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Tania Bruguera Arrested Twice in Cuban Censorship Law Protests; Threatens to Go on Hunger Strike

Bruguera was one of a number of artists protesting the controversial Decree 349 which critics say will censor and limit artistic freedom

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Tania Bruguera wear a t-shirt reading

Tania Bruguera wear a t-shirt reading ‘No to Decree 349’, 2018. Courtesy: the artist

Artist and activist Tania Bruguera has been arrested in Cuba after attempting to stage a protest against a controversial decree that critics say will censor and limit artistic freedom in the country.

The proposed new law, Decree 349, puts heavy restriction on creative freedom including the commercialization of work. It will allow the government to shut down concerts, galleries, art and book sales if they feature prohibited subjects, including the ambiguously classified ‘contents that are damaging to ethical and cultural values.’

Bruguera, whose participatory installation, 10,146,323, is currently on view in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London, was arrested shortly after leaving her home on Monday 3 December. She had intended to hold a protest at the Ministry of Culture, along with other artists, it was reported by Reuters.

Bruguera was released later the same evening but immediately returned to the ministry to protest the arrest of other artists.

In a Facebook post added early in the evening on 3 December, Bruguera posted an image of herself wearing a t-shirt with the words: 'No to Decree 349' with the caption: ‘I didn’t think I was going to need this t-shirt or this argument, nor did I think that I would be caught up in all this because others have done it really well. But as long as there are imprisoned artists I’ll be at the entrance of the Ministry of Culture, the entrance the Minister of Culture would use. I feel I cannot do anything else than show my support. If they detain me, I’ll be as we agreed, as I was: already on hunger strike.’

Bruguera’s sister, Deborah, along with friend Sofia Karim told us: ‘Tania is continuing in the fight against censorship and for the freedom of the other detained artists. We believe that the artists concerned have commenced a hunger and thirst strike. When she was first detained yesterday, Tania said she would go on hunger strike, but we have not spoken to her since.’

Iris Ruiz, an actor and coordinator of campaigns against the proposed law, told Reuters that Bruguera was detained for a second time, on Monday evening, just steps away from the Ministry of Culture. The artist’s mother, Argelia Fernandez, told news agency Reuters that she had been unable to locate her daughter, because Bruguera’s mobile phone had been blocked by state police.

Winners of the 2018 Index on Censorship award and organizers of Bienal de La Habana, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, as well as poet Amaury Pacheco, were among those arrested; their whereabouts remain unknown.

A  statement issued by Index on Censorship said they: ‘fear[ed] for the artists’ well-being following reports of threats of violence by state security. There is a heavy police presence at the homes of artists who said they would be participating in the peaceful protest in front of the Ministry of Culture.’

Before his arrest, Otero Alcantara told Index: ‘349 is the image of censorship and repression of Cuban art and culture, and an example of the exercise of state control over its citizens.’

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