Cuba's Silvio Rodriguez criticizes gov't "repression" of musician

Havana, Sep 17 (EFE).- Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez on Tuesday condemned the "act of repression" by the communist island's cultural authorities against a fellow musician punished after he made remarks critical of the government at an official concert in Havana last week.

"Regrettably, following the gaffe of my comrade came another on the part of the institution that regulates the work of music professionals in Cuba," Rodriguez said Tuesday in his blog.

Robertico Carcasses, a 41-year-old pianist and leader of the popular band Interactivo, performed last Thursday at a huge concert in Havana broadcast live on national television and stated onstage that he was in favor of free access to information and the election of the president by direct popular vote.

Carcasses confirmed on Monday that the Culture Ministry was sanctioning him "for an indefinite time" because of his comments during the concert organized to call for the release of four Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned in the United States.

"In repudiation of practices of this kind at other times, in rejection of the idea that they be reinstated, I made the decision to invite the sanctioned musician to my next concerts because one mistake should not lead to another," Rodriguez announced on Tuesday.

"But above all because it seems horrible to me that the cause of The Five (the fifth of the agents jailed in the United States has already returned to Cuba) can be used as a pretext for an act of repression," added the artist, who is considered to be one of the island's most influential musicians.

Rodriguez said he will include Carcasses as a performer in the two public concerts he will offer this weekend in Havana.

"When a public person expresses himself controversially, public opinion should praise him," Rodriguez said.

"I think that Robertico committed a big gaffe by choosing the event for the release of The Five to launch his list of demands. I would have preferred if he had done it at another concert, on an album, in another forum," he said.

Rodriguez went on to say that as a Cuban citizen Carcasses "has the right to express what he thinks in his country," but he said it was a "regrettable error" for him to do so at the event staged to call for the release of the Cuban agents "who have sacrificed their lives for the security of the people."

Considered heroes in Cuba, the five agents were arrested in 1998 and convicted of espionage in 2001, receiving sentenced ranging from 15 years to life in prison.

While one was paroled and ultimately allowed to return to Cuba, the other four spies remain in prison.

The Cuban Five insisted they were spying on Miami's Cuban exile community, not the U.S. government.

Cuba says the men were sent to Florida in the wake of several terror bombings in Havana allegedly masterminded by anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative.