Photos: Javier Caso
HAVANA TIMES – Cubans living across the United States gathered together outside the United Nations headquarters in New York, on the morning of Wednesday June 23rd. They did this to denounce government repression and, according to their statement, in order to stand in solidarity with the approximately 150 political prisoners in Cuban prisons.
These photographs taken by Javier Caso display an ethical and aesthetic gesture that tried to call upon US public opinion, of diplomatic missions and UN agencies about the lack of civil liberties on the island, on the same day that the official Cuban delegation went to present a resolution condemning the US embargo, like it does every year.
Of course, the international rejection (184 Member States of the UN) of US sanctions once again gave fuel to the Cuban government’s propaganda fire – which has never burned out.
While national TV broadcasts the chant about “a new victory for the Revolution” for the umpteenth time, surveillance and control operations of political activists and human rights activists take place in the shadows; express arrests take place, interrogations, threats, home arrests, bans on foreign travel; art and independent journalism are censored… All of this is picked apart in the countless individual and collective experiences of physical and psychological violence: real events, real fear, real suffering.
In certain Kafkian-style extremes, the crime even comes after the ruling, but most of the time it is ready-made: like dessert or powdered soda… and like the crime of contempt in Cuba.
Every dissident, every politically authentic voice and, we could even say, every lucid and sincere person, has found themselves in a pre-criminal situation here in Cuba.
The crime that leads you to (and covers up) political prison in Cuba is frequently a ready-made trial. Nobody commits it per se, or everyone does to some extent, all the time. In fact, it’s very likely that the political prisoner has exercised before their arrest some human right (social or political), consecrated by the UN where they reject “the blockade”.
In May, artist Luis Manuel Otero was detained – after being taken from his home, where he had declared a hunger and thirst strike – for approximately 30 days under strict surveillance at the Calixto Garcia Hospital in Havana. Just before his hospital limbo began, 13 citizens were arrested on the corner of Obispo street for peacefully protesting after police officers stopped them from approaching Otero’s house to enquire about his health. Some of them are still in prison.
Anti-establishment rapper Maykel Osorbo has been in a prison in the Pinar del Rio province for weeks now. He was one of Otero’s companions during the sit-in at San Isidro in November 2020, when Cuban State Security intervened and repressed them night after night, and there was an unprecedented protest by hundreds of artists and intellectuals outside the Ministry of Culture in Havana (27N).
Last week, protestors outside the UN building (coming from all over the large city and also from Miami, New Jersey, Washington or Connecticut) replicated some of Luis Manuel Otero’s performance art installations in New York’s public space.
The very art he is being persecuted for in Cuba.
Political art as a strategy to suspend political prison, we could say.