JOINT PRESS RELEASE ON THE HUNGER AND THIRST STRIKE OF LUIS MANUEL OTERO

Achievement Summary January-April 2021
29 April, 2021
Bipartisan Legislation Highlighting Cuban Regime Human Rights Violations, Honoring Dissident Oswaldo Payá.
15 June, 2021

We request that the implementation of the PDCA be suspended until the government in Cuba takes irreversible steps towards the recognition of human rights. We should not allow Otero to die.

Luis Manuel Otero, the Cuban artist who creates modern sculptures for performance art and prominent leader of the San Isidro Movement, -exhausted by the continuous arbitrary detentions, harassment and home searches-, entered a hunger and thirst strike on April 25th. His demands from authorities are to: lift the state of siege surrounding his home since November 2020; return his confiscated works of art and compensate him for damages; and respect the full exercise of artistic freedom in Cuba.

The San Isidro Movement (MSI for its Spanish acronym) is a group of young artists, writers, and researchers that came together to protest Decree 349 of April 2018. The new law prohibits all artists, musicians, and performers from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval, which tightened longstanding restrictions on artistic expression. Since last November repression has escalated against them as well as against numerous artists and intellectuals who came out in their support. This new awakening of artistic and intellectual resistance inspired the music video hit Patria y Vida.

Otero declared yesterday that he is at peace with his decision to go without food or liquids and “ready to leave this body, an imprisoned mass the regime can threaten and even beat, prevent from painting a work, and forbid from being an artist.” (Translated from Spanish.)

Furthermore, the serious economic and health crisis that the Island is experiencing has now reached a humanitarian scale; however, the Cuban regime uses its resources to intensify violence against all dissenting voices. Nevertheless, more and more Cubans are expressing their discontent and will for freedom in social networks and protesting in the streets. According to the Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos, at least 500 public protests have been registered so far in 2021 alone across the country. The peaceful protests have been responded to with mounting abuses of the protesters by Cuban authorities: arbitrary detentions, beatings, home confinements, acts of repudiation by mobs, blocked communications, stolen cell phones, surveillance, threats, and harassment. 

Considering the constant serious human rights abuses against the citizens and the intensification of political repression against the opposition and the independent civil society members, such as Luis Manuel Otero, who came to believe that under a totalitarian regime this radical form of protest was what’s left to him in demanding his fundamental rights. We ask the High Representative of Foreign Affairs and the member states of the European Union to activate the protocol for violation of an “essential element” of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with the Cuban regime.

We therefore request that the implementation of the PDCA be suspended until the government in Cuba takes irreversible steps towards the recognition of human rightsand the democratic transition, and the European Union can evaluate their progress. Hunger strikes have tragically taken the lives of too many Cubans, as is recorded by the organization Cuba Archive. We should not allow Otero to die. Otero must live and continue waging the peaceful battle for freedom in Cuba! All democratic governments should inform the Cuban authorities that they hold them responsible for the fate of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and shall warn them that the ongoing abuses against peaceful protests will further undermine any prospects for sustaining or improving bilateral and / or multilateral relations. 

Cuba Archive
Cuba Decide promoters
Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba
Foundation for Pan-American Democracy