Distribute and Act on to Save the Live of El Sexto / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

26 09 2015

Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth) is a graffiti artist in Cuba, imprisoned since December 25, 2014 for attempting to perform an artistic action in a public space.

Danilo has spent 9 months in the Valle Grande prison, charged with the crime of Contempt, and is waiting for a judicial process, where he faces a possible sentence of 1 to 3 years imprisonment.

For six years Danilo has suffered police harassment, successive arbitrary arrests, detentions for more than 72 hours, searches of his home and confiscation of his works and his working materials. He suffers from bronchial asthma and has been affected by pneumonia.

  • We remind the Cuban authorities that the right to freedom is indispensable for expression and artistic creation in virtue of Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; protected by Article 15 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory and both of which are considered binding.
  • We insist that the authorities eliminate the restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
  • We express our concern because Danilo Maldonado has been detained solely for exercising his artistic activity, and urge that he be released immediately and without conditions, because he is a prisoner of conscience; he has been confined for his peaceful activism in the rescue of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.
  • We insist that the Cuban authorities drop the case immediately.
  • We ask the Cuban authorities to stop harassing and intimidating all the rest of the citizens who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful association.
  • We insist that the Cuban authorities promote and protect the right to freedom of artistic creation, and the right to participate in the cultural life, to access culture and respect for cultural diversity.

Additional Information

The graffiti artist and activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), was arrested on December 25, 2014, when he took two animals painted with the names of Fidel and Raul and was about to drop them off in Havana’s Central Park, usually crowded, for a street intervention. He is formally charged with “Contempt” [1] and is awaiting trial. He faces a sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison.

The right to participate in public demonstrations is not recognized in the Cuban Constitution nor is it legally developed. The Penal Code, protecting individual rights [2] includes the right to demonstrate and sanctions anyone who, in violation of the law, impedes the holding of a lawful meeting or demonstration, or a person from attending them. If the crime is committed by a public official, it is an abuse of office and the penalty is doubled.

However, the legal body [3] itself considers that a crime is committed against public order by anyone who participates in meetings or demonstrations held in violation of the dispositions that regulate the exercise of this right, dispositions that do not exist. Sanctions are tripled for the organizers.

There is no procedure to notify or solicit authorization to hold a protest, nor legal recourses to appeal the refusal. However, there are frequently marches along central avenues, called and organized by the government itself, with a marked political-ideological character. The restrictions imposed on this right by the state, are not provided in law.

The situation of human rights in Cuba has deteriorated sharply in recent months, with ever more repressive practices entrenched mainly against the Ladies in White dissident movement and the activists who support them, and the government’s contempt has become ever more flagrant toward the recommendations made by the States parties before the Universal Human Rights Council during the periodic review, in which the priorities are the ratification and implementation of the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and their optional protocols.

In Cuba, “The educational and cultural policy is based on the Marxist ideology” and is tied to the “promotion of patriotic education and the communist training of new generations and the preparation of children, young people and adults for social life. The State, in order to raise the culture of the people, concerns itself with promotion and developing artistic education, the vocation for creation and the cultivation of art and the capacity to appreciate it.” [4]

In 1961 Fidel Castro marked a limit for the full enjoyment and realization of the cultural rights of Cubans. In his speech “Words to the Intellectuals” his iconic phrase, “Within the Revolution, everything, outside the Revolution, no rights,” paraphrased the dictator Mussolini.

Our Constitution says, “Artistic creativity is free as long as its content is not contrary to the Revolution,” contradicting itself as it continues: “The forms of expression in art are free.” [5]

We believe that the imprisonment of the artist is an excessive punitive measure in response to the peaceful expression of the politically critical art of Danilo Maldonado and it is an attempt to silence and censor even more the artistic scene within the country.

We believe that society has the right for its public spaces to be spaces for creativity, for artistic expression; because they are also collective spaces of knowledge and debate. The public space belongs to civil society and not to governments, corporations or religious institutions.

We believe that it is the duty of the State to protect artists as key actors in social change and to defend their right to dissent, instead of gagging them, persecuting them and imprisoning them, when they have a critical attitude toward the government, which is also part of their role as artists: to question the reality that surrounds them and to be an active part of its evolutionary transformation.

Other government practices that threaten the enjoyment and full exercise of cultural rights and artistic-creative freedom in Cuba are:

  • Institutional censorship with regard to almost all artistic manifestations.
  • The theft of artist identity (in the case of independent festivals) by the State.
  • The right of admission to cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries, theoretical lectures, denying entrance and participation in public spaces to people labeled as dissidents or Human Rights activists.
  • The use of aesthetic criteria as political conditions through official censors charged with justifying censorship.
  • Manipulation of artists and intellectuals committing them to position themselves with exclusively political measures like the execution of three young men who hijacked a boat (2003).
  • The social isolation of the artistic guild from smear campaigns and the intimidation of others.
  • The State monopoly on public spaces and institutions that give authorization to engage in public activities.
  • Discrimination and social cancellation of a person as reprisal for their critical attitude.
  • With all institutions controlled by the State, if there is forced expulsion there is no other institution than can take in the person.
  • Limitations on the freedom of movement: people are blocked from moving to alternative spaces when they suffer from police harassment. Refusal of permission to leave or enter the country, confiscation of passports, arbitrary detentions, etc.
  • Expulsion from schools, workplaces, institutions that protect artists, for political reasons.
  • The application of self-censorship to daily behavior. (People naturally assume it: censorship is ordinary.)
  • Physical violence in arbitrary arrests, home detentions, threats, home searches, confiscation of works and the means of work, police interrogations, prison, aggression against the family.
  • Lack of official response to legal demands and citizen complaints that permit the exhaustion of domestic legal recourses.
  • The right the authorities take for themselves to impose a single interpretation on an artistic work.
  • The lack of legal recourses that permit the public recognition of initiatives independent of or alternative to the Ministry of Culture.
  • Participation in political activities and military training is compulsory in the Cuban educational system.
  • Ideological conditioning in arts education. Forced expulsions.
  • The impact of the Ministry of the Interior in the development and implementation of cultural policies and in the behavior of arts institutions.
  • The use of artist and intellectuals in the spaces of political repression.
  • The promotion and support of the professional careers of artists and intellectuals is conditioned by their demonstrated compliance with official policy (policies related to publication, movie production, exhibition spaces).
  • Independent NGOs are not entitled to receive funding under the “New Law of Cultural Investment,” requiring all financing to pass through the Ministry of Culture.
  • Demonization of financing secured by artists officially discriminated against.
  • Use of art as popular recreation and not as a method of critical questioning and a space for promoting freedom.

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz
President of the Republic of Cuba Havana,
Cuba E-mail .: f_castro@cuba.gov.cu
cuba@un.int (c / o Mission of Cuba to the UN)
Fax: +53 33 085 July 83 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Salutation: Your Excellency

General Abelardo Colome Ibarra
Minister of the Interior and Prisons
Ministry of Interior, Plaza de la Revolution, Havana, Cuba
Fax: +537 85 56 621 (pressed “send” when you hear the voice in Spanish)
Email .: correominint@mn.mn.co.cu
Salutation: Your Excellency

Dr. Dario Delgado Cura
Attorney General of the Republic
Attorney General’s Office, Amistad 552, e/ Monte and Estrella,
Centro Habana,
Havana, Cuba
Fax: + 537 669485 / + 537 333164
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Maria Esther Reus González
Minister of Justice
Salutation: Ms. Minister of Justice

Hon. Mr. Alejandro Gonzalez GALEANO
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Paseo. de la Habana, 194, 28036 – MADRID
Phone: 91 359 25 00 Fax: 91 359 61 45
E-mail: secreembajada@ecubamad.com

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva
100 chemin de Valérie, Chambésy 1292
Fax: +41 22 758 9431
Email: embacubaginebra@missioncuba.ch

Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Cuba in Brussels
77 rue Roberts Jones
1180 Uccle, Belgium
Fax: + 32 2 344 9661
Email: mision@embacuba.be

[1] Article 144.1 and 144.2 of the Criminal Code, Section Three:

  1. Anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults or in any way outrages or offends, orally or in writing, the dignity or decorum of a public authority, public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions or on the occasion or by reason of them, shall be punished by imprisonment of three months to one year or a fine of one hundred to three hundred shares, or both.
  2. If the action described in the preceding paragraph is committed against the President of the State Council, the President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, members of the State Council or the Council of Ministers or the Deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the penalty is imprisonment of one to three years.

[2] Article 292 Penal Code

[3] Article 209 Penal Code

[4] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Chapter V. Education and Culture, Article 39

[5] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Chapter V. Education and Culture, Article 39





Let Us Save the Life of El Sexto Now! / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

25 09 2015

sextotattoosOrlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 25 September 2015 — Please, let’s call at all times to Valle Grande Prison, and claim respectfully but firmly for the life of Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (the street artist El Sexto). He has been jailed since December 2014 in Cuba, without trial, and now he is on a hunger strike and he’s being tortured in solitary confinement, with cramps, shivering and headaches.

+ 537-2020406

+ 537-2020407

+ 537-2020417

+ 537-2020418

+ 537-2020609

+ 537-2020748

+ 537-2020797

Valle Grande Penitentiary, Arroyo Arenas, CP 11200, Havana, Cuba.

1. P-4K / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

25 09 2015

Chess champion Bobby Fischer’s grave in Iceland

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
25 September 2015

I came to Reykjavik because I was told that my father was still alive. It’s true; I saw him. Here he lives. Him, and the rest of my wasted words.

Sounds with no meaning that breathe again around me. In the lonely violence of the landscapes. In the vertigo of each night, as I look out at the abyss of this planet from the balcony. In the smoke of a bay that is all the bays and is none, and is exclusively that that evaporates in the putrid and puta mouth of Havana.

To smell his beard. To seek refuge under his shirt while he rocked me in the oldest armchair in town; wooden melodies. To recall the scary stories he told me before dawn to soothe my asthma and my fear of dying; stories full of mystery or perhaps myths about an invented island he called Íslandi. Ice, andi, spirit, ís. Tender and strange lands pronounced in the same way he pronounced my name: Landi

A nowhere where God wasn’t shy as in the tropics, so He talked each and every day in a fire language about His long-lasting love for the Son of Man. Which for us meant His long-lasting love for a man in Cuba and his Cuban son. Which in turn meant that death wouldn’t be true, although it already was. At least not mine; at least not my father’s. As a child I longed for not ever to die and for dad not ever to leave me behind. Papi, pipo, pabbi, papá.

I came to Reykjavik because we left unsolved a painful puzzle of chess. Anguish and August; summer in Cuba is the cruelest month. Though my father was generous enough as to play the role of a cold Russian villain, Boris. While he allowed me to play the role of a hot American hero, Bobby. The seventies in socialism were meant to last forever. We two were much of Spassky losing to Fischer. Unlikely lives, biographies devoid of dates. Words never to be lost that we couldn’t find ever after. Miracles of the magic hat of the Moomin family. Marvels out of the thousand and one dear dictionaries that were of so little help: fortíðarþrá, skak, fjarlægð, eyjan.

I came to Reykjavik because the force of ungravity leaves no choice. Memory is like a broken magnet with northalgia corroding the hope of any orientation. Here the death of my father regains the lucid lightness of its unreality. Here the death of his son is to be less orphan and more unique. Here our hands hold again our heads leaning over the boreal board. Here I clean once more the short-sighted snowflakes from his glasses of a Grandmaster with no title at all. Only to challenge him more, to defend myself more from him, with no farewell and no despair: Pawn-King 4.

Dad, papi, pipo, pabbi, papá, it’s your turn.

Translated by the author himself

Cubans as Carrion from the Hunt / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

22 09 2015
As long as Cuban laws remain unchanged, the Castro brothers will continue to use political prisoners as foreign-policy leverage. (Mdzol)

As long as Cuban laws remain unchanged, the Castro brothers will continue to use political prisoners as foreign-policy leverage. (Mdzol)

From September 19 to 22, the Catholic Pope will visit Cuba for the third time, and as is customary, the Castro regime has had a sudden merciful change of heart.

This time, Cuban jails have released 3,522 prisoners. That’s 500 prisoners more than in March 2012, when Benedict XVI came to the island, and 3,000 more than those released thanks to John Paul II’s visit in January 1998. In each case, the whole world celebrated the gesture as if it were a human-rights victory.

Similarly, General Raúl Castro freed 53 political prisoners as a “gift” to Barack Obama for his announcement to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba on December 17, 2014. Some of them, like Afro-Cuban activist Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz, had been behind bars for nearly three years, without a trial.

In other words, the state kidnapped them during a perverse and hypocritical wave of repression, while, ironically, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass on the island. But never mind that. Everyone applauded Castros’s “gesture of good will” in light of the diplomatic transition and the opening of Cuba’s Marxist markets for Uncle Sam.

Over the past two decades, Cuban prisons have held between 50,000 and 60,000 inmates, producing an alarmingly high ratio of 500 prisoners for every 100,000 residents. However, that disheartening figure is the least of it.

The worst part is that the repressive and backward Cuban laws remain untouched and unquestioned. The death penalty, crimes of contempt against the commander in chief, censorship laws that criminalize dissent as “the enemy’s propaganda,” and punishments for “pre-crime” reminiscent of Italian fascism are all still on the books.

Meanwhile, the state’s paramilitary groups ensure — with complete disregard for the penal code — that the threat of imprisonment reaches every Cuban citizen: beggars, ministers, former agents, and exiles alike.

This means that if there were no political prisoners in Cuba, the regime would have to invent them. Otherwise, the dictatorship would have no leverage to negotiate with the European Union, the United States, and, of course, God’s representative on Earth.

This brutal, tyrannical regime has been in power for so long, happily executing thousands and forcing nearly one-fifth of its population to leave, that it now must somehow manufacture political prisoners. That’s why the regime puts on a show whenever it cracks down on a peaceful demonstration in Cuban streets.

These periodic protests and arrests pose no threat to the Castro brothers’ reign. Instead, officials turn it all into a convenient tool to manipulate the international agenda, depending on whether they want to look like the good cop or the bad cop.

As long as there is no separation of powers in Cuba, the slightest tolerance for freedom of expression or association, or a civil society independent of the corporate-military elite; as long as the Constitution does not allow for questioning why socialism should be the eternal “irrevocable” model of the country, then, it really doesn’t make a difference whether five or 50,000 prisoners are released.

We are not dealing with some sort of amnesty brought on by social pressures. It more resembles a kind of royal pardon that takes us all by surprise: a gesture as oppressive as the thumbs-up or thumbs-down of a Roman emperor in a bloody coliseum.

Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, astutely summed it up when she said: “the Cuban government is clever; it won’t be the first time … that they will spend months imprisoning people for petty crimes, only to inflate the figures of those released.”

I could not be happier for my fellow countrymen who are now out of jail. However, it makes me sad that millions of Cubans don’t yet understand that not a single one of us has been truly freed, and that the world continues to applaud the bounds of our curtailed liberty.

Originally appeared in PanAm Post translated by Vanessa Arit