Two weeks ago Cuba arrested Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, a dissident artist, for insulting national symbols by draping himself in the Cuban flag in a bathroom. Afterwards officials said he was not an artist, stressed the importance of respecting the flag and placed him in preventive detention without charges and with two trials scheduled.
This was consistent with the government’s previously detaining him many times, but never more than 72 hours and never putting him in jail.
International rights groups and prominent Cuban artists who traditionally support the regime protested, saying the charges were merely designed to silence a vocal critic. In response, Cuba released Alcantara on March 13.
After his release, the artist said, “”The Cuban judicial system is an aberration. In the prison where I was, there are mentally ill people who ate from the apartment, who bathed three and four times in the morning, drank water with urine; we are talking about crazy people, literally. You generally have to change it, and the judicial system especially. You can’t imagine the things you can see in a dungeon. ”
“That is a script that we have seen several times. Every day it is more outdated. The most important thing about this support [for me] is to realize that we are changing Cuba. Those Officials are increasingly lacking in imagination, creativity, oxygen. I really feel sorry for them. They don’t have the support of the people. ”
“Now keep working, keep going. Prison is a state that I knew could happen and that can continue to happen in the future. This is not an end point. I am going to continue working for the freedom of Cuba and against of injustice wherever it is.”
On March 16, however, the president of the Municipal Court of Old Havana said Alcántara still faces a charge of “damage” with a trial date to be established.
 Reuters, Communist-Run Cuba Releases Dissident Artist After Uproar, N.Y. times (Mar. 14, 2020); Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara or the kidnapping of Cuban justice by State Security, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 15, 2020); ‘This is not an end point’: Otero Alcántara speaks with DIARIO DE CUBA, Mar. 13, 2020).
 The regime continues with the processes against Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 16, 2020).
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Protests Against Cuban Charges Against Alcántara
Many Cuban artists are protesting against its government’s criminal charges against Otero Alcántara. 
For example, Jancarlos Canela, a Cuban-American actor and singer, calling for the release of this artist as well as José Daniel Ferrer, said, “Cuba is a prison. I know that we are not many Cubans compared to other countries, but if you know what it is to be harassed or to be a prisoner of someone or something, please help me to help my people simply by raising awareness.” He added the following:
• “Please don’t look the other way! We just want our people to have freedom of expression and the right to vote! You’d be amazed at what a simple post or comment does for the spirit of my people.”
• “The dictatorship in Cuba is a stalker that has killed, repressed and stripped our people of their basic human rights for decades, as well as other countries. I just want my people to know that we see them and that they are not alone.”
• “Our people deserve the right to express themselves without fear, with the right to elect their president. Let this situation unite us.”
Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula stated, “The citizens of this country, regardless of their profession, have the right to express themselves and to question their reality. And no government force has the right to silence them. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has done it without caring about the consequences, actions like his shake the societies to advance.”
Diario de Cuba “and 19 other independent Cuban projects signed a joint statement demanding the immediate release of the imprisoned artist. . . .[They] demanded that the regime cease harassment against artists, journalists or any citizen who exercises the right to freedom of expression.”
The Cuban government, however, has not been persuaded. In Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, said, that the detained artist (meaning Alcántara without naming him) “makes headlines from ‘conceptual art’ for making performances shamefully using the national flag as a rag – and not as an outfit. , action punishable under Cuban law.”
The director general for the US of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX), Carlos Fernández de Cossío, stated Alcántara “is not an artist. He is an individual paid and directed by the US Government to challenge the law in Cuba and the values that Cuba treasures. He could only go so far due to the support he enjoys in the corporate media that are part of the scheme.”
 ‘Let this situation unite us’: actor and singer Jencarlos Canela in favor of Otero Alcántara, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 11, 2020) https://diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1583887824_13551.html
20 Cuban media outlets demand the release of Otero Alcántara, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 10, 2020) https://diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1583840598_13483.html
Chocolate MC, Yotuel Romero, Gema Corredera: More artists call for the release of Otero Alcántara in Cuba, Diario de Cuba (Mar.10, 2020) https://diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1583840598_13483.html
On the defensive, the government says the support for Otero Alcántara is a ‘campaign of subversion,’ Diario de Cuba (Mar. 11, 2020) https://diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1583943000_13631.html