A Cuban rapper arrested for distributing pro-democracy fliers in 2013 has been condemned to serve a six-year sentence in the island nation’s brutal political prison system, along with multiple members of a peaceful dissident group aiding his efforts.
Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, who goes by the nom de plume “El Crítico” (The Critic), was arrested in March 2013 after a consistent advocacy effort publicly calling for reforms to the communist government. According to the website FreeMuse.org, the rapper “handed out pro-freedom pamphlets, painted anti-regime messages outside his home and carried out a public discourse in favor of human rights.” He was arrested in that year with a number of other workers for the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), a peaceful dissident group.
On Wednesday, according to the group, Arzuaga was sentenced to six years in prison, out of a maximum eight. Alexánder Otero Rodríguez, a member of the UNPACU arrested with Arzuaga, received a five-year sentence, along with two others arrested for the same crimes. It is not clear whether the more than a year Arzuaga has already spent in prison will count towards his current sentence.
During his time in prison so far, Arzuaga has remained committed to activism, engaging in a hunger strike that launched the hashtag campaign #FreeElCritico. He continued his hunger strike for a month before receiving word that his trial would actually happen, rather than continuing to languish in prison with no concrete trial date.
During his arrest, Arzuaga was tear-gassed and violently attacked– audio has been posted online by UNPACU:
Arzuaga is part of an anti-communist rap group known as “Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso” (“The Children No One Wanted”), whose music aggressively challenges the choices of the Castro dictatorship:
The Castro regime has increased its targeting of peaceful political dissidents in the past year, breaking recent records in both May and June 2014. Some political activists, like Sakharov Prize winner Guillermo Fariñas, reported that he was arrested almost every Monday in June. In July, 100 women were arrested for attending a Catholic mass in honor of the victims of the 13 of March Tugboat Massacre, in which the Cuban government drowned dozens of men, women, and children trying to reach the United States.
Musicians in particular have been targeted by the Castro regime for using art to inspire subversion against the Communist ideology. Perhaps most notably, punk rocker Gorki Águila of the band Porno para Ricardo has been arrested numerous times for inciting anti-communist dialogue in public. He has been arrested so many times that some of his arrests have been filmed, including this one in March 2012 for yelling “Freedom!” from the balcony of his home: