May 11, 2021
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Cuban activist’s hunger strike hits a nerve in and outside island as social tensions mount

A Cuban dissident’s starvation strike is drawing worldwide consideration as artists on the island proceed to push for larger freedoms, placing the federal government on the defensive after activists mentioned he was forcibly faraway from his residence and hospitalized however hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

The US, the European Union and the Group of American States, amongst others, have expressed concern about Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s well being, a lot to the ire of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

“It is vitally shameful to see this concern within the officers of probably the most highly effective nation on the planet which viciously condemns greater than 11 million Cuban women and men to starvation and shortage,” Diaz-Canel tweeted on Monday, responding to a press release from a high-ranking U.S. State Division official.

Cuban well being authorities mentioned Sunday on Twitter that the chief of the San Isidro Motion, a collective of artists protesting against political repression on the island, had been taken to a hospital in Havana attributable to “voluntary hunger,” however that he didn’t present any indicators of malnutrition and was strolling with no issue.

Activists questioned the official assertion about his well being and members of the family mentioned they’ve been denied entry to him. They demanded proof that he’s alive amid considerations that the authoritarian regime would possibly step up harassment of human-rights activists on the island.

“We demand proof of life!” the San Isidro Motion wrote on Twitter. “The Cuban authorities was able to committing this flagrant violation of his human rights.”

Whereas different Cuban activists have gone on starvation strikes up to now yr to protest the regime’s elevated monitoring and repression of dissidents, Otero Alcántara’s case seems to have struck a nerve amongst officers in and out of doors Cuba. It comes because the island grapples with a extreme financial disaster, mounting social tensions and a generational management transition following Raúl Castro’s retirement in April.

Julie Chung, performing assistant secretary for the U.S. State Division’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, mentioned on Saturday the U.S. is “extraordinarily involved in regards to the welfare” of the activist, and urged the Cuban authorities “to take fast steps to guard his life and well being.”

Otero Alcántara started his starvation strike on April 25 to protest a police raid during which his paintings was confiscated and a few of it destroyed at his residence within the San Isidro neighborhood, in response to a video that he shared on social media. The artist needed the return of his works or a compensation of $500,000 that will be used to restore properties locally. He additionally demanded an apology from the authorities, the elimination of a police fence round his home and the elimination of a state surveillance digicam dealing with his entrance door.

The strike additionally adopted a raid in mid-April during which the artist was positioned beneath home arrest and repeatedly detained whereas making an attempt to go away his residence, which was surrounded by police, in response to the motion.

Broken record or new tune? Cuba’s leaders preached continuity but some saw slivers of reform

Cuban tv tried to discredit the strike by broadcasting alleged outcomes of Otero Alcántara’s medical exams and blood work that confirmed regular parameters. Memes on Twitter made enjoyable of the artist’s hemoglobin depend of 16.eight grams per deciliter of blood, thought of regular for an grownup male.

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba pleaded for respect in a put up on Twitter: “Like all Cubans, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara have to be handled with dignity and respect. We have now seen studies that he’s in hospital and that his state is secure. We urge the authorities to guard his properly being on this troublesome second.”

The European Union delegation to Cuba additionally voiced concern: “We have now shared this concern with our Cuban associates and now we hope that he’ll quickly get better his well being and may take pleasure in his rights as a citizen and as an artist.”

By late Monday, there was no replace on his state.

Otero Alcántara’s dramatic protest comes lower than six months after another hunger strike by activists and academics led to a uncommon protest in Havana during which a whole lot gathered outdoors the Ministry of Tradition.

The island is struggling as authorities push by means of painful financial reforms which have despatched inflation hovering. Lengthy traces for meals and fundamental requirements have turn out to be a part of the routine for many Cubans. Trump-era sanctions have lowered entry to important financial lifelines like remittances. Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which appeared to be beneath management throughout a lot of 2020, seems to be a rising risk as case and loss of life numbers proceed to rise.

It’s no shock that Cuba’s nascent however more and more vocal social motion is channeling mounting frustration by means of social media, nevertheless it’s not clear but whether or not Otero Alcántara’s starvation strike will ignite the momentum wanted for an actual transformation, mentioned Ric Herrero, govt director of the Cuba Research Group.

“There are numerous Cubans protesting, nevertheless it’s largely a disjointed motion. There isn’t any management, no widespread imaginative and prescient. There’s numerous power nevertheless it’s not being directed to at least one single goal,” he mentioned.

Furthermore, the Biden administration has mentioned that Cuba will not be a precedence for U.S. international coverage now, he famous. And in Cuba, management is extra involved with asserting its energy amid the management change, with the newly-appointed Díaz-Canel on the helm of the Communist Celebration.

“We’re most likely simply going to see a seamless downward spiral into chaos and extra chaos and repression,” Herrero mentioned.

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