Anarchy in Havana

Words (almost) fail me. Cuba’s detained a singer from a rock band and is reportedly set to charge him with the super-vague offence of “social dangerousness” or “subverting communist morality”.

Ok, it might seem ludicrous (it is), but Gorki Aguila from Porno para Ricardo is in detention and he could get jailed for up to four years.

I can’t pretend to know the group, and having checked them out on YouTube I’d say they’re pretty ropey and hardly deserving of the (inevitable) media moniker “punk rockers” (though check out this YouTuber for mild slow-fast comedy value). But come on!

Ageing punk fans like me fondly (mis)remember the Filth and Fury furore around those cuddly Sex Pistols back in the day, and certainly a media maestro like Malcolm McLaren could easily whip up a right old moral panic with a bit of swearing and ripped clothes in self-congratulatory “free” Britain.

So yes, the SPs had to dodge councils who were Mary Whitehouse acolytes and the band resorted to playing out of the way places, sometimes in disguise. (Incidentally check out Pete Spence’s excellent short film about McLaren’s crew’s last-ever UK gig, a benefit for the children of striking fire-fighters in Huddersfield on Christmas Day 1977!).

But, Lydon et al never went to prison (they went to Los Angeles, or into the celebrity jungle … or hopped aboard the nostalgia-music money merry-go-round).

Latterly there’s been the banning of grime artists (a recurring fear of black underground music if you ask me) and – hilariously – the recent cancellation of a Pete Docherty gig (because of a “whirlpool” effect in the crowd created by the music going fast then slow!). But – as far as I know! – no-one went to prison for their music.

Cuba’s not the only country with an extremely heavy-handed attitude to suppressing those with views the authorities dislike or fear. But it’s certainly got a bad track record. (What they’d make of actual “protest” songs, as described by VeggieKris, I shudder to imagine).

The opposite side of the coin came last week with a play from the Edinburgh Festival winning an Amnesty “freedom of expression” award for the way it dealt with the mysterious deaths at Deepcut army barracks (see Mark Lawson’s much-viewed comment on the Guardian's site today).

So, say what you like about Britain (it’s far from perfect) but the authorities here know better than to crush free expression in the Cuban fashion.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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