People who claim to favor egalitarian economic policies sometimes praise dictatorships like the communist regime in Cuba, headed today by President Raúl Castro following in the footsteps of his brother Fidel Castro’s decades-long control. In practice, egalitarian economics leads to widespread and endemic poverty — and the Cuban government maintains its iron grip on power in part through human rights abuses like imprisoning political activists and dissidents. One of those activists, artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, recently painted a graffiti mural titled “Freedom Through Knowledge” in Guatemala on the campus of Atlas Network partner Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM).
“The thirty-two-year-old dissident has been imprisoned many times for protesting against the Castro regime through his art,” UFM explained in a press release. “In December 2014, he planned a performance inspired by George Orwell's novel Animal Farm. It included the release of two pigs on which he painted the names Fidel and Raul. Before he could begin, El Sexto was arrested. He was held for ten months at Valle Grande prison.”
Maldonado took 10 days to complete his mural in Guatemala, where he brought his protest art at the invitation of Atlas Network partner the Human Rights Foundation, as part of its College Freedom Forum. The event brought approximately 800 university and high school students together “to focus on making the world a more peaceful, prosperous, and free place.” In past years, the College Freedom Forum has been held at Tufts University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Yale University, and Stanford University. This is the first time the forum has been held outside the United States.
“We are deeply grateful to Danilo for speaking about human rights with Guatemalan students, extending his trip for a week, and leaving UFM with a work of art that exalts individual freedom,” said UFM President Gabriel Calzada at the unveiling ceremony for the “Freedom Through Knowledge” mural.
This year, UFM celebrates its 45th year of “teaching and disseminating the ethical, legal, and economic principles of a society of free and responsible persons.” Its institutional mission makes UFM the perfect for the College Freedom Forum and the Human Rights Foundation, which not only focuses extensively on the many abuses of human rights still ongoing in Cuba, but also in countries throughout the rest of the world.
[Update: Maldonado was arrested again in Cuba on March 21, among hundreds of other protesters.]