Amnesty International declares Cuba graffiti artist a prisoner of conscience
By Daniel Trotta
HAVANA (Reuters) - Amnesty International on Tuesday declared a Cuban
graffiti artist as the country's only prisoner of conscience, demanding
the release of a man held for "disrespect of the leaders of the
revolution" over a satire of Fidel and Raul Castro.
Danilo Maldonado, 32 and known as "El Sexto," has been held since
December for painting "Fidel" and "Raul" on the backs of a pair of pigs
in apparent reference to former leader Fidel Castro and his brother and
current president, Raul Castro, Amnesty said in a statement.
"We are declaring him a prisoner of conscience. At the moment, he is the
only prisoner of conscience in Cuba. However, we are evaluating a number
of other cases," said Josefina Salomon, a spokeswoman for the human
The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for
comment. Officially, the government maintains it does not have any
political prisoners, and characterizes Cuba's small but vocal dissident
community as mercenaries paid by U.S. interests to destabilize the
In conjunction with detente reached with the United States last Dec. 17,
Cuba released 53 prisoners that the U.S. government had considered
But Maldonado was detained eight days later when police discovered the
animals in the trunk of his taxi before he intended to display them in a
Christmas Day art show, Amnesty said.
He has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 8, Amnesty said.
"He has been held for a long time in a high security prison, without
formal charges and without trial," said Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the
dissident Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
The commission estimates there are about 60 political prisoners in Cuba,
including some two dozen held for peaceful political protest.
Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama surprised the world last
December by announcing the two former Cold War foes would seek to
restore diplomatic ties, which happened eight months later.
Castro and Obama shook hands on Tuesday during a rare one-on-one-meeting
at the United Nations.
"To jail an artist for painting a name on a pig is ludicrous. Cuban
authorities are using any cowardly excuse to silence Danilo and send a
message to others that any criticism of the government and its officials
will not be tolerated," Carolina Jimenez, Americas Deputy Director for
Research at Amnesty International, said in the statement.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr)
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