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Cuba: A group of Cuban artists is daring to live in democracy. Their protest could end in tragedy.

On Nov. 6, Denis Solís, a young and rebellious Cuban rapper, dared to call a police officer who broke into his house to harass him a “chicken in uniform.” He filmed the episode with his cellphone and posted the video on social media. Soon after, during a summary trial without a defense lawyer, Solís was sentenced to eight months of imprisonment for “contempt.”

In Cuba, these frequent outrages used to happen without too much of a scandal; the repressive machinery of the state was capable of disguising its constant episodes of injustice quite effectively. But that cloak, after years of resistance from various political opposition groups, seems to have been finally torn off, never to be mended again. Solís is part of the San Isidro Movement (SIM), and its members launched an impressive campaign of solidarity for his release, which they have already reinvented several times in little more than a week.

The SIM is an organization based in Old Havana, coordinated by the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara — who has also been detained and harassed by the authorities over his performances and protests — and whose ecumenical vocation and amphibious character make the group difficult to classify. It brings together ghetto rappers, design professors, dissident poets, art specialists, scientists and regular citizens. The Cuban forces of law and order are at a particular disadvantage to understand what the group is about — and that is why they act more and more unhinged, visibly exhausted.

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