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The artist and activist Tania Bruguera (photo via Tania Bruguera's Facebook, used with permission)

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Deborah Bruguera, sister of the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, said in a Facebook post that the activist was “taken against her will by plainclothes Cuban police for the third time this week.” Bruguera was taken into police custody in Havana on Friday evening and again yesterday, Sunday, December 6.

According to an email from Deborah Bruguera, Cuba’s Ministry of Culture held a press conference on Friday and decided to keep several members of the 27N Movement, including Bruguera, under house arrest “in order to avoid any interference from dissenters.”

“Today, in addition to having surveillance throughout the day, Tania Bruguera’s telephone line and all possible access to the internet were cut off, keeping her in total isolation and unable to work with the group,” the artist’s sister wrote that day. Around 9pm, artist Sandra Ceballos and Bruguera were stopped on the road while on the way to a Cuban religious celebration in a private home. A group of people in civilian clothes emerged from the car and forced Bruguera out of her vehicle; her whereabouts remained unknown until Saturday morning, when she was released.

The 27N Movement, a group of artists and intellectuals advocating for artistic freedom in Cuba, was formed on November 27 during a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana. Hundreds gathered to protest the arrest of Denis Solís, a young Cuban rapper jailed for insulting a police officer, and the harassment of the dissident San Isidro Movement by state authorities. Members of the latter had staged a hunger strike after Cuban police besieged their headquarters and prevented a neighbor from bringing the group food and supplies.

Following the November 27 action, Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas and other Cuban officials met with 30 of the protesters, including Bruguera, and agreed to begin a dialogue about the protection of artists’ rights and reconsider Solís’s imprisonment. But according to Bruguera, the harassment of artists continued. In a video posted on her Facebook on December 2, she said six members of the 27N Movement had patrol cars stationed outside their house, and other members had been detained.

Yesterday, December 6, the artist was detained again, this time while walking down the street from her home, according to a Facebook post by Deborah Bruguera.

“Enough! We must use the right definitions: KIDNAPPING,” she wrote. “Tania Bruguera was taken against her will for the third time this week by agents dressed as civilians who did not identify themselves. She and Lynn Cruz were literally walking to the corner; these people arrived running toward her and took her away in a car with the plate P076624.”

Police have been stationed in front of Bruguera’s home as well as the Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR), an organization founded by Bruguera headquartered in Old Havana.

“We declare that there are no political material, drugs, subversive material, pornography or any other material inside the building that could be implicated in a crime,” said a post by INSTAR.

The human rights and free speech advocacy organization PEN America released a statement on Friday denouncing Cuban state police’s actions against Bruguera and the ongoing arbitrary imprisonment of artists and activists in the country.

“Bruguera, who has vocally mobilized against the unjust sentencing of rapper Denis Solís González and the routine government censorship and harassment of Cuban artists, vanished Friday night after being in constant surveillance by state security forces the past ten days,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America. “Bruguera’s arrest is just one more iteration of the Cuban government’s efforts to exert a vice-like grip over the cultural sector.”

A spokesperson for Tania Bruguera confirmed via Facebook Messenger that she currently remains under house arrest at her home in Havana.

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