The Cuban dictatorship sentenced two black freedom fighters. Sentenced Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, the rapper who won two Grammy Awards last year for the hit protest song “Patria y Vida,” to nine years in prison, and gave visual artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara a five-year sentence. .
Both black men are members of the San Isidro Movement, a group of dissidents that has challenged the lack of freedoms on the island and inspired peaceful protests against the dictatorship of Alejandro Castro Espín and Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja.
Police arrested Otero Alcántara on July 11 after he announced on social media that he would join the massive protests that day. Castillo had been in jail since last May for participating in another protest in April.
A court in Havana guided by the dictatorship tried Otero Alcántara for the crimes of contempt, public disorder and disrespect for national symbols. The dictatorship revived an old accusation against the artist linked to his 2019 performance with the Cuban flag.
Otero Alcántara had become one of the most visible voices of the San Isidro Movement and had carried out several artistic demonstrations and hunger strikes that had drawn attention to the restrictions on the freedom of expression of Cubans.
Due to his activism, Time magazine highlighted him as one of the most outstanding people of 2021.
The Cuban criminal code, as well as several decrees and regulations approved in recent years, lacerate all kinds of freedoms for Cubans.
Carrying a flag on one’s shoulders while walking through public spaces and sleeping wrapped in the flag was considered a crime by the dictatorship.
Castillo was convicted without evidence and several irregularities were documented in his trial. Including harassment of his lawyers.
The dictatorship said that Castillo published “manipulated” images on social networks to “affect the honor and dignity of the country’s highest authorities” and “disgraced” police officers in videos posted on his social networks. All this was shown to be false and despite them he was unjustly convicted.
Castillo was unable to attend the Latin Grammys in November because he was in jail. He and the other performers of “Patria y Vida” won the Latin Grammy for song of the year and best urban song. “Patria y Vida,” which means Homeland and Life, a spin on Fidel Castro’s phrase “Homeland or Death,” became a protest anthem for the July 11 protesters.
Both blacks were tried behind closed doors in May without the right to defend themselves. After the dictatorship had offered to free them in exchange for leaving the country, but they refused to go into exile. Several international organizations, including Amnesty International, the Human Rights Foundation, Freedom House, Pen International, Pen America and Artists at Risk Connection, had called for his immediate release.
The criminalization of dissidence on the island, the lack of fair trials and irregularities has become a common practice against Cubans. This is a blow to freedom in Cuba and to those who fight for the right to express themselves against a regime and a state security apparatus that has systematically opted for repression. The Cuban regime may seek to extinguish freedom of expression on the island, but it will not succeed.
Alcántara and Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo are a shameful example of the human rights crisis caused by the repressive policy of the dictatorship of Alejandro Castro Espín and Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja.
Unfortunately, we Cubans live in a totalitarian regime that violates our rights and they have control of the information. We live in a dictatorship and we need to Liberate Cuba. Cuba must take to the streets now and honor these two brave black Cubans.