Miami Republican shows concern for Cuban rappers' lack of freedom

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says 'dangerousness that is likely leading to a crime' is the charge that sent a rapper to prison for a year in Castro's Cuba

Local 10 News' Michael Putney listens to day 2 of Congressional hearings on Cuba

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Wednesday that the Castro regime is once again slapping a Cuban rapper with an unjust charge.

During a House Foreign Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., the chairwoman said the rapper she was worried about now was known as "El Dkano."

The purpose of the hearing was meant to discuss the impact that the new policy is having on human rights on the Communist island. Ros-Lehtinen brought up his case as an example of abuse.

"Last week the Castro regime sentenced a Cuban rapper, a young man known as 'El Dkano,' to a one year prison sentence," Ros-Lehtinen said. "And check out the charge, 'dangerousness that is likely leading to a crime.' That is an actual charge in Castro's Cuba."

Ros-Lehtinen was referring to Maikel Castillo Perez, who was sentenced to a year in prison in Havana, Jan. 28. His defense attorney told a Diario de Cuba reporter that prosecutors wanted the judge to sentence him to five years.

The 31-year-old's lyrics are known for criticizing the Castro regime. He once described his style as that of someone who "doesn't make concessions with a system full of liars." One of his albums is titled  "Sin Pelos En La Lengua," without mincing words.

Last year, after a man known as "El Pinareño" stabbed him, he said he accused prosecutors and a police officer of corruption. They arrested the wrong person for attacking him, he said.

"Prosecutors eventually apologized, and in the end the man falsely accused was absolved of the charges," he told a Diario de Cuba reporter.  But that was when, he said, Cuban authorities began to harass him.

This isn't the first time Ros-Lehtinen shows concern for the civil rights of rappers, whom she believes are targeted for using music to express their dissenting political opinions.

For more than two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development secretly infiltrated Cuba's underground hip-hop movement, according to an Associated Press investigation. 

USAID contractors, including Serbian music producer Rajko Bozic, recruited unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government, the documents said.

On several occasions, Cuban authorities detained people involved with the Cuban hip-hop scene for questioning and confiscated their computers -- which in some cases contained information jeopardizing Cubans who likely had no idea they were caught in a clandestine U.S. operation.

Ros-Lehtinen was once deeply concerned for Angel Yunier, who is better known as the "Critico del Arte," the art critic.

Yunier was a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) a group in Cuba that promotes democracy. The rapper painted graffiti on the front of his house.

"I don't commit crimes," he said in the message to the Cuban police. He posted it on YouTube. "That is why I'm free. Down with the revolution." His house was vandalized, so he painted another graffiti that said, "Down with the dictatorship."

He was arrested for contempt, public disorder and resisting arrest March 26, 2013. And he was sentenced to six years in prison. During his stay behind bars, Yunier was treated for cholera, after a hunger strike. He survived to talk about the beatings and mistreatment he claims he suffered behind bars. 

Yunier was one of the 53 political prisoners released after the U.S. and Cuba began negotiations. He was freed from the Las Mangas de Bayamo prison Jan. 8, as part of a deal President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced Dec. 17.

"We are stuck here in a country, where freedom doesn't exist," Yunier said during an interview posted on YouTube Jan. 14. The rapper added that his intention was to continue fighting so that "this island is free of oppression and tyranny."

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