Cuban Government Brands Tania Bruguera a Criminal

Has Cuba's Culture Ministry orchestrated a secret media campaign against her.

Tania Bruguera at TEDGlobal 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Photo James Duncan Davidson.

On Wednesday, March 11, artist Tania Bruguera revealed the existence of a secret media campaign against her orchestrated by Cuba’s Culture Ministry with the aid of the regime’s intelligence services. The purpose of this campaign, say the artist and her supporters, is to build an “institutional case” against her and brand her a “counterrevolutionary.” A criminal charge akin to treason in the U.S., conviction for this crime in Cuba carries a minimum sentence of three years in jail.

It appears that rather than back off from arbitrary civil charges it has leveled against Bruguera, such as “resisting arrest” and “inciting to riot,” the Cuban government has taken an even harder criminal line against the artist. (See Tania Bruguera’s Arrest Slows the US-Cuba Thaw.)

Arrested by the Castro regime on December 30 for staging a pro-democracy art performancethe action consisted of a microphone and an invitation to passersby to avail themselves of “1 minute free of censorship per speaker”—in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, Bruguera has been held in legal limbo on the island, with no formal charges filed against her, and no legal representation, since all attorneys in Cuba work de facto for the state. (See How Tania Bruguera’s Whisper Became the Performance Heard Round the World.)

According to various members of the island’s intelligentsia who have met with representatives of the Ministry of Culture, the media campaign against Bruguera consists of video and wiretaps edited together to paint the artist and her inner circle as agents of a foreign government.

The video has been presented on separate occasions at the Ministry of Culture, the University of Arts of Cuba, the country’s premiere art school, and the Wifredo Lam Center, the headquarters of the Havana Biennial (see Why Is the Havana Biennial Afraid of Tania Bruguera and Is She the Cuban Ai Weiwei?). Chaired by Ruben del Valle, president of the Havana Biennial organizing committee, and Fernando Rojas, Cuba’s vice minister of culture, the meetings are invitation-only. Reportedly, both men appear in the video alongside the logo of the state news channel.

On Wednesday, Bruguera posted a letter on her #YoTambieExijo Facebook page addressed to Vice Minister Rojas asking for access to the video. That access was denied earlier last week when Bruguera visited del Valle’s offices, provoking the artist’s immediate expulsion from the premises.

Artnet news has recently also sought official clarification of Bruguera’s accusations. A question this publication put to Vice Minister Rojas is why Cuba’s Ministry of Culture should help make a case for the island’s legal representatives rather than defending Bruguera’s rights as an artist.

No response has been forthcoming from representatives of the Cuban Ministry of Culture as of publication.

Bruguera has convened a “Discussion Group” at her home for tomorrow at 5 PM to defend herself publicly, “since that right is not afforded to me in my own country.” Bruguera was also interrogated by Cuban prosecutors yesterday and told that she will remain forcibly on the island under “conditional release” for an additional 30 days.

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