Around the same time the United States and Cuba announced they would be working toward renewing relations, Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (aka El Sexto) was arrested for painting two pigs with the names of brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro. He was jailed without due process, and after being told multiple times that he would be released, continued to be held. As a result, El Sexto went on two hunger strikes.
Despite international human rights groups denouncing the actions of the Cuban government, he was held from December 25, 2014 until October 20, 2015. Even a visit by Pope Francis in September was not enough to get the government to release El Sexto, who was accused of disrespecting government officials, something that is not commonly punished with long-term incarceration.
“I was in prison this morning and they told me to get my things and I obeyed,” El Sexto said on Tuesday, according to The Guardian. “Afterwards, they told that they were finally going to set me free.” Maldonado is thinking of requesting a visa, so that he can live among other exiles and likeminded people in Miami.
“I was in a double-walled cell for 22 days. The key for the lock was held by the official on guard, so if you faint, the guard of the cell has to go and look for the key,” he said about his first hunger strike to The Miami Herald. “The conditions are extreme in order to break you.”
El Sexto said that he would continue to be in jail if it weren’t for all those who kept pushing the Cuban government. Though he plans to take some time off to be with his daughter, there will be more from him challenging the Castros.