Street Artist ‘El Sexto’ Arrested Again Ahead of President Obama’s Historic Visit to Cuba

Many have been arrested ahead of the President's arrival.

El Sexto aka Danilo Madonado Machado being arrested yesterday <br> Photo: courtesy Pollock Fine Art

El Sexto aka Danilo Madonado Machado being arrested yesterday
Photo: courtesy Pollock Fine Art

Cuban dissident artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado and 50 members of the Ladies in White movement were detained yesterday during a protest in Havana, on the eve of President Obama making the first visit to the country by a sitting US President in 90 years.

“A wave of arrests (hundreds and hundreds of people taken into custody) in Cuba in the last day [sic],” said Tor Haldorsen founder of the The Human Rights Foundation, in a statement from Maldonado’s gallery. “Including my dear friend the artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, both of them recipients of the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissents. Both of them are in prison at this moment.”

The Ladies in White, a group made up of wives of former Cuban political prisoners protest in Havana every Sunday. It was during this weekly protest yesterday—in which the members of Ladies in White walk from church along a regular route—that they were surrounded by government supporters, when the members and those accompanying them began to distribute copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and raised a banner reading: “Obama, traveling to Cuba isn’t fun. No to human rights violations,” according to Latino Fox News.

Installation shot of <i> PORK </i> by El Sexto at Market Gallery Miami <br>Photo: courtesy Pollock Fine Art

Installation shot of PORK by El Sexto at Market Gallery Miami
Photo: courtesy Pollock Fine Art

According to the statement from Maldonado’s gallery, the 50 protestors were outnumbered by 300 supporters of the Cuban regime, who blocked their passage, chanting “Fidel, Fidel!” and “This street belongs to Fidel.” It was then that Maldonado and other men accompanying the traditionally female protest were arrested by the Cuban Police and detained.

Berta Soler, head of Ladies in White told EFE that they were appealing to President Obama to “give a very clear message of support to the Cuban people, since the U.S. has always wanted the best, and democracy, for the island.”

This is the second time that Maldonado has been arrested since being released from his 10-month detention without charge last October. His initial arrest occurred after staging a performance piece that saw him spray paint two pigs with the names Raul and Fidel in criticism of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raùl Castro. He had just recently restaged this performance as part of “PORK,” an exhibition of his work at Market Gallery, in Miami.

Soler called for the release of all those arrested at the protest in what is being seen as a crackdown on dissidents ahead of President Obama’s visit. This may come as a surprise to some, especially after Maldonado’s initial release and the Cuban authorities’ allowing performance artist Tania Bruguera to travel to the US last August following her release after eight months in prison.

UPDATE: We have received word that Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado was released earlier today, March 21 2016.

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