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Cuban singer says sanctioned for bold lyrics

Posted on Monday, 09.16.13

Cuban singer says sanctioned for bold lyrics
BY PETER ORSI
ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA — A well-known Cuban singer said Monday he has been punished for
going off message at a nationally televised concert last week, when he
called for direct presidential elections and more freedom of information.

In a note published on the Facebook page of his jazz-fusion combo,
Interactivo, Robertico Carcasses said he was summoned by the Culture
Ministry the following day and told he was barred indefinitely from
performing at state-run music venues.

“That is, by being opportunistic I had hurt myself with my performance,
given that I live and support my family mostly through shows in such
places,” Carcasses wrote.

Reached by phone earlier Monday, he declined to answer questions and
said the upcoming Facebook post would contain everything he intended to
say publically about the matter.

The offending performance came during a Thursday night concert organized
to demand the return of the “Cuban Five” — intelligence agents sentenced
to long prison terms in the United States.

Featuring an all-star lineup of Cuban musicians, held outside the U.S.
diplomatic mission in Havana and beamed to televisions across the
island, it was as much a national rally as a musical show.

Carcasses, 41, set tongues wagging in the capital with his improvised
lyrics, in which he also complained about the difficulty of buying a car
and suggested that different viewpoints from the likes of dissidents
should be tolerated.

Other lines about bringing the Cuban Five home and urging Washington to
lift its 51-year-old economic and financial embargo apparently weren’t
enough.

“I was also told I had betrayed the relatives who went there to mourn
their children and fathers who are behind bars, that my ideas had
nothing to do with the objective of that politico-cultural activity and
my words only benefited the enemy,” Carcasses wrote.

Cuban artists and intellectuals have a long track record of testing the
limits of Fidel Castro’s famous 1961 words about what constitutes
acceptable criticism: “Within the Revolution, everything; outside the
Revolution, nothing.”

Musical giants like Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez have made similar
or even more pointed comments about respecting dissidents’ right to free
expression, though perhaps not in such a high-profile forum.

In April, Roberto Zurbano, a leading cultural official, was demoted
after he wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times that criticized
“blatant racism” on the island. However, Zurbano refused to speculate on
whether there was a direct link, and complained about the newspaper’s
translation and editing of his copy.

Raul Castro, who assumed the presidency from his older brother in 2006,
has invited Cubans to debate his economic and social reforms and said
unpopular opinions will not be punished.

Carcasses expressed regret at dragging his band mates into a difficult
situation not of their making, over opinions that they may or may not
share. He also apologized to the families of the Cuban Five if they took
offense.

But he stood behind his comments, saying voting directly for president
would not hurt Cuba’s Communist political system, only make people feel
better represented.

“The more I watch the video and reread what I said, I don’t see why my
ideas can’t be reconciled with the Cuban Revolution,” he said. “If we
are trying to improve our system it takes the courage to risk saying
what we think.”

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