HAVANA (AP) — A Cuban street artist said Monday that he was detained by police and told to erase the more than 200 or so murals that have gained him widespread attention throughout the country.
Yulier Rodriguez Perez said authorities kept him in custody for two days last week and told him that he will be charged with damaging property if he does not remove the whimsical abstract images that he has painted on decrepit buildings and partially collapsed walls around Havana and in some provincial capitals.
Rodriguez, who signs his paintings as "Yulier P.," said he has no plans to remove his art works, which stand out in a place where graffiti is rare and nearly all posters and murals feature political slogans or revolutionary figures.
"I think that graffiti as an artistic work in a destroyed place adds esthetically to the visual image of the city," the 27-year-old said in an interview with The Associated Press.
There was no one available from the Cuban government to comment on his statements.
Rodriguez began painting abstract paintings on decrepit buildings and walls about three years ago. The first ones were large abstract renderings of rabbits, their floppy ears outlined in black against chipped concrete.
There are now around 200 in Havana alone, so many that there is hardly a neighborhood in the Cuban capital where you can't find one of the sprawling works.
Cuba has a rich artistic establishment but Rodriguez is not part of it. Still, while his work did not have the endorsement of the government, it had seemed to be tolerated. He has said previously that police never interfered with his work and kept others from vandalizing it, although they occasionally questioned him about works that they considered political.