Cuban Artist Tania Bruguera Freed After Three Back-to-Back Detentions

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera posses for a picture in Havana December 31, 2014. Enrique De La Osa/Reuters

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera was freed on Friday after three back-to-back detentions in three days, and after more than a thousand artists worldwide signed an open letter to Cuban President Raul Castro calling for her release.

The detention of the Cuban artist and other political opponents of the island's communist government over recent days has tested a new detente with the United States.

The dissidents, with limited public support on the Caribbean island, are denounced by the Cuban authorities as being in the pay of the United States.

Bruguera third detention came when she went to a Havana prison on Thursday to demand the release of other detainees. Earlier this week she had planned an open microphone event the government called a "political provocation."

Bruguera's mother told Reuters the artist returned home again early on Friday evening.

Nearly 1,300 artists signed a letter to Castro saying they were "profoundly troubled" by Cuba's reaction to Bruguera's event, which never took place after her detention.

Bruguera, who divides her time between the island and art projects mostly in Europe and the United States, told Reuters after the first arrest that her passport was confiscated by Cuban officials.

"We firmly believe her detention, and withdrawal of her Cuban passport, are inappropriate responses to a work of art that simply sought to open space for public discussion," the letter said.

Cuban officials do not typically comment on police activity such as the detention of dissidents.

Brief detentions are Cuba's standard response to opposition street protests, but they have taken on greater significance after Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama said on Dec. 17 they would restore diplomatic ties, potentially bringing an end to more than five decades of hostility.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, told Reuters TV some 60 people were detained in connection with Bruguera's thwarted Dec. 30 event in Havana's Revolution Square.

With Bruguera's release, all are now believed to have been freed, Sanchez said on Friday.

Obama's policy shift has drawn some opposition inside the United States as critics argue the Cuban government now has less incentive to improve its human rights record. A high-level U.S. State Department official is expected to visit Havana later this month for detailed talks on restoring diplomatic ties.

Castro has applauded Obama for Washington's stance, but says Cuba will not change its one-party political system.