On Sunday, May 2, 2021, a Cuban dissident artist was hospitalized on the eighth day of the San Isidro Movement hunger strike. Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara is the leader of the San Isidro movement (MSI) in Cuba. He organized the hunger strike after the government took some of his art pieces.
The artist was arrested several times due to attempts to leave his home when it was surrounded by police. The Cuban authorities also banned him from using the internet and seeing friends and priests during the hunger strike.
Alcantara was admitted to the General Calixto Garcia University hospital with symptoms of starvation. However, the nature of his hospitalization was initially not clear. The MSI stated that Alcantara was taken forcefully and the medical reports provided showed that he was not in a state of starvation.
When this came to light, the United States and the European Union shared a response. The assistant secretary for the US Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Julie Chung, urged the Cuban government to “take immediate steps to protect his life and health.” Similarly, the EU's delegation in Cuba said, "The European Union and all its member states have followed Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara's hunger and thirst strike with concern, we have shared this concern with our Cuban friends and now we hope that he will soon recover his health and can enjoy his rights as a citizen and as an artist."
Things changed on Tuesday, May 4, when a video was posted on Facebook on the account belonging to Ifran Martinez Galvez. Galvez introduced himself as the doctor in charge of Alcantara’s care and appeared in the video alongside him.
While seen on a hospital bed wearing pajamas, Alcantara said, "The doctors were extremely professional and attentive, and super connected on a human level." Galvez explained that he suggested they make the video because of the accusations he received of being an oppressor and a policeman.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel came out with a statement saying that the response from the United States is shameful. He blamed the country for causing over 11 million Cubans to starve and experience shortages.
The San Isidro Movement began in September of 2018 to protest the authoritarian government censorship of art in Cuba. It came as a response to Decree 349 that would have given the power to a government agency to prohibit cultural activity that was not approved. Many protests and demonstrations have since taken place to protect the freedom of expression of Cuban citizens, some of which go beyond Cuban borders.