It is still not known if Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was subjected to psychiatric torture by the Cuban military dictatorship. The 33-year-old artist was held incommunicado at Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital from May 2 until Monday afternoon when he was finally released.
A short, edited video of Mr. Otero Alcántara, posted by regime surrogates via social media on May 20, alarmed friends, supporters and the human-rights community. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. On Wednesday the New York Review of Books ran an open letter from more than 30 artists and writers across the globe demanding his release.
The struggle is far from over. This poor Afro-Cuban, armed only with his courage, intellect and creativity, is an existential threat to Cuba’s ruling elite.
Mr. Otero Alcántara is a founder of the San Isidro Movement, a collection of Cuban artists, writers, musicians, students and researchers formed in 2018 to oppose regime censorship. He was on a hunger strike to protest state confiscation of his artwork when police carted him off. They wanted to put an end to the public spectacle of his deteriorating physical condition.
The dictatorship also may have thought that by “hospitalizing” Mr. Otero Alcántara it would gag the movement—and maybe even get rid of him. (He was in the same hospital where Ladies in White leader Laura Pollán died in 2011 at the height of her effectiveness as a regime critic.) But under pressure of rising criticism on the island and internationally he has been freed.