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Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

Dissident Cuban Artist Hospitalized Following Hunger Strike

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a leader of artist-activist group San Isidro Movement (MSI), has been hospitalized in Havana more than a week after embarking on a hunger strike, Al Jazeera reports. Said yesterday by officials at General Calixto Garcia University Hospital to be in stable condition following his arrival there, Otero Alcántara reportedly undertook the hunger strike on April 26 to protest the government’s seizure or destruction of several of his artworks earlier this month. Because police had surrounded his home, no one was allowed in or out during his hunger strike, and the BBC has said that relatives and friends say they have not been allowed to communicate with him to date.

According to MSI, which was formed in 2018 to protest government censorship of artistic expression, Otero Alcántara was forced from his residence by state officials and is being held, ostensibly in the hospital. The group questioned medical authorities’ assessment of his condition, writing on Twitter, “How is it possible he has no signs of malnutrition or dehydration after being on a hunger and thirst strike for more than 7 days?” Fellow MSI member Amaury Pacheco, a poet, noted on Twitter that the thirty-three-year-old artist could “no longer stay upright, his skin and mouth is parched, he does not urinate or speak. He has an inflamed throat.” According to Reuters, hospital authorities had characterized Otero Alcántara as “walking without difficulty.”

US officials have expressed concern regarding Otero Alcántara’s condition, with US State Department representative Julie Chung pushing the Cuban government to “take immediate steps to protect his life and health” and the US embassy in Cuba asserting that the artist should be “treated with dignity and respect.”

“We have seen reports that he is hospitalized and that his condition is stable,” the embassy tweeted. “We urge the authorities to protect his well-being at this difficult time.”