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Cuba: PEN condemns six-year prison sentence for Cuban musician Abel Lescay for his participation in peaceful mass protests last July

Saturday 2 April 2022 - 2:07am

Abel Lescay

Calls Sentence an Alarming Escalation of the Cuban Government’s Persecution of Artists and Cultural Figures and “Cruel Repression” of Dissident Voices

April 1, 2022

(NEW YORK | LONDON) – PEN International and PEN America today condemned a six-year prison sentence imposed on Cuban musician Abel Lescay on 30 March on public disorder charges after his participation in the mass demonstrations against the government in Cuba last summer. PEN International and PEN America called the Cuban government’s sentence “arbitrary and cruel” and an alarming escalation in its ongoing persecution of artists and cultural figures.

“Abel Lescay is a brave and talented musician who should never have been in jail in the first place. We are horrified by the news that he has received this egregious six-year sentence for exercising his right to protest. His sentencing is a very worrisome development in the Cuban government’s relentless crackdown on artistic expression throughout the country, and sends a signal that many dissidents who have languished in pre-trial detention for months – including artists and cultural professionals such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and rapper Maykel ‘Osorbo’ Castillo – may soon be handed sentences themselves,” said Julie Trébault, Director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC). “We stand steadfastly in solidarity with the Cuban artists and cultural professionals who have put their lives and livelihoods on the line for what they believe in, and now face entirely arbitrary and ridiculously long sentences in retaliation for expressing themselves freely and peacefully. We urge the Cuban government to respect their international obligations, stop harassing artists, and end this chilling campaign against free expression.”

“In its attempt to silence dissident voices, the Cuban authorities are pursuing cruel means of repression, in which, in addition to forcing its journalists, artists, and writers into exile, those on the island are imprisoned or kept under constant surveillance,” said Romana Cacchiolli, the Executive Director of PEN International. “While the authorities attempt to silence dissidents, we will continue to defend their voices internationally. PEN shall remain vigilant to the situation of artists and writers in Cuba and we reiterate our call for the Cuban authorities to immediately cease their systematic harassment and repression of artists and creatives.”

While artistic expression has been under attack in Cuba for years, the government escalated its crackdown on free expression after historic mass demonstrations broke out in July 2021 with artists on the frontlines. In the months following the protests, at least 50 artists have been under house arrest, imprisoned, or criminal investigation, and the campaign shows no signs of stopping. Lescay is not the only artist to receive a sentencing recently: Only three weeks ago, on March 10, poet María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez, who was first arrested on July 11 after participating in the protests, received a seven-year sentence on public disorder charges.

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For more information, please contact Alicia Quiñones, Americas Programme Coordinator, at PEN International, email: alicia.quinones@pen-international.org

Founded in 1921, PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. International PEN is a registered