Cuban Authorities Free Artist “El Sexto”

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Nora Gámez Torres (Nuevo Herald) reports on the release of Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, aka El Sexto, after 10 months behind bars in Cuba’s Valle Grande prison for attempting to release two pigs painted with the names of Raul and Fidel Castro onto the streets of Havana. Calling it an artistic censorship case, Amnesty International declared the young artist to be a “prisoner of conscience.”  [Think a “performance” in which I release two pigs labeled with names—fill in the blanks with politicians’ names of your choice, maybe a couple of former mayors or presidents for good measure—onto the corner of East 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Sounds kind of fun, in a witty, épater-les-bourgeois way, but then again, poor little pigs . . . ] Here are excerpts:

[. . .] “They arrived at 10 a.m. and took me out of my cell, they took me to gather my belongings and handcuffed me. All of this took about 15 minutes,” Maldonado said in a telephone interview from his home with el Nuevo Herald. “They told me ‘your release is immediate’ and they warned me ‘please, don’t make the same mistake, you’re being used as a puppet,’ and to not commit acts of immaturity, and all those crazy things. I didn’t respond at all,” said the graffiti artist, who assured that despite his thin frame, he is in good health. Maldonado said he had resumed a “sit in” and hunger strike on Saturday, when he realized Cuban authorities had not released him from jail on Friday as they had promised.

When it was known Maldonado was still incarcerated, Amnesty International — an organization that declared the young artist as a “prisoner of conscience” — published a harsh editorial in which it criticized the Cuban government for “miserably failing” their promise.

In one of the most notorious artistic censorship cases to take place during the last few years in Cuba, the graffiti artist was jailed for attempting a performance with two pigs he named “Fidel” and “Raul.” He was accused of disorderly conduct but a trial was never held.

While Maldonado was in jail, an international campaign clamoring for his liberation started growing strong. While in jail, Maldonado said he experienced the same conditions and scarcities as all prisoners. “I was in a double-walled cell for 22 days. The key for the lock was held by the official on guard, so if you faint, the guard of the cell has to go and look for the key,” he said in reference to his first hunger strike. “The conditions are extreme in order to break you.”

The graffiti artist thanked the media, which covered his case as well as the activists, opposition leaders and international organizations who fought for his release. “Without a doubt, I would still be in jail [without their help] so I thank every person who did something to achieve my liberation,” he said. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article40534938.html#emlnl=The_Americas

Photo above from http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2015/09/150928_cuba_derecho_expresion_grafitero_elsexto_lav

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