HAVANA (Reuters) – Leading Cuban dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara was discharged from hospital on Monday, four weeks after authorities ended his hunger and thirst strike and admitted the “artivist.”
The General Calixto Garcia hospital in Havana said its treatment had enabled the 33-year-old artist to completely recover from his diagnosis of “voluntary starvation,” and his clinical and health parameters were now all within normal range.
“I’m really happy and relieved, he’s at his family home now at least,” his friend and fellow activist Iris Ruiz said. “There was so much uncertainty before.”
Reuters was unable to immediately reach Otero Alcantara, who is the head of the San Isidro Movement, a group of a few dozen artists, writers and activists that has protested restrictions in Cuba on civil liberties for the last few years, often through provocative performances.
Otero Alcantara had been staging a hunger and thirst strike to protest a raid on his home when authorities took him to hospital. The Cuban health department said at the time that doctors found no sign of malnutrition and that he was in stable condition.
Supporters questioned why Otero Alcantara had been kept in hospital and incommunicado, adding that police had blocked them from visiting him. Videos of him in hospital posted online by pro government accounts, including one in which he appeared thinner and hunched over, fueled their fears.
Since the San Isidro Movement sparked a rare protest in front of the Culture Ministry in November, authorities have taken to state-run media to denounce its members and allies as agitators working with the United States to destabilize the government as Cuba’s economy goes through its worst crisis in decades. The movement denies the charges.
Ten days ago, Amnesty International named Otero Alcantara a “prisoner of conscience,” saying state security appeared to have him under supervision and incommunicado at the hospital.
The hospital said in its statement that the artist had reiterated many times his gratitude toward the medical staff that “respected his will” both regarding his treatment and the length of his stay.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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