lack of guarantees to exercise dissent in the country. “Hundreds of Cubans, a large part of them young people, have been prosecuted and imprisoned just for exercising these constitutional rights, with the suffering that this implies for numerous families. In this way, the consequences of the escalated repression are extending, ever more deeply, through the fabric of Cuban society,” the document states.

Following the events of May 18, 2024, Lopez and Pantoja reported that they were detained, beaten, and forced to remain in a police station for 11 hours. The historian declared that two weeks later, she still suffers from the physical abuse she was subjected to.

The demands of Alina Lopez — who since March 2023 has initiated public protests and suffered police persecution — include the convening of a National Constituent Assembly; that the State does not neglect the critical situation of the elderly, retirees, pensioners, and families in extreme poverty; freedom for political prisoners without forced exile; and the cessation of harassment of people exercising their freedom of expression.

Although the Cuban Constitution recognizes the rights to public and peaceful protest, in 2023 Alina faced a trial for “disobedience.” At the end of that year, she was fined, which she refused to pay. In mid-May 2024, the professor received a new accusation, this time for “assault,” based on an alleged attack on the officer that caused the injuries.

The signatories denounce that the cultural authorities and the Government “have turned their backs on important opportunities for dialogue in the field of culture that could have helped build bridges to the rest of Cuban society.” “We do not need heroes; we need the civic space to which every Cuban citizen is entitled.”

Among those signing the letter are the national prizewinner of Visual Arts of Cuba, Lazaro Saavedra, and the Cuban national literature prizewinners, Luis Alvarez and Maggie Mateo. The writer and video artist Amilkar Feria Flores; journalists Jorge Fernandez Era, Carla Gloria Colome, Wilfredo Cancio Isla, and Carlos Manuel Alvarez; filmmakers and screenwriters Ernesto Daranas and Kiki Alvarez; actors Luis Alberto Garcia and Hector Noas; professor and critic Gustavo Arcos; and researcher and critic Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero.

The letter also includes the names of professor and writer Carolina de La Torre, architect Abel Tablada, visual artist Hermes Entenza, actress and theater director of El Ciervo Encantado Nelda Castillo, cinematographer Raul Prado, and digital creators Amelia Calzadilla and Yunior Morales.

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