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El Sexto: Prison For Pig Art Is Proof Normalization Not Changing Cuba

Tim Padgett
Danilo "El Sexto" Maldonado (left) describes his time in Cuban prison as Cuban-American National Foundation Chairman Jorge Mas Santos listens.

It’s been almost a year since President Obama announced the U.S. was normalizing relations with communist Cuba. Some Cuban dissidents embrace the move. But others - including artist Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto" - say it’s done little to improve human rights on the island.

“El Sexto" (which means "the Sixth" in Spanish) just got out of prison in Cuba and is visiting Miami this week to convey that message.

A week after Obama’s announcement last year, Maldonado publicly painted the names of Cuba’s top leaders – Raúl Castro and his brother Fidel Castro – on two pigs. It got him 10 months behind bars. Pressure from human rights groups helped get him released in October.

At the Cuban-American National Foundation in Little Havana Monday, Maldonado said his ordeal was proof that normalized relations haven’t led to free speech in Cuba yet.

"There have been no positive changes," he told WLRN. "The U.S. has given away too much at the normalization talks, and that has let Cuba continue its repression."

Maldonado also said economic conditions are worsening in Cuba.

"The wave of Cuban migration you're seeing in the crisis in Central America right now is the strongest indication of that," he said. 

Maldonado said he plans to take in Art Basel while he’s in Miami this week – and that he hopes to see some of his own work at next year’s event. 

But probably not the pigs.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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