Dissident artist in Cuba allowed to leave hospital after hunger strike


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Havana (AFP)

A dissident Cuban artist who spent eight days on a hunger strike was released from hospital on Monday, the Havana public health authority said.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, 33, is the leader of the San Isidro (MSI) protest movement of artists and intellectuals pushing for free speech and other rights in the communist nation.

He went on a hunger strike last month to protest the seizure by authorities of several of his works when he was arrested during a demonstration.

He was admitted to hospital on May 2, eight days after starting his hunger strike.

The Cuban government accuses Otero Alcantara of being funded by the United States, which has applied sanctions against Cuba for decades.

The Calixto Garcia General University Hospital where he was treated announced “his full recovery”.

Otero Alcantara “reiterated his gratitude to the staff who looked after him at every opportunity,” the hospital said.

At the start of his hospital stay, authorities released videos of him appearing to be healthy, but relatives of Otero Alcantara said they were unable to communicate with him.

Amnesty International described him as a prisoner of conscience while the United States demanded his immediate release.

After his arrest last month, he was released but repeatedly arrested for trying to leave his home, which had been surrounded by police.

During his hunger strike, his internet service was interrupted and the police prevented people, including two priests, from visiting Otero Alcantara.

MSI claimed he was forcibly taken to hospital and official medical reports on his condition were “confused and contradictory”.

As a sign of solidarity, last week around 20 Cuban artists demanded that their works from the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana be hidden from public view.

The museum denied the request, saying it was not in the “public interest”.

Painter Tomas Sanchez, 73, wrote on Facebook: “Cuban art is going through dark times … the criminalization of difference is not – and never will be – a path to coexistence.”

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