Cuba: Rapper Arrested After Planning Pro-Democracy Sit-In

Omar Mena
Facebook/Omar Mena

Omar Mena, a Cuban rapper known as “El Analista” (“the Analyst”), reportedly disappeared overnight after police raided his home on Monday. Mena was planning a peaceful sit-in against communism for Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Mena is reportedly home but prevented from accessing the internet or other forms of outside communications.

The persecution of Mena, to which authorities have not publicly admitted as of press time, follows a turbulent two weeks for Cuba’s artistic community. While Mena’s attempted protest was planned in his native Santa Clara, a central Cuban city, Havana has seen protests of unprecedented size in response to the conviction of rapper Denis Solís for the crime of “disrespect” (desacato) after he refused to let a police officer into his home without a warrant. Cuban law prohibits the non-consensual entry by police into a domicile where they had no arrest or search warrants, the human rights NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders noted following Solís’s conviction.

Solís received a sentence of eight months in prison.

Members of the San Isidro Movement, an artistic coalition to which Solís belongs, organized a hunger strike that lasted about two weeks, inspiring a protest that attracted 300 people to the front door of Cuba’s Ministry of Culture in Havana this weekend. Police responded to the protest by using noxious gases, which dissidents identified as either pepper spray or tear gas, to disperse the crowd. “President” Miguel Díaz-Canel, dictator Raúl Castro’s second-in-command, denounced the San Isidro Movement as a “reality show” and a “farce” organized by President Donald Trump. No evidence exists linking the U.S. government to the artist protests.

Osvaldo Navarro Veloz, a dissident musician known as NavyPro, accused the Cuban communist regime of “abducting” Mena in a Facebook post published on Monday, according to the Spain-based publication Diario de Cuba.

“This is Omar Mena, ‘The Analyst,’ artist, activist, father, husband, son, and an excellent person,” Navarro wrote, posting a photo of Mena. “State Security of this country abducted him. His wife is alone with a baby who isn’t even a year old and with ETECSA [Cuba’s telecommunications agency] cutting off their mobile services.”

“This brother’s only crime was to call for a peaceful sit-in to protest the abuses of the government towards independent artists and the struggle for human rights,” Navarro noted.

Este es Omar Mena El Analista, artista , activista, padre, esposo, hijo y una exelente persona. La seguridad del estado…

Posted by Osvaldo Navarro Veloz on Monday, November 30, 2020

Mena had urged fellow artists to join his sit-in at a park dedicated to the Beatles in Santa Clara, at around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. According to activists Marthadela Tamayo, the Communist Party sent about 15 police agents to surround his home shortly after his call to action. Mena himself had posted on social media to alert the public that police had surrounded his home on Monday, the last time he had access to social media.

Mena is reportedly home but does not have access to media and it is unclear if he endured any violence while under police custody.

Like a growing number of frustrated young people in Cuba, Mena turned to rap as a medium to express his opposition to communism. He has regularly posted music videos of songs that criticize the regime for impoverishing the population and preventing them from living freely, though doing so without a permit from the Cuban Ministry of Culture is illegal.

Following Raúl Castro’s ascent to rule, the Ministry of Culture passed Decree 349, which outlaws the creation of any art without a special permit. Writing works of art, filming movies, or performing songs all cannot be done without first asking the Communist Party for permission. The Party screens the content to make sure that it is not disparaging of the Castro regime and grants permissions accordingly. When the law passed, in 2018, Cuban rap-dance music known as Cubatón had become extremely popular internationally, featured prominently in American Spanish-language media.

“I don’t think any artist is ready — I don’t think any regular person is ready — to handle this apparatus,” Michel Matos, a member of the San Isidro Movement, told Breitbart News in an interview last week. Castro regime agents, he explained, “know absolutely everything about your life, listen in to your communications, besiege you, leave you trapped in your home, shuts off your electricity, cut off your phone, [and] conduct a series of blackmail operations on your personal life because they have a certain information dominance over that.”

Mena’s plan to protest in Santa Clara indicates that artist protests are spreading out of Havana, rather than being contained. The incident last weekend in which about 300 people surrounded the Ministry of Culture — demanding, among other things, freedom for Denis Solís and the easing of restrictions such as Decree 349 — concluded with the Communist Party claiming it would engage in “dialogue” with the artists. It allowed 30 people, most of them reportedly artists sympathetic to the regime, to enter the Ministry of Culture building and discuss their demands with officials.

The discussion lasted between four to five hours and one of the dissidents in attendance, artist Tania Bruguera, accused the regime of breaking their promises less than 24 hours after making them. Solís, she used as evidence, remains in prison.

The Castro regime has since changed tactics, publicly disparaging the San Isidro Movement as a secret American plot to undermine socialism on the continent. Díaz-Canel referred to the group as a “reality show” in a series of English-language posts on Twitter on Monday.

At press time, most members of the San Isidro Movement have concluded their hunger strikes.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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