Journalists wait for Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera
Havana - AFP
Cuban authorities detained or kept at home several dissidents Tuesday, including a performance artist who organized an open-mic session for Cubans to speak out about their future.
The fate of the artist -- 46-year-old Tania Bruguera, 46, who trained in Cuba and the United States, and splits her time between the two countries and France -- was not immediately known.
"People are saying that she has been detained, but there is no way to independently confirm it," said Elizardo Sanchez, a spokesman for dissidents in the Americas' only communist regime.
"Many people were arrested at their homes, and others were put under house detention."
He added 10 people were confirmed as arrested or under home arrest, but that the number could be higher.
In a statement on social media, Bruguera had promised the open microphone in Revolution Square would be "an artistic event that will allow Cubans to stand up and speak in their own voice about the issues worrying them on the verge of starting a new year."
But at the event's scheduled start, at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT), Bruguera was nowhere to be seen.
Her fate was not immediately clear. Her cellular phone was not working, and plainclothes government agents were standing watch outside the apartment where she has been staying, keeping journalists from getting in.
News portal 14ymedio -- run by dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez -- reported that Bruguera was under home detention.
Revolution Square, which sits in front of Cuba's government headquarters, is the iconic gathering spot for political rallies in the island nation of 11 million.
But communist authorities have not tolerated independent political gatherings there.
Bruguera's group has said she sought permission for the event, but this was seen as unlikely.
In 2009, she held a similar event at the Havana Biennial Art Exhibition, offering museumgoers an open mic to express their views of the Castro government. The event's scope was far smaller.
Meanwhile, some 20 dissidents gathered at the Revolution Square venue, waiting quietly.
- 'Art' as provocation -
Cuban authorities -- fresh off their landmark diplomatic opening to the United States -- called Bruguera's event a "provocation."
Ruben del Valle, who runs Cuba's Fine Arts Council, slammed Bruguera's effort as a "reality show" and not a work of art.
Earlier this month, the United States announced that it would end decades of estrangement and normalize relations with Cuba.
US President Barack Obama moved to revive diplomatic ties and ease a trade embargo, ending 50 years of hostility between the former Cold War foes.
President Raul Castro in turn said he was ready to discuss any topic with Washington after the historic bilateral rapprochement, but warned not to expect political change.
And while the leader of the Americas' only communist nation hailed the agreement for removing of an "obstacle" in US-Cuba relations, he reiterated that "the most important thing, the end of the (US economic) embargo" remained unresolved.
Cuba's economy remains centrally planned, cash-strapped and sluggish. Most Cubans earn the equivalent of around $20 a month, and putting food on the table is a challenge.
Raul Castro has allowed more Cubans to become self-employed to trim state payrolls. Cuba depends on imports for most of its food and energy needs.