Cuban painter loses political seat after criticism
By PETER ORSI
HAVANA -- A prominent Cuban artist said he has been removed from his
legislative post and forced to close his studio over his contacts with
dissidents and a commentary that was posted on an anti-government blog.
Pedro Pablo Oliva said in a message on his own website Monday that he
was summoned by officials and told of a complaint filed by one of his
colleagues in the Pinar del Rio provincial legislature. He said he was
expelled and that members of the legislature called him a
counterrevolutionary, traitor and "annexationist" - someone who wants
Cuba to be taken over by the United States.
He accepted that his behavior violated a code of ethics he accepted when
he assumed the legislative post. but denied being disloyal, saying he
was just expressing his opinions.
"We made the difficult decision to close Casa Taller (his workshop)
because the leadership of the assembly felt the project had strayed from
the cultural objectives for which it was founded," Oliva wrote on his
website. "As if culture were not thought, struggle and contradictions."
Telephone calls to Oliva's workshop in western Pinar del Rio rang
unanswered Tuesday, and authorities had no comment.
Oliva is a painter and sculptor whose work has been auctioned by
Sotheby's and exhibited in solo shows in Havana, Miami and New York,
according to his website.
His work includes a 2003 series of portraits of Fidel Castro that were
exhibited in Havana's National Museum of Fine Arts. In 2006 the Culture
Ministry awarded him its National Painting Prize, one of many Cuban
awards he has won over his career.
Oliva's troubles with authorities have been increasing in recent months
due to artistic activities at his workshop that attracted accusations of
In January he wrote a letter published on Generacion Y, the blog of
government opponent Yoani Sanchez, that criticized the use of harassment
to silence unpopular opinions. He also said he believes in the need for
a multiparty political system.
On Monday, Oliva said he was not a dissident and credited the Cuban
revolution with giving him the opportunity to become an artist. But he
said he does not intend to keep his opinions to himself.
"Societies where everyone thinks alike, especially in such controversial
terrain as politics or ideology, do not exist - and what a good thing,"
Oliva wrote. "Immobility of thought is the cancer of social processes."
The artist said the workshop was not closed by any official order but
essentially blacklisted, making it impossible to continue. He did not
say when he was removed from the regional assembly.
Oliva acknowledged that his words in the letter and in an interview with
a Miami radio program went against a governmental code of conduct that
frowns upon such open criticism, saying, "I agreed with the delegate who
made the complaint."
He rejected allegations of associating with "counterrevolutionary
elements," saying he alone will decide what friends he keeps.
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