Readers of National Review are perhaps familiar with the Cuban street artist Danilo Maldonado, whose nickname is “El Sexto.” At the most recent Oslo Freedom Forum, he was a recipient of the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. (I wrote about this here.)
He was not present to receive the award, because he was in prison. He was put there on Christmas Day of last year. His crime was to take two pigs and dub them “Fidel” and “Raúl.” He was inspired to do this by Orwell’s timeless, and ever pertinent, parable Animal Farm.
Since September 8, El Sexto has been on a hunger strike. Hunger strikes by political prisoners are a complicated issue, and I wrote an essay about it several years ago. Suffice it to say that some prisoners feel they can do no other.
Obviously, El Sexto is now very weak, physically. He has written a letter that may be his farewell. It is hard to read. But, of course, worth reading.
This may be my last letter from here in the punishment cell and if I survive you will hear more from my lips. So I want to tell everyone that I waited too long for this moment to hunger strike, we Cubans have waited too long to expel these rascals.
Now that I started, I feel my faith, determination and self-esteem through the roof for having made this decision. I am proud of being the artist that I am and make art that I do with the Cuba that I represent. So I am willing to give my life a hundred times if necessary.
He who lives without finding that for which to die, has not found the essence of life. …
Thank you all for trusting me and know that if I die I will die happy …
It would be very helpful if the pope said something about El Sexto and other political prisoners. It would be very helpful if the U.S. president did the same. What can you and I do? Well, I suppose I can write a blogpost, but I wish it were much more.