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Detained Cuban artist and activist appeals from jail on second birthday

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Cuban artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who is being held in prison in Cuba, called on “people of conscience all over the world to support our struggle to liberate ourselves and our country” in an article published in the Miami Herald log.

“Today, every young Cuban is a political prisoner. A censored artist. An exile inside and outside Cuba. Even if you are an accomplice of the system, you will inevitably be crushed like the others, because to be young is to be bold and reckless, eager to change the world. It means fighting for love, dreams and utopia,” he wrote.

Alcántara is being held in Guanajay, a maximum-security penitentiary southwest of Havana. The publication of his comment marks two years since his arrest as he anti-government protests swept the country. “I am an artist and a political prisoner in Cuba. I was arrested on July 11, 2021, on my way to a protest where thousands of my countrymen rose up across the island demanding freedom.

Alcántara was sentenced on June 24 last year. “Last year I was sentenced to five years in prison for insulting and insulting national symbols, because I used the Cuban flag during a performance in August 2019. This is how the Cuban government consider my art,” he wrote.

As one of the founders of the San Isidro movement, Alcántara helped bring the injustices committed against artists by the Cuban government to the world stage. Among US officials who have called for Alcántara’s release are Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former US Ambassador to Peru Brian A. Nichols. In 2021, Alcántara was named “icon” by Time magazine.

Last year, fellow US-based artist and activist Coco Fusco said The arts journal that his health was deteriorating in prison. “I lost weight due to lack of food and poor quality meals. I’m often afraid to eat because the food looks rotten,” writes Alcántara. “The violence is constant. Only his body changes. Your hair falls out and your face ages prematurely from pain, frustration and sadness. Your friends are leaving the country. The caresses of lovers are long gone. The soundscape here is always the same. All you hear is the whisper of death slowly approaching.

At the time of this writing, the Cuban embassy in London had not responded to a request for comment.

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