Artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara were on day eight of a hunger strike protesting what he said was a campaign of Cuban authorities harassment against him when,before dawn, health officials transported him to a government hospital.His fellow dissidents say Otero Alcántara was shot for treatment against his will and they have not heard from himother than through videos released by Cuba`s social media.
Cuban health officials said if he had been admitted, Otero Alcántara didn`t seem to have been deprived of food or water and on Tuesday said he`s drinking and eating, raising the question of why he remains hospitalized and incommunicado.In one of the movies that was released, Otero Alcántara seems in great health, joking with a hospital administrator whilst affirming”that I am likely to keep demanding my rights as an artist”Cuban health officials say Otero Alcántara is undergoing testing and is being treated voluntarily.While the Cuban government grapples with the economic impacts of this coronavirus and rougher US sanctions, Otero Alcántara and his small set of tech-savvy”artivists” are a source of frustration for officials on the communist-run island.Back in tweets and movies uploaded to social websites, Otero Alcántara along with other members of his San Isidro Movement have recorded their effort in real time against official censorship and the Cuban authorities and safety officials that frequently shadow their every movement.”We are linked,” is a frequent refrain and hashtag in his messages, a reference to the current advent of mobile internetto the nation, which has allowed many Cubans to bypass social press and speak directly with rest of the planet and their fellow Cubans.
Some Cuban officials claim the self-taught Otero Alcántara is not actually a performer, which speaks to his assertion that government bureaucrats should not determine what qualifies as art on the staircase.At times Otero Alcántara has threatened to drive a wedge between the authorities and Cuban artists, that in recent years have enjoyed a special status that allowed them to criticize the authorities, albeit indirectly, and lawfully earn hard currency by selling their work to tourists and customers abroad.In November, authorities arrested Otero Alcántara and supporters during a hunger strike, alleging they had violated health restrictions put in place to stop the spread of this pandemic.Within hours, a few hundred Cuban artists and students staged a rare sit-in protest beyond the Cuban Ministry of Culture and some of the island`s best-known cultural figures lent their support to Otero Alcántara and increased freedom of expression.
Cuban officials quickly released Otero Alcántara and maintained he was part of a US”soft coup” from the island.”The series is very like people staged on other occasions by other mercenary bands and puppets at the support of the U.S. government,” a post stated in the Cuban communist party newspaper Granma roughly Otero Alcántara days after the protest. “The new show, orchestrated from Washington and Miami, is part of plans for subversion against Cuba.”But Otero Alcántara, an Afro-Cuban millennial who lives in a downtrodden area of Old Havana that tourists seldom venture into, does not fit the conventional image of an anti-Castro militant fighting to reunite the island to the days prior to the revolution. And he`s particularly adept at leveraging the obstacles Cuban officials throw him as a kind of performance art that creates more attention because of his movement.While his activism, up to now, does not appear to be an existential threat to the Cuban authorities, it`s nonethelessproved unnerving to officials. The video for the tune, which has become an anthem for anti-government resistance, has received five million viewpoints on YouTube.Back in April, when police surrounded his home, he put in an exhibition where he sat restrained with a garotte about his neck.Following he accused State Security representatives of seizing his art, Otero Alcántara demanded $500,000 in compensation and stated he had been, again, going on a hunger strike.”I shall fight to the last breath because of my artistic freedom,” he wrote in a popular message. “If my body dies, I expect it`s going to be a spark to the freedom of Cuba.”When Otero Alcántara had been carried to the hospital in May, doctors released a statement saying the activist”showed no signs of adultery,” trying to throw doubt on his hunger strike, but said he`d remain”under monitoring.” But save one video where he briefly speaks, he has not been heard from and his supporters say they have been blocked by police from seeing him in person.
As Cuban officials attempt to adapt to Otero Alcántara`s new brand of activism, the government runs the risk of threatening potentially improved relations with the Biden administration, which so much is moving slowly on participating with the island. “We`ve seen reports that he`s in hospital and his state is steady. We urge the police to safeguard his well-being in this difficult moment.”Some Cuban artists assert that if greater freedom of expression were permitted, the strain with the state and artists would facilitate. “Authorized protests. Democratic socialism. Along with the authorities protecting people who exercise their faith,” he continued.But best Cuban officials warn a harsher crackdown could be on the horizon.”To the mercenary lumpen who make money from everybody`s destiny, to people who ask for an invasion, to people who continuously offend with words and deeds,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel stated in a televised address in April while accepting the strong post of head of the Cuban communist party,”understand that the patience of the people has limitations”