Whatever new hopes for bolstering artistic freedom in Cuba emerged out of a historic meeting this past weekend between dissident artists and Havana officials have already been quashed.
A crowd of 300 protesters had gathered outside the culture ministry on Friday, leading Fernando Rojas, the deputy culture minister, to invite in a group of 30 of them. The meeting lasted for more than four hours, those present have said, and resulted in a promise of greater freedoms for artists. Writer Katherine Bisquet told the press afterward that there had been a “truce for independent spaces” where activists could meet and talk, and that further discussions were promised.
“I cannot emphasize enough that this kind of public protest, with hundreds of people standing outside a ministry for 14 hours, is unprecedented,” Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco told Artnet News. “The fact that government officials conceded to a meeting is in itself a victory for the artists and a sign of weakness on the part of the government.”
But any hopes for reconciliation seem to have dissipated. Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel has since denounced the protesters, including artist Tania Bruguera. Meanwhile, state-run media and websites have called the protests a “farce” and an “imprerialist reality show,” according to NBC.