Cuban dissident artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, who was detained by authorities on Saturday after mocking Fidel Castro’s death, was severely beaten, according to relatives who saw him at the detention center in Guanabacoa.
“Danilo's mom saw him,” the artist’s girlfriend, Miami resident Alexandra Martinez, 24, said late Tuesday. “He was badly beaten upon entering Guanabacoa and suffered a severe asthma attack.”
Authorities also confiscated his cell phone, she said.
Martinez said Maldonado’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado, was allowed to visit her son at a Guanabacoa police station, on the outskirts of Havana, for the first time since he was violently detained Saturday morning at his Havana apartment. Relatives called the arrest by Cuban State Security a “kidnapping.”
On Friday night, after hearing the news about the death of Fidel Castro, Maldonado went around the city and drew several graffiti, including one with his signature and the words “Se fue” (He’s gone) on a wall at the iconic Hotel Habana Libre, where Castro took up temporary residence in 1959 following his triumphant entrance into Havana alongside rebel fighters, including brother Raúl Castro.
He also posted a video on Facebook mocking Fidel Castro’s death and urging viewers to “come out to the streets...and ask for liberty.”
Since he was hauled away by authorities, Maldonado has been transferred to at least three police stations in the Cuban capital.
Maldonado is accused of damaging public property, his girlfriend said. But no official charges have been issued yet.
Martinez said that shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday, she received a call from Maldonado saying that State Security agents entered his apartment. According to neighbors, four uniformed officers and five others in civilian clothes dragged Maldonado to a patrol car as he shouted, “Abajo Fidel, Abajo Raúl!”
Several human rights organizations, as well as relatives and friends are calling for the immediate release of Maldonado, who was scheduled to participate this week at Miami Art Basel.
Maldonado’s relatives said that the Cuban government is trying to silence him during the national mourning over Castro’s death.
Maldonado, 32, attempted to carry out a performance in 2014 at a park in Havana featuring two pigs painted in green with the names “Fidel” and “Raul.” He was imprisoned without trial for 10 months.
Maldonado is the recepient of the Václav Havel International Award for Creative Dissent awarded by the Human Rights Foundation.
Abel Fernández is on Twitter @abelfglez