News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Tania Bruguera. Photo: Romina Santarelli/Flickr.
Tania Bruguera. Photo: Romina Santarelli/Flickr.

Tania Bruguera Departing Cuba in Exchange for Government Freeing Prisoners

Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera is leaving her home country, having agreed to do so if the government released a group of prisoners, Hyperallergic reports. In an interview with Radio Martí broadcast October 5, Bruguera, a member of the artist-activist collective 27N, said that she had been offered a job as a senior lecturer in Harvard University’s media and performance department. Bruguera contended that she told Cuban authorities she would accept the position and leave the country if they would release a number of activists imprisoned in the past few months, as unprecedented protests related to free speech and access to food and health care have rocked the nation.

Among those whose release Bruguera demanded were rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, also known as El Osorbo; artist Hamlet Lavistida; artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; and Luis Robles Elizastigui, who was detained for holding up a homemade cardboard sign in support of freedom and calling for the release of rapper Denis Solis, convicted in 2020 on charges of being in contempt of Decree 349, a rule requiring artists to obtain government approval before presenting their work. Bruguera also asked for the release of members of 27N, and other young people arrested over the summer in connection with the demonstrations.

Lavastida, who had been held since June after authorities detained him on his return to Cuba from a residency at Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien, was freed late last month, on the condition that he accept exile to Poland, along with his girlfriend, writer Katherine Bisquet. Otero Alcantara, a member of the artist-activist San Isidro Movement (MSI) who in May was forcibly hospitalized after staging a hunger strike, remains in custody, as presumably do Osorbo and Robles. Bruguera’s sister Deborah Bruguera confirmed that the youthful demonstrators whose release her sister demanded had been freed. Deborah also described Tania as being “escorted to the airport by a dozen agents to ensure she left the country.”

“This may be one of the first times in the history of Cuba that an activist negotiates the release of another activist,” Bruguera told Radio Martí. “Generally, this is done between governments, but in this case we were the intermediaries.”

Earlier today, Tania Bruguera tweeted a call to boycott the 14th Havana Biennial, accusing the government of using the event to “erase…the suffering of the Cuban people.” The biennial is to start November 15, its launch coinciding with Cuba’s reopening to vaccinated travelers.