Earlier this week, about a dozen Cuban artists were arrested in anticipation of their organized sit-in opposing the impending Decree 349, strictly regulating the production of arts in the Republic. The artist-activists opposed to the regulation hosted frequent protests, performances, and events since the law was revealed in July, resulting in multiple arrests, the majority of which culminated on Saturday, December 3 ahead of the sit-in. Tania Bruguera, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and Yanelyz Nuñez Leyva were detained, among numerous others.
The decree, signed by newly instated President Miguel Díaz-Canel in April, grants the Cuban Republic stringent control over independent artistic production. To host artistic events or sell work, artists must gain approval from the Ministry of Culture and oblige to a strict set of guidelines.
Following international attention — including a protest at Tate Modern and public disapproval of the decree by Amnesty International — all of the artists arrested this week were released last night, December 6, as the government announced the decree would no longer take effect as planned on December 7.
Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas told Associated Press that the government had insufficiently explained their motivations and goals for Decree 349, which they say was a response to public complaints about the misuse of patriotic symbols and vulgarity in pop culture.
“There wasn’t an advance explanation of the law and that’s one of the reasons for the controversy that it unleashed,” Rojas told AP, explaining that more exact regulations will be published in the near future, but that “artistic creation is not the target.”
“We would apply the decree in very clear situations,” Rojas says. While open to redefining the decree’s parameters, the Culture Ministry official says he believes some protests belong to a foreign-backed plan to destabilize the Republic by undermining the reputation of its cultural institutions. “For them, 349 is a pretext for a more aggressive project against institutional order in Cuba,” he concludes.