HAVANA – A prominent Cuban artist said he has been removed from his legislative post and forced to close his studio over his contacts with dissidents and a commentary that was posted on an anti-government blog.
Pedro Pablo Oliva said in a message on his own website Monday that he was summoned by officials and told of a complaint filed by one of his colleagues in the Pinar del Rio provincial legislature. He said he was expelled and that members of the legislature called him a counterrevolutionary, traitor and "annexationist" — someone who wants Cuba to be taken over by the United States.
He accepted that his behavior violated a code of ethics he accepted when he assumed the legislative post. but denied being disloyal, saying he was just expressing his opinions.
"We made the difficult decision to close Casa Taller (his workshop) because the leadership of the assembly felt the project had strayed from the cultural objectives for which it was founded," Oliva wrote on his website. "As if culture were not thought, struggle and contradictions."
Telephone calls to Oliva's workshop in western Pinar del Rio rang unanswered Tuesday, and authorities had no comment.
Oliva is a painter and sculptor whose work has been auctioned by Sotheby's and exhibited in solo shows in Havana, Miami and New York, according to his website.
His work includes a 2003 series of portraits of Fidel Castro that were exhibited in Havana's National Museum of Fine Arts. In 2006 the Culture Ministry awarded him its National Painting Prize, one of many Cuban awards he has won over his career.
Oliva's troubles with authorities have been increasing in recent months due to artistic activities at his workshop that attracted accusations of dissident themes.
In January he wrote a letter published on Generacion Y, the blog of government opponent Yoani Sanchez, that criticized the use of harassment to silence unpopular opinions. He also said he believes in the need for a multiparty political system.
On Monday, Oliva said he was not a dissident and credited the Cuban revolution with giving him the opportunity to become an artist. But he said he does not intend to keep his opinions to himself.
"Societies where everyone thinks alike, especially in such controversial terrain as politics or ideology, do not exist — and what a good thing," Oliva wrote. "Immobility of thought is the cancer of social processes."
The artist said the workshop was not closed by any official order but essentially blacklisted, making it impossible to continue. He did not say when he was removed from the regional assembly.
Oliva acknowledged that his words in the letter and in an interview with a Miami radio program went against a governmental code of conduct that frowns upon such open criticism, saying, "I agreed with the delegate who made the complaint."
He rejected allegations of associating with "counterrevolutionary elements," saying he alone will decide what friends he keeps.