In highly unusual protest, large crowd gathers outside government building in Havana

HAVANA – After a group of artists was evicted during a hunger strike to protest a criminal case against a rapper, dozens of demonstrators stood in front of the Cuban Ministry of Culture building on Friday night in Havana to demand answers.

The artists who were evicted on Thursday belong to a group known as the “Movimiento San Isidro,” a movement against censorship that is named after a neighborhood in Old Havana.

While protesters on social media say the government is once again limiting freedom of expression and violating human rights, Cuban officials say the eviction was related to safety violations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group of Cuban artists has been demanding the freedom of Rapper Denis Solis, who is serving eight months in prison after he was arrested on Nov. 9 for criminal contempt. Solis shared a video of a police officer who entered his home without his permission.

U.S. diplomats and human rights activists have condemned Solis’ case and the Cuban government’s actions against the members of the San Isidro movement, also known as SIM. The Washington Post published a dissenting opinion on Solis’ case by Carlos Manuel Alvarez, a Cuban author, on Nov. 22.

“The repressive machinery of the state was capable of disguising its constant episodes of injustice quite effectively,” Alvarez wrote. “But that cloak, after years of resistance from various political opposition groups, seems to have been finally torn off, never to be mended again.”

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County, a group of supporters was planning a 2 p.m., Saturday demonstration of solidarity with the protest in Havana at Versailles in Miami’s Little Havana.

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Local 10 News’ Hatzel Vela and Andrea Torres are reporting from Miami.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.