Cuban singer’s blast at the government draws support, criticism

Reaction to singer Roberto Carcassés’ decision to castigate the Cuban government during a televised concert last week was mixed Tuesday as other artists came out in his support, criticized him or just danced gingerly around the issue.

Silvio Rodríguez, Cuba’s best-known singer-composer and a government supporter on many issues, said he would include Carcassés in his own concerts to offset the Culture Ministry’s indefinite ban on presentations by the 41-year old singer who inserted his criticism of the government into a concert in honor of four Cuban spies jailed in the United States..

“I took the decision to do this precisely in the next two concerts, after learning that he had been sanctioned with an indefinite” suspension from concerts and other public activities sponsored by the ministry, Rodríguez declared.

“I do not agree with the excessive sanction of barring a musician from doing his work,” he wrote in his blog, Segunda Cita (Second Meeting).

But Rodríguez also criticized Carcassés’ calls during the concert for direct presidential elections in Cuba and freedom of information and opinion in the communist-run country. The concert was held last Thursday in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Havana.

“As a Cuban citizen Robertico has the right to say what he thinks,” he wrote. “I would have preferred that he would do this in another concert, in a record, somewhere else, because the struggle for the freedom of (the spies) is sacred for the Cuban people.”

“Sadly, the clumsiness of my friend was followed by another” committed by officials in the Culture Ministry, he added. “It seems to me horrific that the cause on behalf of the (spies) could be used as a pretext for an act of repression.”

Cuba argues that the five spies arrested in 1998 are “heroes” because they spied on exiles planning terror attacks. Evidence at their trial showed they also spied on U.S. military installations.

One of the group known as the Cuban Five served his sentence and returned to Cuba this year.

Tanmy López Moreno, violinist in Carcassés’ fusion music group, Interactivo, was quoted as criticizing the singer in a note posted by government official Iroel Sánchez in his blog La Pupila Insomne (The Sleepless Eye).

“This incident has been very painful for me on a personal level, and absolutely foreign to me on the ethical and professional level,” Lopez reportedly wrote. “Foreign to my individual position, reflected in my record and concert work.”

More directly critical was singer Conrado Monier. In a declaration sent to a government website, La Jiribilla (The Spin), he accused Carcassés of “damaging” the work of many other Cuban artists.

“What you said is not exactly the worst, although it shows a lack of political culture that if I were you, I would try to overcome,” Monier wrote. “What is unforgivable is who you said it to, where and when …”

Digna Guerra, director of the internationally known National Chorus of Cuba, declared in another note to La Jiribilla that she was “infuriated” with Carcassés’ comments.

“It’s not a matter that we cannot have different opinions,’’ she said. “It’s a matter of having the ethics and responsibility to express our opinions at the right time and place.

“To use that concert, in which many of us artists were representing an entire people in a battle sacred to the nation, is an absolutely reproachable act...,” Guerra added.

Singer Eduardo Sosa criticized Carcassés as “clumsy but not a total loss … naive but never mediocre,” in another note to La Jiribilla and attacked the foreign news media for reporting on the singer’s rare public blast at the government.

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