Gorki Águila, the leader of Cuban anti-communist punk rock group Porno para Ricardo and one of the most outspoken anti-Castro voices on the island, was arrested Tuesday and forced to sit in a hot closed car under the sun as penance following the release of a new political program.
The artist was not given an official reason for his arrest or charged with any crime.
Águila immediately made a statement denouncing authorities following his release, noting that police threatened his family, including his daughter, and questioned him on the political activities that he undertakes at his studio. Águila has produced punk rock music against the regime for decades and recently launched a radio program, “Cambio de Bola” (“Ball Change”) posted as a video on Youtube. The program regularly disparages communist cadres by name, mocks the Castro regime, and dismisses the authority of the regime as illegitimate.
The arrest follows the debut of a new law called Decree Law 349, which requires all musicians and other artists to be registered with the government and prohibits businesses from allowing non-registered artists to perform without direct approval from the government. The law affects musicians, writers, and other traditional artists. This week, Cuban state media announced a campaign to promote pro-Castro video games, installing “educational” video games about the greatness of communism in primary schools and forcing children to play them.
Speaking to independent reporters following his arrest, Águila explained that authorities “took me to a police station … the script was the same as always, threatening me with the work that I do in my studio, lately ‘Cambio de Bola,’ threatening just because you want your rights to count.”
He noted that Cuban police explicitly threatened his daughter and, as a means of torture, forced him to sit in a closed car in the hot summer sun for an extended period of time.
Águila made clear he believes authorities are seeking to seize his studio and silence his radio program. “If they try to invade my studio and seize my property, they are doing this to stop us from doing what we are in our right to do: to express ourselves freely,” he declared.
— Directorio (@DirectorioCuba) August 1, 2018
Rather than stay quiet following his arrest, Águila has taken to addressing dissident media. In an interview Thursday with the outlet Cubanet, Águila again repeated that he believed the government was preparing to seize his recording studio and silence his new program. Recounting his arrest, Águila refers to the Cuban police as “the mafia” and says he was detained “Fast and Furious-style” while walking out early Wednesday morning to fetch some sand for a home project.
“Since I am a veteran in these situations, I took out my cell phone and called my wife so that she knew I was being arrested.”
While Águila noted that his arrest did not last long, he reminded readers in Cubanet that the Cuban regime “is capable of killing” and used the example of Nicaragua, where the communist government has killed hundreds this year for dissenting, as proof.
“All you have to do is look at what is going on over there, they kill young people and blame the protesters,” he said. “That is the plan they have for Cuba if the people take to the streets one day.”
The officers, he noted, were “very interested” in his recording studio, and blamed the imposition of law 349 on the arrest. “We are perfectly designed for that law in every way possible,” he told Cubanet. “We directly mess with all the figures that they call leaders of the country. We have been writing songs directly about them, starting with Fidel Castro, and I think the least important stooge that we mock is that vermin Alpidio Alonso.”
Alpidio Alonso is Cuba’s Minister of Culture, whose most important job is silencing dissident art.
In the July 26 episode of “Cambio de Bola,” Águila debuts a punk rock song called “Alpidio Alonso, Fucking Communist Snitch” that not only mocks Alonso for censoring artists, but makes fun of his literary skills—he is allegedly a poet, though Águila regularly refers to him on the program as an “auto mechanic” with no artistic talent.
The episode spends much time criticizing Cuba’s attempts to rewrite its constitution, currently underway, a move Águila says is being done “to make us even more illegal than we already are.” Yet Águila and his guests, other prominent dissidents, criticize the government through laughs, delivering more mockery than hatred.
The program ends with Águila promising, “on the next episode, we will keep speaking ill of somebody” and a request for the audience: “send us coffee … and bullets.”
Águila teased another project to Cubanet called “Mickey the Gray,” a subversive homage to Raúl Castro crony and current “president” Miguel Díaz-Canel. As head of the Communist Party, Castro continues to outrank Díaz-Canel, rendering his appointment to the title of president functionally meaningless.
Águila was most recently in trouble with the law following a silent “concert” in protest of censorship in 2016 and for the release of a song calling for the removal of the Castro regime titled “Down with You-Know-Who.”