Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara manages to get a statement out from the Guanajay maximum security prison in Cuba.
Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been jailed at Guanajay, a maximum-security penitentiary 25 miles west of Havana, since July of 2021. He will face court on May 30 on charges including disorderly conduct, disrespecting authorities, and “inciting to commit a crime” for encouraging people to join a protest via Facebook. The Cuban Public Prosector’s Office has asked to sentence the artist to seven years in prison. Otero Alcántara has been through two hunger strikes in prison, the last of which caused him to suffer temporary paralysis. He has also received awards from Freedom House and the Oxi Day Foundation and was named one of Time Magazine‘s most influential people of 2021. Recently, he had a solo exhibition of his drawings in Miami. Until now, Otero Alcántara had not issued any public statements. He finally issued one last week. His statement is included here in full, translated from a transcription of an audio message that he delivered by phone from prison.
Statement by Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Sent from the Maximum-Security Prison of Guanajay, Cuba.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Hello to all. I, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, speak to you from the nasty Guanajay Prison. As far as I can tell, my health is okay.
First of all, I want to express my condolences for the victims of the Saratoga Hotel explosion. I was deeply affected when I received news of this. It was extremely difficult, and I felt helpless due to my confinement.
I want to give a million thanks to all the enlightened people and institutions that have been concerned with securing my freedom and that of all political prisoners, which is part of the process of securing freedom for Cuba.
Soon it will be one year since the last peaceful and unprecedented mobilization of the Cuban people in pursuit of their freedom. During the last year, I have not expressed how proud I am to be Cuban and how proud I am of our people inside and outside the Island. I am sure that freedom will come very, very soon.
I want to apologize for not having spoken publicly in a long time. I wanted to give myself some time in this very unpleasant place to ensure that my words would be meaningful.
First, I will tell you I am an artist and a human being struggling to get out of this unjust prison, but every day my love of free and honest art grows firmer. Each day, I grow firmer in my love for what is human and in my love for Cuba.
I want to apologize to those who are worried about my hunger strikes. These are visceral reactions provoked by the aberrant dictatorship. But luckily, up to now I have found spiritual answers within myself that allow me to be reborn.
During all these months the regime has offered me exile from Cuba as the only way out of prison. Otherwise, I will have to serve seven years in prison.
I will say this: For so many years, I have endured, as have many of my friends, inhuman persecution, and repression by the Cuban regime.
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