Cuba’s new law re­strict­ing artists will take ef­fect grad­u­ally

The Herald-Sun (Sunday) - - Nation - BY MIMI WHITE­FIELD Mi­ami Her­ald

A new law – re­viled by many Cuban artists as an­other layer of cen­sor­ship and con­trol over artis­tic ex­pres­sion but pro­moted by the gov­ern­ment as a de­fense against vul­gar­ity, poor taste, medi­ocrity and low-brow cul­tural in­flu­ences – went into ef­fect Fri­day.

The new mea­sure comes as artists and per­form­ers con­tinue to protest, and per­haps in re­sponse to those cri­tiques, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials said Fri­day that De­cree Law 349 will now go into ef­fect grad­u­ally.

Since De­cree Law 349 was pub­lished in July in the gov­ern­ment’s Gac­eta Ofi­cial, there has been plenty of re­sis­tance on the is­land and abroad and meet­ings be­tween gov­ern­ment cul­tural of­fi­cials and artists, who hope for changes in the law.

The law re­quires prior gov­ern­ment ap­proval for artists, mu­si­cians, writ­ers and per­form­ers who want to present their work in any spa­ces open to the pub­lic, in­clud­ing pri­vate homes and busi­nesses.

But be­yond that, it also pro­poses fin­ing painters and other artists who com­mer­cial­ize their art without gov­ern­ment per­mis­sion. Among the more pro­vi­sions is the prospect that “su­per­vis­ing in­spec­tors” could re­view cul­tural events and close them if they don’t be­lieve they meet gov­ern­ment stan­dards. In­di­vid­u­als or busi­nesses hir­ing artists who don’t have prior ap­proval also can be sanc­tioned.

“No one can say you are an artist or you are not an artist,” said Luis Puerta Batista, a Ha­vana artist who sells styl­ized paint­ings of jazz fig­ures – mostly to for­eign­ers and on the in­ter­net – and teaches art. “Artists are go­ing to keep cre­at­ing. They are not go­ing to be able to bar cre­at­ing, but they will re­strict sell­ing.”

And with a fam­ily to sup­port, that has him wor­ried.

Fel­low artist Roberto Loeje, who has a stu­dio on the same street as Puerta, calls the de­cree law “an­tiartis­tic.”

He es­pe­cially dis­agrees with the pro­vi­sion that bars art sales without prior gov­ern­ment ap­proval: “If a piece is mine, what is the prob­lem with my sell­ing it? Why is it dif­fer­ent from hav­ing a piece of fur­ni­ture in your house and some­one comes in and says, ‘I’d like to buy that.’ ”

Dis­si­dent artists have staged protests and so­cial me­dia cam­paigns, and dozens of di­a­logues and meet­ings be­tween un­happy cre­ators from both in­side and out­side the gov­ern­ment (dis­si­dents ex­cluded) and state cul­tural of­fi­cials have been go­ing on for weeks.

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