Thousands of Cubans Join Artists in Demanding Ouster of Culture Minister Alpidio Alonso
February 20, 2021
More than nine thousand Cubans have signed a Change.org petition calling for the resignation of the country’s culture minister, Alpidio Alonso, who on January 27 was one of a number of government officials who physically confronted a group of protesters demonstrating in support of free speech and knocked a cell phone from a reporter’s hand. The broader outcry follows artist-activist group N27’s February 3 filing of a legal motion on behalf of some 1,200 signatories—including artists, intellectuals, and activists—to have Alonso removed.
“The minister must assume responsibility for the violence carried out on January 27 at the gates of the ministry, otherwise the Cuban government led by [president] Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez and [prime minister] Manuel Marrero Cruz would be accomplices of an act of institutionalized violence and illegality,” the petition reads in part. “This would imply a lack of credibility and legitimacy for his government before the public and international opinion.”
The petition represents the gathering steam of a movement that began in November when a group of artists protesting the country’s Decree 349—a 2018 law requiring artists to obtain government permission before presenting their work—entered into a positive dialogue with deputy culture minister Fernando Rojas. Subsequently, however, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel publicly denounced the protesters, many of whom were ultimately—and in some cases repeatedly—harassed and detained.
The cause is gaining attention abroad as well: In France, Cuban design collective Atelier Morales has issued a call for artists and cultural workers both within and without Cuba to cease working with the country’s government-run institutions. In the US, Democratic New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, on February 8 introduced a resolution condemning attacks on artistic freedom in Cuba and demanding the repeal of Decree 349, as well as that of Decree 370, which establishes government control of the internet and is often used to limit journalistic speech as well as that of regular citizens.