Tania Bruguera makes appeal to Hollande

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Tania Bruguera, a leading performance artist stranded in Cuba, has called on François Hollande to raise human rights issues and not just focus on economic investment during the French president’s historic visit to Cuba. FOllow the link below to watch the video.

Bruguera, who was temporarily detained by Cuban police in December 2014 and subsequently had her passport confiscated by authorities, said the French president’s visit was an opportunity to highlight the lack of civil liberties in her native land.

“I would like for this visit to not just be about business opportunities, but also about what France symbolises – equality, freedom and human rights,” Bruguera told FRANCE 24, on the eve of Hollande’s visit to Havana.

Hollande, the first president of a Western country to visit Cuba in almost three decades, was travelling with a business delegation from France, but pledged to raise human rights concerns when meeting his Cuban counterparts.

“Every time political opponents are made prisoners, every time liberties are ignored, France does not stay silent,” Hollande told journalists in the French island of Guadeloupe over the weekend as he was preparing to fly to Cuba.

Not for Cubans

Bruguera, 46, whose performance artwork won her a Guggenheim fellowship in 1998 and has allowed her to travel abroad extensively in the past, has blasted censorship by the Cuban government, even as authorities ramp up a new era of openness and cooperation with Washington and European powers.

“The government said this was going to be a moment when we were going to respect different opinions. But it turns out this is a privilege only for the Cuban and American governments,” she told FRANCE 24 from her apartment in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana. “It’s not a privilege of ordinary Cuban people.”

She was taken into custody in Havana in December before a scheduled performance of her pieceTatlin’s Whisper could be staged in the iconic Revolution Square. Titled as a tribute to Russian avant garde artist Vladimir Tatlin, the work offers a “one minute free of censorship per speaker”, before two actors dressed as soldiers escort them away from the podium.

Missing from Paris festival

The Havana-born artist, who teaches in Paris and claims she has been questioned by police 17 times since her initial arrest, was charged with resistance and disrupting public order. While she was released a few days later, she is unable to leave the country pending legal proceedings.

The New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship on April 30 urged Cuban leaders in a letterto dismiss all charges against Bruguera, adding that the group was “concerned about the fate of Cuban artists detained or harassed by the government for attempting to exercise their free speech.”

Her detention and subsequent house arrest has also sparked condemnation in Paris where she was supposed to participate in the exhibition, billed as part of the DO DISTURB festival, in the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum in April. Bruguera was unable to attend the festival due to her pending case in Cuba. Bruguera is also supposed to be teaching art at the École des Beaux-Arts in the French capital.

Her students have expressed alarm over the repression some artists face in Cuba. “What she’s doing appears ordinary for us, but it’s happening in a country where she’s not allowed to do it,” one of her French pupils said. “We are very upset that she’s in such a violent situation, just for expressing herself.”

For the original report and video go to www.france24.com/en/20150511-cuba-france-artist-bruguera-cry-for-help-hollande-visit

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