Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The curious case of Tania Bruguera, the UN and the Cuban dictatorship

As you know, DC Art News has been following the saga of well-known artist Tania Bruguera and the bloody Cuban dictatorship.

Bruguera, a New York-based Cuban artist, and easily one of the best-known artists on the planet, was temporarily arrested on December 30, 2014 for organizing a free speech performance entitled #YoTambienExijo -- pursuant to the Obama-Castro deal. She had her passport confiscated and has not been allowed to leave the island.

The Washington Post wrote about this in an editorial:
...Tania Bruguera planned a simple event for Tuesday: She would set up a microphone in Havana’s Revolution Square and invite anyone who wished to step up and talk about the country’s future. Dozens of dissidents planned to participate under the slogan “I also demand” — which might be taken as an allusion to their exclusion from the secret normalization negotiations conducted by the Obama administration and the regime of Fidel and Raúl Castro. 
That the deal announced Dec. 17 by President Obama did not include any protections for Cuba’s pro-democracy activists quickly became obvious. Security forces detained Ms. Bruguera as well as several dozen other activists. The free-speech performance never took place. “I spoke to Tania Bruguera and let her know part of her performance was done,” tweeted Yoani Sánchez, an independent journalist whose husband, Reinaldo Escobar, was one of those detained. “Censorship was revealed.” 
The incident should have been an embarrassment to Mr. Obama, who said that he decided to restore normal relations with Cuba in order to “do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values.” But the administration shrugged off the crackdown. On Wednesday, the State Department issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned,” the same words it uses to describe human rights violations in China, Vietnam and other countries where the United States has no leverage and plans no action. Talks on the opening of embassies will go forward.

Tania Bruguera, photo by Yali Romagonza.
Courtesy of Studio Bruguera
As most of you know, the Havana Biennial is currently underway, and collectors, arts aficionados, curators, many DC-area artists, and the art cabal has descended en masse upon The Castro Brothers' Workers Paradise.

Tania Bruguera was arrested again a couple of days ago as she approached the Museum of Fine Arts to attend an exhibit for the Havana Art Biennial. No one seems to know what the charges (if any) are... but then again, this is Cuba.

Via Facebook, her sister (who lives in Spain I believe), reported that Bruguera began reading 100-hours of Hannah Arendt’s seminal book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, on May 22 - apparently that's part of her "crime."

But there's more.

In Havana, four dozen members of The Ladies in White were arrested as they attended Sunday Mass. Also arrested were many of their male supporters, including democracy leaders Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and independent journalist Juan Gonzalez Febles. The Cuban dictators are particularly terrified of this group of women, whose "protests" generally consist of: (dress in a white dress on Sundays, (b) attend Sunday Mass, (c) march in unison while holding flowers to the cemetery and (d) get abused, beaten and arrested on the way there; repeat next Sunday.

Band leader Gorki Aguila was grabbed by undercover police outside the museum for the simple reason that he was displaying a photo of graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado and the word “freedom.” That's a no, no in the Workers' Paradise.

Graffitist Danilo Maldonado was arrested in December for "tagging" several pigs with the names "Castro" and "Raul." The names refer to the Castro brothers(Raul and Fidel Castro), suffocaters of the poor island prison. Where Maldonado was able to find pigs in food-poor Cuba will always be a mystery. I suspected the pigs were also snatched and ended up being served later that night in the homes of the undercover police bosses.

In Santiago de Cuba, capital of the Oriente province (the original province), over 80 activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were beaten and arrested, including some who had been released under the Obama-Castro December 17th deal, namely Diango and Bianko Vargas Martin, and Ernesto Tamayo Guerra.

Dozens of others were arrested in the interior provinces, including Raul Borges, father of political prisoner Ernesto Borges, and youth activists from the Cuban Reflection Movement.

Meanwhile, the US State Department and the Obama administration march forward...
“I don’t want to sound too Pollyannaish . . . but I do think we’re closer than we have been,” the official said. “I think my [Cuban] counterparts are coming up here with a desire to get this done.” The negotiating session will be held at the State Department. 
“I wouldn’t be even remotely optimistic if I did not feel that we were making progress,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under rules imposed by the State Department.
Unfortunately I am resigned to see our administration march forward, no matter what the Cuban dictatorship does to its abused citizens - after all the bottom line here is business.

But where is the United Nations on these issues? Where are the Cuban people's Latin American brothers and sisters? Where is Cuba's madre patria, Spain? Where's is the European Union?

Makes my head hurt.

Stay strong Tania; stay strong Ladies in White... each little "crack" in the dictators' bloody boots helps.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words.

People peacefully support freedom of expression in the face of brutal force because they believe that somewhere there are others who won’t be passive bystanders; they count on others who won’t look the other way when these atrocities happen; it is only your watchful eye, your persistent voice, your standing tall against this business-as-usual evil what give decisive meaning to their daily sacrifice.

I believe you provide the right context in which these performances should be placed. Castro is testing the will of the Obama administration on human rights since the Cuban ruler seems to perceive President Obama is eager to include re-establishing diplomatic relations as part of his presidential legacy.

You asked where the Spaniards, the Europeans, and the Latin Americans are. You are right again. The governments of many of those countries have been business partners of Castro for many years and their peoples don’t have the same concept of freedom Americans have. We do have freedom in great esteem and we won’t remain silent for long witnessing abusers putting artists in jail, police beating women in the streets, and detaining civil rights activists.

Perhaps politicians and businessmen can tolerate that, but we the people won’t.

Anonymous said...

Last night at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston The Institute of International Education and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the exciting launch of a pilot program to save the lives and work of artists who face persecution in their home countries. The Artist Protection Fund (APF), a three-year pilot program supported by a $2.79 million grant from The Mellon Foundation, will make life-saving fellowship grants to threatened artists from any field of artistic endeavor, and place them at host universities and arts centers in countries where they can safely continue their work.

I many parts of the world, artists suffer harassment, imprisonment, violence, and even death as a direct consequence of their unique role and power to advance free and creative expression. With participation of many arts organizations and partners from around the world, IIE has taken action to develop the Artist Protection Fund to fill a critical unmet need and provide relief and safe haven to artists on a large scale.

IIE is calling on arts organizations around the world to join in this important effort over the next three years. The launch of the Artist Protection Fund makes an excellent story opportunity for publications covering the arts industry and sends an important message to the many audiences of the arts community about how to become involved as a host or nominate a threatened artist in the world.

Please see full press release here.

Both representatives from The Mellon Foundation and IIE will be available for interviews this week. Please do not hesitate to contact me for any questions or if you would like to schedule an interview.