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Tania Bruguera Leaves Cuba in Exchange for Release of Prisoners

Tania Bruguera, whose art and activism has been an ongoing subject of controversy in Cuba, has offered to leave the country for the United States in exchange for the release of imprisoned activists, Hyperallergic reported. 

The artist was recently offered a position at Harvard University in Cambridge as a senior lecturer in media and performance, which she accepted after negotiations with government officials. She has also previously taught at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Bruguera announced the news in an interview last Tuesday with Radio Martí: “I said, ‘Look, you want me to leave, well now you have an opportunity.’ But I’ll leave on the condition that you release [them], and I handed [over] a list of several people.”

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On that list, Bruguera asked for the release of 25 prisoners, including rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez (also known as El Osorbo), artist Hamlet Lavastida, activist Luis Roblo (who was arrested for holding a protest sign in Havana), youths who were imprisoned as a result this summer’s protests against the Cuban government over massive food and medicine shortages, and members of the artist-activist group 27N of which Bruguera has been a longtime member. 

Lavastida has been released, but was exiled with his partner writer Katherine Bisquet to Poland. Some youth protestors were also released, Roblo among them. However, El Osorbo remains imprisoned. Bruguera has already left the country surrounded by agents to ensure her departure, according to Bruguera’s sister Deborah.

Bruguera has a history of staging interventions that have irked Cuban government officials. In 2015, she was arrested numerous times for planning the performance work Tatlin’s Whisper, which would have been an open mic where citizens could speak about their vision for the country’s future. In 2018, Bruguera was arrested ahead of a protest she had organized against Decree 349, a law that requires artists to apply for permits before presenting their work to the public.

Most recently, Bruguera urged people to not attend the 14th edition of the Havana Biennial, which opens in November. In a tweet Bruguera wrote, “They want to erase with the #ImmoralBiennial the suffering of the Cuban people,” and urged a boycott of the island’s largest visual art event.

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