Dissident musician trying to challenge Cuban government met with bureaucratic hoops

As part of the Cuban government’s campaign to crack down on dissident voices, some prominent individuals are no longer allowed to give speeches without first consulting Cuban state-controlled media or meeting with officials in order to get the official approval they need. Citing the situation, some have withdrawn from the New York Times’ Cuban Voices series. But one rare exception is a dissident musician who has vowed to continue speaking out after twice having his appearances to discuss politics and human rights canceled by officials.

“Let me tell you this story,” Elkin Otero Alvarez told The New York Times. “The first time they canceled my speech I made this small protest and I received death threats on the phone. I really hoped for the best, and here we are.”

As he explains, Alvarez was set to speak out at the June 2018 Festival of Ideas, the New York Times’ annual summit designed to promote the ideas of Cuba’s greatest minds, when he had his talk canceled by a representative from the Cuban government’s Ministry of Culture. He was able to speak to the Times after the festival, but he says they told him he could not travel to the U.S. until he was able to meet with the same person who canceled him. Alvarez then met with a man known as “Leo la Conjunto,” who at the time was a representative of the Cuban government’s Ministry of Culture, who proceeded to give him a letter for approval, which the festival committee deemed “too heavy.”

Alvarez says he was told the rules were becoming stricter, and to give in if he wanted to go to the festival in the future. To get around the bureaucracy, he instead traveled by car to the border to Mexico, made his way to California, where he then traveled to New York to give his interview.

“When I came here I showed them my picture and my driver’s license, and they had their reasons,” Alvarez told The New York Times. “And I explained that this is what happened to me a month before. The only thing I asked for was to do it again.”

When asked if he would allow the government to regulate his speech, Alvarez admitted that in that situation he would not.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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