One of Cuba’s most rebellious dissidents has spent more than ten days in a closely guarded hospital in Havana but it’s not clear what, if anything, he is being treated for.
Artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was on day eight of a hunger strike protesting what he said was a campaign of Cuban government harassment against him when, before dawn, health officials transported him to a government hospital. His fellow dissidents say Otero Alcántara was taken for treatment against his will and that they have not heard from him, other than through videos released by Cuba’s state-run media. Cuban health officials said when he was admitted, Otero Alcántara did not seem to have been deprived of food or water and on Tuesday said he is eating and drinking, raising the question of why he remains hospitalized and incommunicado.
In one of the videos that was released, Otero Alcántara appears in good health, joking with a hospital administrator while affirming “I am going to keep demanding my rights as an artist.” Cuban health officials say Otero Alcántara is still undergoing testing and is being treated voluntarily. While the Cuban government grapples with the economic impacts of the coronavirus and tougher US sanctions, Otero Alcántara and his small group of tech-savvy “artivists” are increasingly a source of frustration for officials on the communist-run island. In tweets and videos uploaded to social media, Otero Alcántara and other members of his San Isidro Movement have documented their campaign in real time against official censorship and the Cuban police and security officials that often shadow their every move.