Castillo, a leader of the San Isidro Movement, remains imprisoned at the Pinar del Río prison since May 2021
October 27, 2021
(New York, NY | London, UK) — Cuban artist and Latin Grammy-nominated rapper Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, who has been detained at the maximum security Pinar del Río prison since May 2021, began a hunger strike yesterday in protest of his imprisonment and Cuba’s broader crackdown on free expression. Since his latest arbitrary arrest, he has not been guaranteed due process. In a statement today, PEN America and PEN International called on the Cuban government to release Castillo immediately and to end their campaign of brutal repression against Cuban artists.
“We are both horrified and infuriated that the Cuban government continues to keep Maykel Castillo imprisoned merely for peacefully exercising his right to free expression. The fact that he has been pushed to the point where he is willing to put his life and body on the line is unconscionable. We are extremely concerned for him and fear for his life,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “The unfounded charges against Castillo and the complete lack of due process he has received are part and parcel of the Cuban authorities’ ongoing efforts to silence dissent, intimidate artists, and restrict freedom of expression. We call on the Cuban government to drop all charges against Castillo and to cease the harassment and censorship of independent artists, writers, and thinkers.”
“The Cuban authorities try to justify their acts of violence and their escalating repression by inventing allegations against innocent artists and writers in order to silence them. Maykel Castillo Pérez is unjustly imprisoned for exercising his right to free expression, for writing a song, for criticizing his country’s government. Maykel’s case is emblematic of the situation faced by artists, writers, journalists, and human rights defenders in Cuba who criticize the government. It is a tragedy for the world that he has decided to go on hunger strike. Maykel must be released immediately. PEN International will continue to tirelessly defend our Cuban colleagues,” said Romana Cacchioli, executive director of PEN International.
Castillo is a leader of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of Cuban artists, journalists, and intellectuals, and coauthor of the viral song “Patria y Vida,” which became an anthem of the mass protests across the island in late July. On September 28, “Patria y Vida” was nominated for “Best Song of the Year” at the Latin Grammy Awards.
Castillo began his hunger strike yesterday at the Pinar del Río prison in Havana, where he has remained imprisoned after being detained on May 31 of this year and charged by the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office with the crimes of “resistance” and “contempt.” On May 18, he was arrested and held in an unknown location for a week. He is not the only imprisoned artist who has been driven to complete a hunger strike in recent weeks: Fellow artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara underwent a hunger strike from September 27 to October 14 and remains imprisoned.
On August 10, 2021, PEN America and PEN International, along with three partner organizations, issued a joint statement applauding the report submitted by NGO Prisoners Defenders to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which counted more than 120 repressive acts of all kinds against Castillo in a little over a year, in order to silence him from expressing his demands for fundamental freedoms and rights.
For more information, please contact Alicia Quiñones, Americas Programme Coordinator, at PEN International, email: firstname.lastname@example.org