Anti-Castro Artist Violently Arrested in Havana Ahead of Art Basel

Dissident groups in Cuba are laying low following Castro's death.

Street artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, AKA El Sexto. Photo courtesy

Anti-Castro street artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as El Sexto, was violently arrested on Saturday morning in Havana, Cuba. No official charges or record of his arrest have been made available.

As state authorities forcefully entered his apartment in the Arroyo Arenas area of Havana, the artist—who was arrested and jailed without a trial in December 2014 for “disrespect of the leaders of the revolution,” and again in March 2016—called his girlfriend for help, artnet News has learned. She reportedly heard him being beaten after his door had been kicked down.

He also called the Miami New Times to report the impending arrest. According to the paper, Machado was reporting live from la Habana Libre Hotel in el Vedado early Saturday morning, describing the quiet that took over the streets following Fidel Castro’s death, while occasionally shouting “abajo Fidel, abajo Raul.” Several hours later, police raided his apartment in Arroyo Arenas.

Maldonado’s mother told the newspaper that he was beaten and dragged by police, and taken to a police unit in San Agustin. She and the artist’s sister waited outside the police unit all day for any developments. In the afternoon, his sister, outside the holding area, called his name and was promptly removed from the property, after he responded with “Estoy aqui, estoy aqui.” He was reportedly moved to Villa Marista, a prison known to hold political prisoners, on Saturday evening.

Last week, El Sexto had been attempting to exit Cuba for Art Basel Miami. The artist had been cleared to travel by officials, but he was “marked” at the airport and not allowed to leave the country.

Gallery Agerled from Denmark is set to exhibit some of his paintings at the Art Concept Miami fair. El Sexto’s work is also featured in “La Libertad Artística,” a group show in Miami featuring work by 13 Cuban artists, where he was scheduled for a performance on December 3. Additionally, a documentary about the artist is premiering on HBO today, titled Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland, or Death, produced by Julian Schnabel.

Political activists in Cuba are laying low after the death of Fidel Castro this past Friday. The Ladies in White—a movement comprised of female relatives of imprisoned dissidents in Cuba, who peacefully protest every Sunday—for example, called off its protest yesterday to avoid tensions, the BBC reports. It was the first Sunday in 13 years that the group refrained from attending Sunday mass wearing white and silently marching through the streets.

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