Cuba: artists and creatives subjected to wave of repression

London, 15 February 2019 – The wave of repression and arbitrary detention to which independent Cuban artists and creatives have been subjected following the announcement of Decree 349 is deeply troubling, said PEN International, as it urged the Cuban government to immediately cease its repression of artistic and creative expression.

The legislative decree, which partially entered into force on 7 December 2018, seeks to regulate independent artistic production by requiring the registration and prior approval of all artistic activity through a government-affiliated cultural institution and by establishing  restrictions on the dissemination of cultural or audio-visual content based on overbroad descriptions of what may be considered impermissible content. Such restrictions include, but are not limited to, content that could be considered discriminatory, violent, detrimental to the development of children, or is deemed to have used patriotic symbols in manner contrary to law.

Decree 349, which was signed on 20 April 2018 and published in the Official Gazette on 10 July 2018 (an English translation of which is available here), has led to widespread protests within the Cuban artistic community who believe that measures requiring them to submit their works and exhibitions to the prior approval of state entities could be used as a tool of censorship. Those protesting have reportedly faced repeated harassment and brief detentions for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

One of the most prominent cases is the brief detention of artist and activist Tania Bruguera on 4 December 2018 who, along with other creatives attempted to carry out a peaceful protest outside the Ministry of Culture in Havana, Cuba. Artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántar and Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, as well as poet Javier Moreno were also briefly detained. Most recently, poet Katherine Bisquet Rodríguez, was reportedly attacked after using her poetry reading at La Casa de la Poesía during the International Book Fair in Havana as a platform to demonstrate her opposition to Decree 349 and proposed Constitutional reforms.

PEN International condemns the mere existence of this decree and call for it to be repealed, making an urgent call on the Cuban government to immediately cease its repression of artistic and creative expression. 

Signed by:

PEN Argentina

PEN Cuban Writers in Exile

PEN Guadalajara

PEN Guatemala

PEN Mexico

PEN Nicaragua

PEN San Miguel de Allende

PEN Uruguay

PEN Venezuela