The Cuban anti-communist artist Danilo Maldonado, known more commonly by his artistic name “El Sexto,” delivered an address Tuesday to the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy demanding global action against the Castro regime. Maldonado also practiced his art before the assembled crowd.
Maldonado left Cuba this month after being released from prison. He served a sentence of over 50 days in prison without charge following his public celebration of the death of Fidel Castro. While police authorities told his family he would face charges for vandalizing public property (Maldonado sprayed the words “he’s gone” on a wall in Havana), the law prescribes only a fine for such a crime.
“I was released without being charged. Unfortunately, this is common in my country,” he told the audience. He went on to demand that the international community “bring attention to the judicial process in Cuba.”
Maldonado also told the story of how he experienced hearing the news that Fidel Castro had died in late November. Maldonado left his Havana home carrying a cell phone and posted a Facebook live video of himself celebrating in the streets and urging passersby to join him in reveling following Fidel’s death.
“You could smell the fear and panic on the streets in the middle of that loneliness and silence,” he recalled. “It seemed like I was the only one who wanted to celebrate the arrival of divine justice.”
Maldonado also condemned the Obama administration’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba as a “mistake” and noted that oppression following the 2014 opening of bilateral ties had increased. “So long as the government is the middleman [between Cubans and the outside world], we will remain hostages,” he argued.
He concluded his remarks naming a list of political prisoners who, unlike him, remain behind bars: “my friends Eduardo Cardet, Jaqueline Heredia Morales, Julio Ferrer, Yosvani Sánchez Valenciano, among others… it isn’t about helping me, it is about helping eleven million Cubans.”
Eduardo Cardet is the head of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) dissident group, arrested on the same day as Maldonado for allegedly the same crime: expressing joy at the death of Fidel Castro. His wife, who witnessed the arrest, said he did not publicly criticize Castro, but may have objected to the mandatory signing of a condolence book the Communist government had set up. Cardet was beaten by a police mob and arrested in front of his wife and children and remains imprisoned without due process.
Maldonado concluded his time addressing the Gevena Summit by painting an original artwork in real time in front of the audience, while an anti-Communist rap song played in the background (begins at 5:38:40):
— Jared Genser (@JaredGenser) February 21, 2017
The Geneva Summit is a showcase of international human rights advocates that occurs the day before the United Nations Human Rights Council convenes.
Maldonado has been on a tour sharing his story since his release in late January. Last week, he testified before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, urging the United States to act to weaken the Communist regime and comparing the Castro to Pablo Escobar and other international criminals.