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Decree 349

The Manifesto of San Isidro: New Action Against Decree 349

'We are not calling for anarchy or confrontation, we want dialogue and understanding,' insist its organizers.

La Habana

On Wednesday the group of Cuban artists, writers and intellectuals who are behind the peaceful campaign against Decree 349 presented a document entitled the "Manifesto of San Isidro" at an act held at the site of the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI), the independent entity located in the neighborhood of San Isidro, in Old Havana.

Musicians, writers, poets, intellectuals and audiovisual producers, all members of independent initiatives, attended the presentation. The art historian Yanelys Núñez read the document, which calls upon "any individual who feels part of this phenomenon we call today 'independent'" to join the campaign, whose purpose is the revision of Cuba's cultural policies and the repeal of Decree 349.

The artists decry that the regulation "legitimizes the use of legal action to punish free creation and determination that as creators and individuals is our right."

The Manifesto of San Isidro, which will be published on social media, adds that Decree 349 also "encourages corruption, already entrenched in the country, which is formalized through the appearance of a new figure: that of the supervisor-inspector, taking into account that inspectors are one of the most corrupt elements in the State's regulatory apparatus."

On July 10, the Council of Ministers approved Decree 349/2018 on violations in matters of cultural policy and the provisioning of artistic services. It will come into force next December. It has been considered an instrument that will define, legally, the Cuban cultural policy established since 1961: "within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, no rights."

The decision to release the Manifesto of San Isidro was the upshot of a repressive act perpetrated by political police on August 11 against the members of the artists group, who had organized a concert at the MAPI.

This repressive action included the arrest of Yanelys Núñez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, coordinators of the event, and the use of excessive force against Amauri Pacheco, Soandry del Rio, Michel Matos and others.

This demonstration of unnecessary violence was repudiated by a large group of residents in the San Isidro neighborhood.

Elsewhere, the Manifesto expresses that "Decree 349 not only seeks to control and intimidate artists and creators of the multiple branches of national culture, but also the private business sector, to suppress a natural and organic relationship within the different spheres of society."

More than a few observers have pointed out that Decree 349/2018 runs counter to the Constitution Project (currently submitted to "popular consultation"), in which, for the first time, the role of other forms of property is recognized, including private.

In its Article 5.1, Decree 349/2018 states that the commission of the violations indicated may lead to the indistinct application of one or more measures, such as a warning, fine, or the confiscation of instruments, equipment, accessories and other goods.

It also empowers the competent authorities to decide on the immediate suspension of the show or film in question, and to propose the cancellation of the authorization (license) to engage in the activity on a freelance basis, as is deemed appropriate.

"We fully understand," the artists point out in the Manifesto, "that any nation in the world should regulate its internal activities, and levy taxes on them if they are lucrative (...) however, we cannot accept the existence of a confusing set of laws that are not intended to benefit and safeguard the citizen, but rather to control and punish him for his expressions and independent actions."

At the presentation of the Manifesto, which also included a pilgrimage to the Caridad del Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, several members of the group of artists insisted that the government authorities have distorted the campaign against Decree 349’s language and the legal actions that it has undertaken.

"We are not calling for anarchy or confrontation, we want dialogue and understanding (...). We call on our institutional counterpart to listen to us and understand us (...), our philosophy is not one of confrontation, but rather fruitful dialogue, both for our own good, and also for the good of all," say the artists.

The group describes the Manifesto of San Isidro as a document that is not definitive, but rather one that will be enriched to the extent that Cuban artists, writers and intellectuals, independent or not, join the debate.

"By 'independent' in the arts we understand a complete separation of the artist and his work from any company, organization, institution, or cultural policy that dictates dogmas and seeks to shape our mission," the artists clarified.

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