Tag Archives: El Sexto

Cuban Dissident Artist ‘El Sexto’ Released from Maximum Security Prison


He had been held for two months without charge.

Cuban dissident artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, aka El Sexto, was released over the weekend from the maximum security prison outside Havana, where he had been held for nearly two months.

The artist and activist had been held at El Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison used for hardened criminals as well as Cubans whose political views oppose the state. This was his third arrest since December 2014, first in relation to an artwork likening Raul and Fidel Castro to pigs, and again on the eve of a visit by former President Barack Obama to Cuba.

On November 26, 2016, El Sexto was violently taken from his home in Havana by police, who gave no reason for his arrest. He was scheduled to leave Cuba for Art Basel in Miami, where he had planned exhibitions and performances.

Cuban authorities did not give a reason for his release on Saturday, January 21, either; however, Pollock Fine Art London, a gallery that represents El Sexto, noted in a statement that it coincided with a recent communication sent to the Cuban government from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, regarding their reviewing of a petition to declare the artist’s incarceration illegal according to international law.

More than 13,700 people signed an online petition on Change.org demanding El Sexto’s immediate release. “Short-term arbitrary arrests remain a common tactic to restrict freedom of expression in Cuba,” read the petition’s explanatory text.

Amnesty International also called for urgent action, calling the artist a “prisoner of conscience.”

After his release, El Sexto thanked the petitioners and Amnesty International, as well as other human rights organizations, activists, artists, and writers who supported him. He also expressed his gratitude to the international attorneys who fought for him: Centa B. Rek Chatjtur of the Human Rights Foundation, and Kimberley Motley, who was arrested in Havana on December 16 for attempting to publicize the artist’s unwarranted arrest and incarceration. He is currently at home with his family in Havana.

American attorney defending Cuban dissident artist arrested, foundation says

The Miami Herald

An American human rights lawyer representing an imprisoned Cuban artist was arrested in Havana on Friday, according to the Human Rights Foundation.

Kimberley Motley was in the country to advocate for 33-year-old Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, a dissident artist jailed for posting a video on Facebook mocking Fidel Castro’s death. He was scheduled to attend Art Basel, but has been imprisoned without charges since Nov. 26, relatives said.

The foundation reported that Motley was led away by plainclothes security agents while she was holding a press conference outside Havana’s National Capitol around 4 p.m. Friday. Authorities also arrested dissident punk rock artist Gorki Águila and democracy activist Luis Alberto Mariño, according to the foundation.

Dissident artist jailed in Cuba beaten and fed sedative-laced food, family says


Fox News

One of Cuba’s most prominent anti-Castro artists is refusing to eat food served by his jailers, alleging that they have laced it with pills that induce drowsiness, those close to him say.

Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” was taken by Cuban security agents the day after the death of former leader Fidel Castro. Maldonado, 33, still has not been charged, but those familiar with the graffiti artist’s actions that morning say
that he posted a Facebook message seemingly gloating over Castro’s death and urging people to “come out to the streets…and ask for liberty.”

Maldonado also is said to have spray-painted “El Sexto” on a wall near Hotel Habana Libre.

His girlfriend, a writer who lives in Miami, said that Maldonado has been transferred several times since his arrest on Nov. 6. Alexandra Martinez told FoxNews.com Monday that Maldonado’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado, who has been allowed to visit her son briefly twice since he has been in the custody of Cuban security police, told her that the artist was beaten the day he was taken from his apartment, as well as last Tuesday.

“He’s an artist, he’s a human being who is just using his voice” and art for peaceful expression, Martinez said. “There are still no charges. He was taken to police stations and now a detention center that is maximum security.”

Maldonado had been slated to be at a Miami premiere of an HBO documentary that features him titled “Patria o Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death” last week, Martinez said.

“The Cuban authorities have a history of detaining El Sexto ahead of many planned performances, but Castro’s death appears to be the impetus for this particularly aggressive assault,” said Julian Schnabel, the producer of the HBO
documentary, in a statement quoted by the Miami Herald.

Other Cuba experts say that while Cuban authorities routinely detain prominent dissidents without pressing charges before, during or after a high-profile event, in recent years they have kept them in custody for less than a day, usually a few

They say that Maldonado’s extended detention is particularly hard-line.

“The classic pattern in the last couple of years is that police come and arrest dissidents either because they’re having a demonstration, or they’re planning to have one, and they hold them for shorter periods of time than before, and then let them
go without charges,” said William M. LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, and co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.”

“The police has hit upon this as disrupting dissident activity without processing people through the justice system,” LeoGrande said. “For [Maldonado] to have been in
jail for a long period of time without charges is unusual.”

Maldonado, who is active on social media, spent 10 months in jail about a year ago after he posted a photo of two pigs with “Fidel” written on one and “Raul” on the other.

The Human Rights Foundation said on its Facebook page that the Cuban government had charged Maldonado in 2015 with “criminal defamation” for linking the Castro brothers with the pigs, which the artist had prepared for a performance of George
Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

Amnesty International declared Maldonado a prisoner of conscience, and Human Rights Foundation awarded him the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent after he used the pigs to portray the Castro brothers.

Cuban artists still condemned to silence



Dissident artists are no better off post-Fidel, and renewed relations with the US haven’t helped as many hoped or claimed they would

“[T]he fault of many of our intellectuals and artists is to be found in their ‘original sin’: they are not authentically revolutionary.”
— Che Guevara, Man and Socialism in Cuba, 1965

Last year was a good one for Cuban artists. With renewed diplomatic relations with the US, a boom in Latin American art and Cuba’s exceptional artistic talent — fostered through institutions such as the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana — works by prominent Cuban artists fetched top dollar at international auctions, and the Cuban film industry was firmly in the international spotlight.

While the end of the embargo brought with it hope for political liberalisation on the island, as with previous periods of promise in Cuban history cases of repression and censorship of dissident artists were rife in 2015.

So let’s begin again: Last year was a good one for Cuban artists who adhere to the country’s long-established revolutionary narrative and don’t embarrass the regime.

The fear of censorship for art that is critical of the government has been fostered through decades of laws and repression that limit freedom of expression. This can mean stigmatisation, the loss of employment and even imprisonment. Charges such as “social dangerousness” and insulting national symbols are so vague they make convictions very easy.
Continue reading Cuban artists still condemned to silence

Oddity: In Castro’s Cuba, some pigs more equal than others



Danilo Maldonado, better known as El Sexto, stands at the entrance of his home after being released from jail, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday. Maldonado was freed after 10 months behind bars for attempting to release two pigs painted with the names of Raul and Fidel Castro, the country’s current president and former leader.

The Cuban street artist known as El Sexto was freed this week after spending 10 months behind bars for attempting to set free in a public park two pigs painted with the names of the country’s highest leaders.

International human rights groups called his case a vivid demonstration of how Cuba’s harsh limits on free expression remain in full force despite its economic opening and detente with the United States.

Maldonado, 33, was arrested a week after the declaration of detente last year as he drove toward Havana’s Central Park in a rented car with two pigs covered with green paint and the names Fidel and Raul in red, in mockery of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his brother who has led the country since 2008.


Until recently, Maldonado’s case had drawn less attention than that of expatriate Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who was briefly arrested and had her passport confiscated after she tried to convene a free speech forum in Cuba’s Plaza of the Revolution shortly after Dec. 17. Bruguera has since had her passport returned and left Cuba.

But in recent months, Amnesty International and other human rights group began calling for Maldonado’s release and describing his case as a test of Cuba’s openness to dissent.

His detention showed that “there are some topics and themes that journalists and writers know they can’t touch,” said Elizardo Sanchez, head of Cuba’s non-governmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Maldonado told The Associated Press that he had been held without charge since Dec. 25 “simply because I made fun of the highest leaders of this revolution.”

Swift and harsh condemnation

Cuba has been gradually loosening central control of the economy and allowing slightly more open discourse in state-run media and an art world that requires state approval for everything from gallery and theater space to permission to import materials.

The country’s leaders remain sacrosanct however, and attempts at political organization or questioning of the country’s single-party system are met with swift and harsh condemnation.

While never formally charged, Maldonado was accused of the crime of disrespect toward government officials, a violation that can bring a 1- to 3-year sentence under Cuban law.

“We are very happy to learn that in the end he is being freed,” said Robin Guittard, Caribbean campaigner for Amnesty International. “He’s just an artist who tried to do an art show, to use his legitimate right to freedom of expression. That should never lead people to be sent to prison. That’s a very cold reminder of what’s the situation of freedom of expression today in Cuba.”

Creative dissent

In April, Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent from the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

“A government that doesn’t let itself be criticized starts to lose credibility,” said Maldonado’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado.

Dressed in grey shorts, sneakers and a T-shirt, Maldonaldo munched a sandwich Tuesday afternoon as relatives, well-wishers and reporters began to fill his home.

“I want to now connect with the people that supported me, “ he said, telling the AP that he planned to request a visa for the United States and travel to Miami “to be close to people who think like I do, people in exile, who had to leave.”

He said he planned to recover his strength and energy and return to Cuba after six months.

Cuba releases artist who was considered a prisoner of conscience


Cuba released a graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” his sister said on Tuesday, ten months after he was jailed for “disrespect of the leaders of the revolution” over a satire of Fidel and Raul Castro.

On Sept. 29 Amnesty International declared Danilo Maldonado, 32, the country’s only prisoner of conscience while saying it was evaluating other cases. His sister Indira Maldonado told Reuters that he had been freed.


Cuba fails to keep promise to release graffiti artist unfairly held


Caribbean News

Cuba fails to keep promise to release graffiti artist unfairly held

The Cuban authorities’ failure to keep to their commitment to release a graffiti artist unfairly imprisoned nearly a year ago is a painful illustration of their disregard for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

“Committing to release Danilo Maldonado Machado on 15 October only to keep him behind bars for no reason other than speaking his mind and criticising the government is not only cruel but sends a strong message that freedom of expression is not on the Cuban government’s radar,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Danilo is a prisoner of conscience, deprived of his liberty as punishment for peacefully expressing his opinions. He must be released immediately and unconditionally and not be made to spend another second behind bars,” she said.

On Thursday, prison authorities told Machado’s mother that he had served his time but that they did not know when he would be set free. Machado, however, has never been brought before a judge or sentenced.

“Danilo’s story has all the elements of a science fiction novel: fist he was put behind bars under the most ludicrous excuse and then kept there arbitrarily without even being charged. The fact that Cuban authorities continue to play with Danilo and his family is just shocking,” said Guevara-Rosas.

Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as ‘El Sexto’, was arrested by agents of the political police (Seguridad del Estado) in Havana while travelling in a taxi on 25 December 2014. Officers opened the taxi’s trunk and found two pigs with “Raúl” and “Fidel” painted on their backs. He was accused of “disrespecting the leaders of the Revolution” but never brought to court. Machado intended to release the pigs at an art show on Christmas Day.

Yes, Cuba is more open now. But for these artists and activists, little has changed


Tania Bruguera’s work sits in the permanent collection of Cuba’s premier art gallery, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. So it was a surprise when, despite invitations from organizers of the Havana Biennial, Bruguera was turned away by the guards there during an event taking place on the Biennial’s first weekend.
Far less surprising was the arrest of Gorki Águila, a punk rocker who unfurled a banner at the Museo Nacional demanding the release of political satirist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto.” Machado has been incarcerated since last December after producing a series of provocative political cartoons and antigovernment street art.
Though it no longer throws dissidents in the infamous UMAP labor camps of the 1970s, Cuba has historically arrested and detained activists, including artists. But when Obama took the first steps of normalizing relations with Cuba last year, he promised that diplomats would demand an end to all that. Last December, the president straightforwardly said his policy is “fundamentally about freedom and openness,” and it intends to “create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people.” The New York Times, 13 days later, extolled the country’s burgeoning art scene.
The Biennial, an art exhibition that began in 1984 that highlights Latin American and Caribbean art and nontraditional artists globally, was a chance to showcase a new, freer Cuba. In a recent Associated Press article, art critic Rafael Acosta de Arriva raved about the event as a “moment of major effervescence,” capturing the sense that now is the time to “discover” Cuba, artists and all — and at valuable prices.
For some of the country’s artists, not much has changed. In the last several weeks, Bruguera, Águila and dozens of other artists, activists and dissidents have been detained, and there’s no sign that the political rapprochement has brought any corresponding détente. It’s one reason why young Cubans may be so skeptical about closer relations between the United States and Cuba, at least according to an informal poll on a recent hopping Saturday night along Havana’s sociable Malecón. They are excited about improved U.S. relations, young Cubans told me, but they doubt that will necessarily deliver any real change. A more formal Univision/Fusion poll in early April showed that although 97 percent of all Cubans support greater ties with the United States, fully 55 percent of Cubans want to live in another country, 70 percent want to start their own business, 75 percent thought they had to be careful about expressing opinions in public and 79 percent are still dissatisfied with Cuba’s economic system, and the numbers were even higher among young Cubans. The gap between American froth and Cuban reality at this year’s Biennial warns that the pace of change will be stubborn.
News coverage since December paints a rosy tapestry of a country on the brink of a Western-style revolution. Netflix announced it would target Cuba, though Internet access is heavily censored, available for $10 an hour at designated government-run Internet cafes, universities and tourist hotels. JetBlue announced grandiose plans to launch a commercial nonstop flight from New York by year’s end; hopes to reestablish a ferry service from Key West followed.
State Department officials say that the U.S. government’s new policy represents a bet that liberalization and modernity will drag Cuba into the 21st century and empower Cuban entrepreneurs. The Cuban government, instead, is betting it can open its economy without its politics, press or Internet.
Bruguera fears Cuba could soon become the worst of Castro-style socialism and American-style capitalism at the expense of the Cuban people.
“Money is not going to solve Cuba,” she said. “People can actually live their fantasy in Cuba. But because of that, because the government knows that, and because the government is providing that, it’s giving the key to access that kingdom to anyone who is going to behave well. And that counts for foreigners, for businessmen, for foreign press, for artists, anybody.”
She would know. In May, Bruguera was arrested following a 100-hour reading of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” in her modest home in Havana Vieja, a few footsteps from the national Cuban art collection. When I visited Bruguera for the first time, on the final day of the reading, plainclothes policemen from MININT, Cuba’s feared interior ministry, swarmed just outside the doorway, and state workers were jackhammering away, digging forlorn trenches into the dusty road. Bruguera, who once taught art at the University of Chicago, where she also knocked on doors for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been under a kind of “city arrest” since late December, her passport confiscated and every step under state surveillance, following another public demonstration. We made plans to meet, perhaps later that day. Instead, MININT officials detained and questioned her.

The Washington Post