Artists at Risk Connection in partnership with regional and global networks continues regional reports on artistic freedom, based on closed workshops with artists, human rights defenders, and cultural practitioners from the respective region. After Connecting the Dots(Asian region) now Art in Turmoil: Artistic Freedom and Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean has been released, with Amnesty International and Labo Ciudadano.
Cuban government systematically targets Cuban artists, including more than 1,120 artists and creatives who participated in the July 11 protests. Several dozen have reportedly been arrested, detained, or placed under house arrest. Several remain in detention and face bogus criminal charges.
“There is no justification for persecuting artists for peacefully expressing their views. We call on the Cuban government to respect the fundamental role that art and artists play in society and immediately stop harassing artists for engaging in political and social critiques that are not in line with the government’s rigid ideology.” Over 300 prominent figures from the arts, among them Meryl Streep, Orhan Pamuk, Paul Auster, Elena Poniatowska, Isabel Allende, Jules Feiffer, and Khaled Hosseini, as well as notable Cuban artists, including Tania Bruguera, Coco Fusco, and Hamlet Lavastida are calling on the Cuban government to immediately stop its abuses against Cuban artists. The open letter from December 8th has been co-signed by PEN International, the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, and Human Rights Watch.
Artists at Risk Connection and Cubalex have announced a white paper on the rise of repression against in Cuba in 2018. Art Under Pressure: Decree 349 Restricts Creative Freedom in Cuba(31 pages, available in English and Spanish) examines the government’s efforts to institutionalize and expand limits on creative expression. Decree 349 was announced in July 10, 2018, and went into effect on December 7 of the same year despite the many concerns expressed by artists and activists in Cuba and abroad. The paper gives examples and experiences with the Decree from independent artists, analyzes aspects and terminology, and takes a look to the history of censorship in Cuba including legal conflicts conflict with the country’s international treaty commitments and obligations.
The Cuban government has decided to stop the full implementation of Decree 349. The measure constitute a return to the times of greater centralism. It establishes that artists must be linked to cultural entities under government control and, only then, they can obtain the necessary permits to present their work in spaces open to the public. Responding to the flood of criticism that Decree 349 has provoked, (#NoAlDecreto349) the Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso, announced that Decree 349 will only be applied in a “consensus” and “gradual” manner. Nevertheless, Decree 349 went officially into effect on December 7.
Since several months the provisional government in Brazil is closing down or totally restructuring the ministries of culture, of women’s rights and of racial equivalence. In an open letter (version in Portuguese), signed by General Director Tobias Biancone, the ITI declares its solidarity with their colleagues in Brazil in their protests and expresses: “We want to express our deep concern for the limitations in the artistic freedom and our support for our colleagues and all the artists. They prove that culture is an important weapon in the fight for democracy and freedom.”
Dario Lopérfido, opera director of Teatro Colón and director of the international theatre festival FIBA is also the culture minister of Argentine’s capital Buenos Aires. In a public debate on Monday, January 25 Lopérfido asserted that the number of forced disappearances at the hands of state terrorism during the military dictatorship “was a lie fabricated at a table to get subsidies they gave you”. In an open letter about 2.500 intellectuals demanded his resigniation. A petition on change.org got already nearly 7.500 supporters.