Monthly Archives: August 2011

Declaration of Principles: We Who Are Born With No Horizon

Ángel Santiesteban at the door of his houseon election day 2008. The sign says: In this house we don't vote. We toss it out.

We were a generation they blindfolded at birth, telling us how we must think and postpone our dreams because, they told us, the light was blinding. Our mothers put up with injustice out of fear and to protect us because they knew that the worst was yet to come.

Then, at first, by necessity or intuition, we looked for the faint flashes that filtered through the edges of the bandages. And it was definitely beautiful. We arrived at the conviction that we would be happy blind. Until we tore off the bandages. Since then we can no longer live without the glare of the enlightened. The blog The Children Nobody Wanted, in particular, is an urgent space to share free thought, something unknown and forbidden in my country for several generations.

Since I began my journey with the blog, I felt the radiance of unknown freedom. And once demonstrated it is now a must, as essential as oxygen itself. Since then my spiritual life has multiplied, but the Political Police of my country, without the power to attain the ethereal and censor thought, take the body to pay for  daring. And two months after starting the blog I was assaulted by three men who threatened me; “you’d better not become a counterrevolutonary,” with the result being a broken arm. This initial torture is known by the phrase, “Teaching Tools,” which have no purpose other than to frighten, terrify, and preview the suffering that future hours of existence hold. My email, assigned by the Ministry of Culture, was immediately deleted. I was prevented from publishing and participating in cultural events. Responding to my posts in official blogs were functionaries, journalists without decorum, opportunistic writers and critics, of course, those of little talent.

There is no way to make me give in

Then State Security understood that their pressure had not had the desired effect, which they hadn’t counted on and which, in some way, discredited them; so they devised the idea to manipulate an ex-partner, a Machiavellian invention, and they have created a series of complaints, without the slightest evidence tying me to the supposed fanciful events. Now I am being prosecuted with a petition that adds up to a total of 54 years in prison, the Prosecution has combined some and is asking for 15 years deprivation of liberty.

For over two years I wait impatiently, giving the Government, State Security, the National Revolutionary Police and the Prosecutor of the Republic time to reconsider that there is no way to make me give in and to silence my breath of free expression; despite feeling terrified by these embarrassing accusations.

Seven months after the start of the legal process, practically ignored by the investigators, on their recognizing that the investigations had no logical basis given personality and behavior of the slandered, the Directorate General of the Police took part, through an official who had to be present at the time of the interview, suspiciously, just after receiving an invitation to the Festival of the Word in Puerto Rico, I was forced to sign a 1,000 peso bond, which legally precluded my participation in this literary festival.

These Government Institutions, seeing my firm stance, despite their efforts and tortures — physical (the broken arm) and psychic — and after the publication of several posts about how they tried for years to recruit me as a member of State Security, decided on force, intensifying and speeding up the infamous process they maintained against my person, in their attempt to shut me up or make me pay for the audacity of rebelling against the silence they imposed.

Prevented from seeing my son

As the start of the psychological torture, they imposed a “restraining order” with regards to the “alleged victim” but the real objective has been to prevent me from having a relationship with my 12-year-old son, depriving me, for over two years, of all contact with him. In this sick way as well, my son has been kept away from his half-sister; the two of them, until this time, maintained an emotionally intense relationship. Since then not even a phone call has occurred.

On August 4, my lawyer, Atty. Lourdes Azua, was terrorized by the intent to involve her in the investigative process against me. Captain Amauri (semi-literate in terms education), in a disrespectful way, asked me leading questions in front of the attorney, where he put into question the professional ethics of the lawyer who had practiced her profession for over forty years. My representative immediately sent a letter to the Director of his Law Collective, and the National Justice Directorate, to make them aware of what could be the beginning of harassing her for doing her job.

After leaving the police station I was depressed for twenty hours, but finally, in the early morning hours I knocked on doors where hearts were open to me and they advised and helped me to regain the spirit of optimism I usually possess. I also considered that my fallen spirits would make the job of the executioner easier. It might even bring me bad luck.

Without the least intention of making a martyr of myself, I was sure that the mission would work and that I could complete it. I have two children. I wrote several books. I planted a tree in the Demajagua a few feet from the bell of the redeemer. I have conscientiously complied with God, the human race, the Masonic Institution to which I have belonged for almost 25 years. To continue would be to repeat myself, because my personal dreams do not amount to much save seeing my country with all the freedoms that belong to a citizen.

Despite the fear

So I want to assure you that as long as I have strength in my body, I will continue expressing my feelings through the written word, literature, and the blog The Children Nobody Wanted. I will not accept intimidation, acts of vandalism, or coarse processes that violate what is more precious: feelings and propriety. I will endure to the utmost so as not to give in and will continue expressing my ideas, opinions and positions of principle.

It doesn’t matter if they imprison me, abuse humiliate demoralize embarrass me, words that may be synonymous, but they have taught me the deeper meaning and etymology of each word and what the differences are. Despite the fear, the suffering my family and friends, I’m happy because I believe I am fulfilling the ideas of Marti, with his indispensable work and reaching for all the light promised by the Cuban Revolutionary Party that was, among others, founded by José Martí.

If the moment arrives I assure you that I will go proudly to prison. And there I will stay as long as my body lasts on a hunger strike. I do not desire to be remembered. I will do nothing to merit that. Others have already done that and they are invincible. With complete certainty I can say that others will come after me and with nobility they will know how to conquer the dreams of those of us no longer here, and I thank them in anticipation.

I also infinitely acknowledge the support of each and every one of the people who have answered the call of justice, because I would prefer not to exist, rather than accept continuing with the bandages on my eyes and the gag in my mouth, to paraphrase the Apostle, seeing a Master in my Country.

In Havana, the 17th day of August, 2011

In regard to me, if I could make one humble demand, it would be that God and Martí never abandon me.

In Havana, the 17th day of August, 2011

Cuba, We Who Are About to Die Salute You

Image: Reporters Without Borders

So Orlando Zapata gave himself up with the only weapon he had. Guillermo Fariñas then went to the edge of the abyss, from where it is assumed there is no return, but his spiritual energy carried him and brought him back; besides, the fight is not over, that was only one chapter. Both Zapata and Farina are examples to follow.

Cuban bloggers have endured intimidation, arrests and kicks. And yet it seems little to us if we compare it to the infinite pleasure of communicating, delivering opinions for those who prefer silence out of the fear of retaliation.

The agents of the political police understood that they’re clumsy. Although they continue to engage in physical aggression, now they walk a fine line. They have set in motion the machinery of their means of communication and counterintelligence. Yoani Sánchez was the first, then the blogger Diana Virgen García.

Just around the celebrations of July 26, 2009, the most important holiday of the regime, I was arrested. My ex-wife, after four years of separation and having a relationship with a senior police officer named Pablo, the superior of the Sector Chiefs of the municipality of Plaza, went to the police station at Zapata and C, and accused me of rape. Luckily, at that time I was far from the place that she chose for the false accusation. I was with friends who served as witnesses in the presence of my current partner.

The officer who notified me about the case told me that my ex suffered from a mental disorder, and it was possible she would have to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He said that after making the complaint, he explained to her that she would have to take it to Legal Medicine to corroborate that she really had been raped: it was the only way to present such an atrocity before a trial. She refused. Then she showed a medical document where she was diagnosed with an injury to her ear, and a picture of some marks behind it, such as scratches. The officer let her know that in order for the document to be found valid, she had to return to the doctor with a policeman he would assign to her. She also refused to consult the doctor. Regarding the photo, the officer insisted it would be valid only if it had been taken by police specialists, but as there were no visible marks, it didn’t make sense that experts would appear.

Then my ex rescinded the above allegations and said that she was accusing me of stealing some family jewels. The officer began to ask her for a description, to later corroborate it with her family and friends, so they could guarantee that the jewels were really hers, and to compare them with some photo where she was wearing them. She again refused.

She then asked, as if playing a children’s game, that they take another statement, about my stealing money in several currencies, CUCs, dollars and euros, whose total sum barely surpassed $100.

The officer who assisted me could demonstrate to her, with several witnesses, where I was at the time declared by my ex, while she couldn’t present any witnesses or evidence that would incriminate me.

The officer said I could go without imposing any injunction on me. A month later, I passed about sixty meters from my ex. The next day she tried to accuse me of harassment, but they did not accept the complaint

Fifteen days later, at the place where my ex lived, at dawn, there was a short-circuit in some wires near a bush of dry leaves, and a fire broke out. The firemen took more than an hour to arrive. The neighbors had warned them about the power failure and that an accident could happen. My ex was not at home, but the next day, when she appeared, it was at the police station, and she accused me of attempted murder.

However, several caretakers for neighborhood businesses at the residence saw no one near the place; in fact, it’s nearly three meters high and there are two locked gates that the firefighters had to break down.

Twenty-four hours later I was summoned by the police, and witnesses showed where I was at the time of the fire. And they agreed to let me leave. Then, a senior official insisted that I would have to post a bond of 1,500 pesos. Obviously, it was not by chance that days before I had received an invitation to the Festival of the Word in Puerto Rico, signed by the writer Mayra Santos-Febres. With the imposition of the bond my leaving the country was prevented, along with the possibility of being able to communicate with the international media.

Days later they changed the police officer on my case. The new one was announced as Captain Amauri, and in a short time, he was apprised of all the imaginary complaints for which the prosecutor requested more than fifty years in prison.

There was an alleged witness. I don’t know if it was a matter of one complaint in particular or all of them, but the fact is that the day they began the cross-examination, he shouted that they couldn’t force him to testify against me, that he did not know me.

On leaving the police station, the alleged witness presented himself at my house and before my neighbors explained what actually happened. He videotaped the confession.

Then, last July 25, I was summoned to the station because the alleged witness, the only one they could manipulate, had made a complaint against me of threats: “coercion” to not testify against me. They held me for 18 hours without food or water. Only when Castro’s speech for the celebration of the assault on the Moncada barracks was finished did they release me, without the alleged victim having appeared.

I came home and copied 100 CD’s of the confession of the “witness” and delivered it to the police and to whatever media of disclosure exists in this country, although they don’t function. And like the gesture that quiets the orchestra, there was silence.

Today the authorities don’t know what to do with me. They have a totally manipulated trial where the court rejected my witnesses. They know that I have the video where the witness points out the manipulation, the promises and the pressure on him to testify against me.

That’s the way things are. I remember a school friend, who loved Cuban literature, who asked me, days before I started to post on my blog, if I was prepared to face the devastating machinery of the system. I was silent for a while. I thought about the urgent need to communicate about my environment and social problems. I replied that I was not naive, that I knew how far they could go, and I remembered Martí and Lorca.

I must admit I never thought the Cuban political police were so twisted. I never imagined I would get involved in such disgraces. Anyway, it’s always one step more to freedom. The desperation of the system is a symptom of fatigue.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Originally published 9 February 2011 – Re-published 12 August 2011

The Failed Attempts to Make me an “Agent” – VI

Photo: Alejandro Azcuy

I’ve prepared myself to do without my “lawyer.” She, like the rest of the attorneys attached to the system, can’t do anything that isn’t convenient for the Prosecutor, who is the representative of the State. Justice in my country doesn’t have its hands tied, for a long time they’ve been cut off. The scales of justice is welded to one of its sides.

My lawyer tells me to remember all the legal and judicial proceedings that have violated my person. My representative has no option to go to a legal entity to demand justice. Her word is: hope. Mine is: evolution.

In Cuba right now there is a group of Lawyers who through the State’s own laws are asking to be recognized as independents. The Minister of Justice ignores their request. The Minister violates and infringed on his own laws which he should be upholding.

Given that my “lawyer” can’t do anything about it, I am just waiting for the machinery of the system to alert her when to open her mouth, and I will hire these independent lawyers who are closer to my social position.

Before making this decision, I had a first interview with the attorney Wilfredo Vallin. After listening patiently to my legal situation, he agreed to represent me. He just asked me to write down the facts and give them to him.

A friend of mine, on learning of my decision, told me it’s just one more step to tightening the noose around my neck. Perhaps he’s right. He’s almost certainly right. But in any event I can’t stand living with the rope around my neck any longer. We all know that we live with the noose, but as long as it doesn’t tighten it doesn’t matter, surviving is what matters. Some are used to it and may even forget about it. Others live in perpetual vigilance to avoid its being tightened, and with their daily acts maintain that status.

None of these alternatives is life. I prefer they pull it tight while there is still oxygen in my lungs.

August 11 2011

The Failed Attempts to Make Me an “Agent” – V

Photo: AP

The rancor of the Totalitarian State is lethal. It’s an eternal persecution. An entire devastating structure capable of slowly annihilating you. With persistence they’re where you least imagine them, until you receive your share of venom. A deadly snake who waits for the moment to bite. And there is always a moment.

The attack came from where I least expected. An ex-wife was taken, taking advantage of her spite and three years of separation to use her against me. Without the least shred of proof, I’ve been accused of “rape,” “theft,” “attempted homicide,” “threat,” “siege,” “injuries,” “knocking down a minor in the public street,” among other supposed crimes, the sum of the years exceeded fifty. And other accusations surely will come. It’s like a message from the mafia: collaborate come hell or high water. I have chosen because it is high water. The only thing I’m worried about is not being able to serve all the years if sentenced. At my age and the years they’re asking for, it’s impossible to finish them.

I recently reported on this blog that I was called to the  Havana Psychiatric Hospital(Mazorra). I can’t predict what they’re up to. Then I was interviewed by a Lieutenant Colonel of Operations and a Political Major, as they identified themselves, and they related all the accusations made by the Prosecutor without a shred of evidence against me. Of course I know they recorded the conversation. I let them know the fabrication of the crimes and was aware that it was a plan devised by State Security to make me give in, and if I persist, to discredit me internationally.

Obviously they heard nothing new, they already knew everything. I guess they just planned to record me or to see the amount of damage they’d managed to inflict on me. They will be disappointed, because every act of injustice they commit against me and those close to me, strengthens my will be a blogger.

Before I left I told the officials that I didn’t care if they condemned me, or even put me in prison, I was convinced that I had fulfilled the most important mission that I came here to do in this life.

1. Having children.

2. Writing books.

3. Planting a tree, in my honor, a few yards from the Bell of Demajagua.*

4. And, above all, I’ve been a disciplined mason and contributed to my Institution.

After that, all I could do next would be to repeat myself, I kept telling them, and in addition, as they were aware, through third parties who had confessed, State Security had pressured them to continue the harassment against me, I told them finally.

They didn’t express themselves, just listened, and promised to meet with me again to give me an answer to all the paraphernalia they’d created around my person. I know that the objective was to observe my mood, my capacity for persistence and how to continue undermining my strengths.

I do not expect anything good from them. I do not even expect. I decided to forget them, to continue working for human progress because, at some point I understood, that a depressive state often appeared in my psyche. And at moments I thought I could manage it.

There is no better response I could write.

Translator’s note:
*On October 10, 1868, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes rang the bell of his sugar mill, La Demajagua, calling for Cuban independence from Spain.

August 10 2011

Testimony: The Failed Attempts to Make Me an “Agent” – IV

Photo: Getty Images

After the Black Spring, when they arrested the 75 Government opponents, through my younger sister I met one of them who had been released due to illness. And visiting his house, I noticed that his daughter was an absolute beauty. I think it was a mutual sympathy from the beginning and she agreed to take a walk with me, and then become my girlfriend.

To tell the truth, I joked about the dissidents, at least those who visited her house. Most of them were looking for political backing to leave the country for the United States. My girlfriends’ parents would sell, in their own handwriting, “evidence” later presented to the United States Interest Section, for possible approval to acquire the status of those championed by the United States. They would also sell the donations offered by U.S. Interest Section: radios, cameras, tape recorders, office paper, and the continuously supplied books for an Independent Library.

Those people were repugnant to me for their dishonesty. Mercenaries who mercilessly took advantage of what was at their fingertips. I noticed that the wife, my mother-in-law at that time, wasn’t a member of the Ladies in White. She said she was against it and considered them enemies because they had different ways of seeing reality. Something that seemed odd to me, but reasonable, it was her own free will.

Months later, my girlfriend told me she had been approached by an official from State Security and asked to cooperate with them. She told me she had refused, assuring them she was apolitical. She insisted to the official that she could understand that his intention was to know about me: What was I doing? Who did I interact with? She refused, it wasn’t possible that they were more interested in me than in her parents. Security would surely try to get her to betray them, I ended up saying.

She laughed, convinced that I was wrong. There were seconds of silence. I assumed she was trying to tell me something I couldn’t grasp. She confessed that it wasn’t the first time she had talked with the “agents,” almost letting me know that she was a frequent collaborator. I inferred that she had betrayed her parents. But the biggest surprise was when she told me about a telephone call of her mother’s, who, before making it said she needed privacy and asked her to leave the phone booth. Thinking she was cheating on her dad, she managed to sidle up without her mother noticing, and heard her talking to an official and identifying herself as the agent Victoria.

I then recalled the stories about her mother showing up near the Combinado del Este prison, demanding to be allowed to see her husband; that in some Roundtable TV episode and in the newspapers she’d been mentioned as a dissident.  And it all seemed so disappointing to me.

I didn’t see my girlfriend again. The last time I ran into her coming back from the U.S. Interest Section, she had in her hands approval to enter the United States. Since them I realized that it’s not worth it to believe secrets exist. They know more about us than we do about ourselves. The best thing is to freely express what you feel and what you want.

And accept the consequences, of course.