Cuba: Blockage of news regarding hunger striker

Human rights activists are demanding Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara to be examined by independent doctors.

Frankfurt am Main / Havana, May 5th, 2021 – The Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was forcibly taken to a hospital by official security forces on the morning of May 2nd. The regime critic went on a hunger and thirst strike on April 26th to protest against human rights violations. Cuban human rights activists fear that his life is in acute danger. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) demands verifiable information on his state of health and warns that critics of the regime have already died in comparable situations before.

According to Cuban officials, Otero Alcántara is being held at the General Calixto García University Hospital in Havana and shows no signs of malnutrition. In contrast, representatives of the dissident artist’s movement MSI refer to his critical state of health. Martin Lessenthin, spokesman for the board of the ISHR, calls for independent doctors to have immediate access to Otero Alcántara and criticizes Cuba’s non-transparent information policy.

“Otero’s isolation and the blockage bring back memories of the fate of other Cuban dissidents such as Wilmar Villar and Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died in 2012 and 2010 as a result of hunger strikes,” said ISHR spokesman Lessenthin. In both cases, the Cuban democracy movement accused the regime of lack of transparency and suppressing news.

After their deaths, the Cuban journalist and dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who had been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, protested on a hunger strike for 135 days. Fariñas had protested against the Cuban Castro regime with a total of more than 23 hunger strikes and spent eleven years as a political prisoner. In recent years, it has been José Daniel Ferrer who has repeatedly gone on hunger strikes to draw attention to the systematic and continuous repression by the authorities. The ISHR therefore calls on the Cuban authorities to stop the repression against civil rights activists.

The “San Isidro Movement” was founded in 2018 to protest against a law that curtails artistic freedom and criminalizes artistic activity in Cuba. Its members include musicians, writers who are critical of the regime, scientists and ordinary people. The independent artists organize events, sit-ins and campaigns for human rights and democratic change in Cuba. In a video message during the group’s hunger strike in November 2020, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara said: “The situation in Cuba is getting worse every day. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for democratic change in Cuba. There has to be a change now, we can’t wait any longer.”