Monthly Archives: January 2013

UNEAC Writers Remain Silent to Preserve Their Little Privileges #YoTambienEscriboInclinado

1359689197_1A6ADABE-1E7A-4B19-A6D4-8900BE61BE79_w640_r1_s_cx8_cy7_cw63“Leonardo Padua, as in the past, has been indifferent to the injustices the Communist authorities are committing towards me.”

The author Ángel Santiesteban told Marti Noticias that faced with his prison sentence without  evidence at trial, his ex-colleagues in the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) have known to maintain a complicit silence so that, he said, they will preserve their little privileges such as trips abroad.

He added that his wife, the actress Sheila Roche, went to members and directors of UNEAC, Miguel Barnet and Alex Pausides, and that they assured her that nothing would happen but, when he was convicted and sentences, they responded to her questions with silence.

Meanwhile, Santiesteban said that Leonardo Padura , as in the past, has been indifferent to injustices being committed by the Communist authorities and that, despite the fact that some news agencies present him as a dissident, the writer of detective novels “plays with the chain, but never with the monkey,” as the common expression goes in Cuba.

However, Santiesteban recognizes that Leopoldo Luis, a former member of the Bearded Cayman cultural publication, asked on Twitter for the writers of the island to protest the court case that had been fabricated and said that no author deserved to be sentenced for his writing.

The Superior Court upheld the Cuba regime’s sentence of 5 years against the award-winning writer Ángel Santiesteban, who was accused of housebreaking and injury. The author, who was awarded the Casa de las Americas prize, among other awards, regretted the decision and said that he is an innocent man.

Santiesteban said that at the trial they did not present any evidence against him, and that one of the supposed proofs rests on the declaration of a lieutenant colonel in the regime who argued that his handwriting indicated his guilt.

Meaning, more than anything, the official said that the author is guilty of his own writing. The Cuban writer added that his problems with the law in Cuba began when he decided to write freely in his blog, The Children Nobody Wanted.

Angel Santiesteban, waiting to be sent to prison to serve his sentence, said his only regret is not having taken off the mask, which he was forced to wear to live under the regime in Cuba, much earlier.

From Martí Noticias

February 1 2013

Angel Santiesteban: The Round of Silence

Photo taken from: correodiplomatico.com

By Leopoldo Luis

I wrote cultural notes for the e-zine cultural weekly Esquife. They were extremely simple texts, barely forty lines, for which I was paid, I swear — forty pesos in national currency (around 15 cents U.S.); that is agro-pesos, CUP (since the Cuban Convertible Currency continues to be very national too).

Then someone suggested: “On Friday March 28th (I’m going back to March 28, 2008) there’s going to be the closing ceremonies for the First International Festival of Young Storytellers of Havana, at 1:00 pm at Casa de las Americas, why don’t you prepare something?” And they added: “In the morning Blessed are those who mourn is going to be presented, the book that won Ángel Santiesteban the Casa de las Americas prize in 2006,” which at that point was still missing from the bookstores in Havana.

I arrived in the afternoon. No sign of any writers (young or old), and no indication of any festival, meeting, conference, colloquium…which I knew had been planned. However, behind the little counter where editions of the Fondo Editorial Casa were exhibited, a girl smiled.

“It’s a book that is controversial,” she said, without going into detail. “There are no copies left in the warehouse. They are printed abroad, and we hope that they will arrive any moment now…. “

I forgot about the “festival of storytellers,” but curiosity about the fate of the volume, which was awarded a prize two years ago, prodded me with renewed spirit. A couple of days later, I sent an email to its author, who I didn’t know personally. His response confirmed the saying, “It would seem the boat that brings the books went astray,” he wrote. I thought I perceived in his tone a respectable dose of irony. He promised to get it for me, and then I didn’t hear from him.

One afternoon, visiting the Manero Workshop, located in the capital district of La Ceiba — and where not just painters but also writers and artists of all stripes hang out — Ernesto Pérez Castillo had the kindness to give me an unusual anthology: The Ones Who Count, published by Editorial Cajachina del Centro de Formación Literaria Onelio Jorge Cardoso. Among the short stories was one from  Ángel: “The Round Night,” which, by the recurring theme of the presidio, I suppose was taken from the phantom book.

The following link in the chain was to search on the Internet for the story entitled “Hunger”. I accidentally discovered it on some blog, I don’t remember which one. It was a short story, without excessive stylistic pretensions, an “easy” read.

In effect, “Hunger” is an anecdote that impacts by its simplicity. A convict complains when they turn off the lights. He is hungry. “I’m not a trouble-maker or anything,” he alleges. Or something in that style. “Can someone find me a yam, a few scraps? That would be enough for me,” he continues, while the guards insist on making him shut up. The argument gets louder, and the convict ends up gagged in a punishment cell. The rest of the night passes in silence. Until dawn, when they find him and take him back to the cell block.

It’s amazing that such a simple story flows with a level of suggestion that doesn’t detract from its spontaneity and power. The hunger of “Hunger” starts stifling the reader as he continues to read. The protagonist feels an atrocious appetite that impels him to defy the rules, no matter how rigid. He is just a prisoner, a common man deprived of liberty, whose hunger they cannot silence. Nothing more.

More exactly, it has a leisurely prose that appears to distance itself from the tormented stories in South: Latitude 13 (UNEAC short story prize 1995) and The Children Nobody Wanted (Alejo Carpentier Short Story Prize 2001). And there is no spiritual calm in “Hunger”; nor is there in the rest of the stories that complete the tome (which I finally obtained – autographed by the author – during its “official” launch in the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the former seat of the Cuban Institute of the Book).

I say “leisurely prose” thinking about the gulf between narrator and historian. In “Hunger” the writer doesn’t express the drama with the intensity of South. There isn’t the same experiential load; the story isn’t painful. The chance of being estranged (that I cannot explain) admonishes us to perceive the emotions from a passive angle. Even with humor. And with a certain cunning.

Before “Hunger” I had read Santiesteban with some apprehension. Not for his lack of gifts as a narrator, but precisely because of the stories he preferred to tell. Were they excessively stitched from the Cuban reality? I’m not sure. But we are so saturated after a decade of balseros (rafters), prostitutes and predators of high rank. In these years there was nothing that was different. The now-young writers — I wouldn’t know what adjective to foist on them after having worn out the term “newest” — declined categorically to maintain the rhythm. The new narrative, no less iconoclast, doesn’t go to war now, nor does it abandon the country in a rustic boat. The generation of the 90s, with its “the last will be the first,” remains on the margins.

Naturally, a book like South: Latitude 13 saves itself under any circumstance. For many reasons, beyond literary quality. The craft of story-telling and intuition abound in these desolate texts, profoundly human, insomuch as the subject of war and the bellicose Cuban campaigns in Africa function in two ways: as a pretext for settling any moral doubt accumulated during 30 years and as a comprehensive view, a global look, at a living tragedy. No other story-teller of his quality managed to scale that height. Not even the mutilated version of Dream of a Summer Day (Ediciones UNION, 1998) can undermine the profound anti-epic quality that breathes there.

In The Children Nobody Wanted, he presents us with the question of prison, the other grand obsession of the artist. The characters are caricatures, disoriented, sometimes ridiculous. Always torn apart. Santiesteban chooses a subject little visited before by Cuban literature (except perhaps for the narrations of Eladio Bertot and Carlos Montenegro). The condemned (the children?) of The Children… serve their time in inexact latitudes, in imprecise times. Scarce reference points are given to situate the plot: King Kong, the Morro lighthouse, a song of Julio Iglesias….The writer evades descriptions, by profession. Perhaps he judges them unnecessary. By definition, aren’t they?

Blessed are Those Who Mourn would then come to constitute a lucky saga of those first stories about jail. Speaking of that “hard and excellent” book, I am not going to repeat myself: At that moment I conceived of a review (“Writing with the voice of crying”), published in Isliada.com.

In the same way that “Hunger,” with its apparent argumentative laziness — although full of vivid insinuations, realistic as its own title — I received the news of the prison sentence. The Cuban narrator, one of those who attained national and international recognition during the last two decades, has merited, not a prize, but the sanction of five years of privation of liberty, as an author, not from a literary text, but from the crimes of house-breaking and assault.

In a recent post (of the few I’ve had the chance of reading), the writer declares himself innocent and attributes the persecution to his political activism. The sentence, handed down by the Peoples’ Provincial Criminal Court, was first given to him on December 6, 2012, and as authorized under the law, his defense attorney filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

In summary, if our highest jurisdictional organ doesn’t overturn the decision, Angel Santiesteban’s days of freedom are numbered. I’m amazed that such a complex story has gone on with a level of suggestion that borders on apathy and muteness.

In fact, information comes to my in-basket (courtesy of some of my contacts) and tells a strikingly crude tale. A writer complains, not when they turn out the lights, not because he is hungry. Estrangement fades and rallies us to perceive emotions from an active angle. Without any humor. “I’m not a trouble-maker or anything,” perhaps the accused character alleges. I don’t know. I can’t make him responsible for the infractions that they say he has committed. I can’t absolve him. I can’t swear to anything: Nothing has been said in the press (of course not — some smart-ass will surely make fun of him — nor did they say anything about the trial of Augustin Bejarano in Miami).

I can only say that I knew Angel Santiesteban, not with the necessary depth to call him a friend; that the bonds of brotherhood brought us close, without bothering to mention now that my Masonic affections don’t show sign of any recuperation. I can also say that I’ve read his work and that, since then, I’ve been a better human being, much more open and sensitive to someone else’s pain. Lastly, I can say that an artist of his stature does not deserve — although crushed by the worst misfortune — that the rest of the night pass in silence, until at dawn (as with the protagonist in “Hunger”) they look for him to reintegrate him into the cell-block.

Throwing a writer in jail is the lowest form of tragedy.

And tragedies never have a happy ending.

Published in: VerCuba

Translated by Regina Anavy 

Translator’s note: Between the original writing of this text and its translation the Supreme Court upheld Angel’s sentence.

January 19 2013

Angel Santiesteban: Dignity cannot be killed nor can it be caged

León enfrenta cocodriloThe majority of human beings share with the animal kingdom a love of liberty and respect for our neighbors. But not everyone, evidently. Because if it were so, dictators wouldn’t exist, nor would other inferior spirits that – reincarnated into despicable henchmen and bullies – execute, literally, human dignity on a daily basis. But dignity is unbeatable, and as many times as they assassinate it, it continues to live.

Cuba under the Castros is part of a lamentable list of states whose governments represent everything they shouldn’t be.

Fortunately those countries also count on intellectuals who are ready to struggle with all their being to end the system that oppresses them.

To be a persecuted politico in Cuba because of defending liberty and dignity, and joining the list of other brothers in the world who also do it, even knowing what they are exposed to, fills me with pride. Dignity cannot be killed nor caged.

My attitude is that of the lion that faces a terrible crocodile.

Let the tyrant know we exist!

Ángel Santistesteban-Prats
Cuban writer

WE COULDN’T GIVE A DAMN, AND IT’S SERIOUS, by Edouard Launet
(Translated from the French)

In Qatar, a trial in Doha has just condemned the poet Ibn al-Dhib to prison for life for having written a poem in which he compares all the Arab countries to Tunisia in the struggle against a despotic elite.

But let’s tell it like it is: This doesn’t mean a thing to anyone.

In Hungary, the writer Peter Esterhazy has been censored by public radio because he criticized the cultural politics of the government of the very conservative prime minister, Viktor Orban, who controls the media.

Let’s be clear: We couldn’t care less.

In Moscow, the writer Edouard Limonov was interrogated on December 31 for trying to participate in a non-authorized gathering: It’s a matter of defending, 24/7, Article 31 of the Constitution, which guarantees free assembly.

Please note: Nobody did a fucking thing.

In China, the Uighur poet, Nurmemet Yasin was tortured and condemned in 2004 to 10 years in prison for having published a story entitled “The Wild Pigeon”, considered a disguised indictment against the authorities.

Let him die! Wait, they did: We just learned that he died in prison in December 2011.

In China again, the dissident poet Li Bifeng, imprisoned since 2011, has just been condemned to 12 years in prison for fraud.

Let this dog rot like the other one, good riddance!

Gérard Depardieu, the talented French actor, is in a tiff with the French government, which wishes to fleece him of his money.

This time the line of scandal has been crossed, and it’s unacceptable.

Because this strongly resembles a political persecution on top of a man-hunt: Gérard simply wanted to profit from his millions, fart in his silk underwear and burp his wine without being bugged by the collective. But they track him, they impose a tax of 75 percent, they force him to flee to Belgium, perhaps even into the Ural Mountains.

One wants to break  out into an argued defense of the tyrannized comedian, but the rage is too strong, the hands tremble, words rush onto the writing paper, and all we manage to write is: “It’s really disgusting.”

But what good does it do to get indignant? Everyone makes fun of him, and Depardieu, like everyone else without a voice, is condemned to undergo the onslaught of insults that a despotic regime has concocted against him.

Let’s have a moving moment of silence for this great reader of Saint Augustin.

Meanwhile, what’s next? The Cuban writer and blogger Angel Santiesteban Prats, who, last month, was condemned by a court in Havana to five years in prison for….house-breaking.

It’s useless to point out that, to us, this is a joke.

With the Saudi writer Turki al-hamad, arrested on December 24 for having spread on Twitter supposed offensive comments about Islam.

We turn a blind eye.

With the journalist and blogger Hamza Kashgari, delivered last year by Malaysia to the Saudi kingdom so he can be tried for blasphemy, following his comments on Twitter that are regarded as insults to the prophet.

We don’t give a shit.

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 24 2013

You can continue reading all the articles of the dossier, “Le cahier Livres de Libé“. Published by Libération.

My "inclined" writing of "suspicious size" published in France.

Cuba stopped being the subject of good news in the world press many decades ago. Day by day, the violations of human rights, the repression and violence of the State, the secretism around the health of the dictators — the retired Fidel Castro and the “active” Hugo Chávez — the political persecutions, arbitrary detentions, religious persecution, the political prisoners and the concentration camps where they keep them in squalor, the epidemics of cholera and dengue, the miserable conditions of life and health are, among other things, many of the misfortunes that those of us who are trapped on the island suffer, the “leit motif” in the newspapers and foreign media. Of course there are always some who are full of flattery for the cruel regime, because business is business. And the truth doesn’t matter to them either, because they live on the outside.

The dictator should have taken note by now that he is his own worst enemy. No one in his right mind and in possession of all his faculties can think — or try to make himself believe — that the problem with Cuba is the embargo and the “imperialism” of the enemy. And it should be assumed that being a dictator makes for bad press everywhere in the world.

He can try to lie and silence the Cubans, but he can’t do it to the rest of the world.

And while I wait for the response to the call to shame about the judicial ruling on a case invented with the purpose of sending me to a concentration camp for five years, alleging that I write with a “certain” inclination, and I design my letters with a “very suspicious size,” in France they praise my literary work; they publish it and they promote it.

IN CUBA, THE WRITER AND BLOGGER ANGEL SANTIESTEBAN IS CONDEMNED TO FIVE YEARS IN PRISON

[Note: this section of the post is from the French newspaper Le Monde, and is translated from the French.]

The harassment of Cuban dissidents by repetitive political interrogations and short-term arrests has increased since Fidel Castro has been replaced by Raul Castro: The writer and blogger Angel Santiesteban Prats, 46, has just been condemned by a court in Havana to five years in prison, for aggravated assault.

Laura in Havana, Stories

Ángel Santiesteban Prats is a recognized author, awarded prizes by Cuban institutions, like the prestigious Casa de las Américas, and foreign ones, like Radio France Internationale.

The writer has created a blog critical of the Cuban government, “The Children Nobody Wanted.”

For the last three years he has been the object of diverse threats and assaults by State security agents, the last one taking place on November 8, in front of a police station in Havana, when he requested information about an independent lawyer detained the night before.

On this occasion he was brutally interrogated, then released after his relatives posted a photo of his bloody shirt on the Internet.

Santiesteban Prats was judged by the Diez de Octubre neighborhood court, in Havana, on October 29, but the sentence was not known until this week-end, when it reverberated throughout the Cuban blogosphere. Unable to charge him for his dissident activity, the authorities invoked common law charges, most of which were dismissed by the court. The writer expected to be absolved, before his brutal interrogation of November 8. He announced his intention to appeal the ruling.

Angel Santiesteban Prats (born in Havana, 1966), had been awarded the Juan Rulfo Prize by Radio France Internationale in 1989, the prize given by the National Union of Writers and Artists in Cuba (UNEAC) in 1995 (for his work “Dream of a Summer Day,” about the dramatic experiences of Cubans in the war in Angola), the Alejo Carpentier Prize from the Cuban Institute of the Book in 2001, and the Casa de las Americas Prize in 2006 for his collection of short stores, “Happy are Those who Mourn.”

L’atinoir is publishing the French translation of the stories of “Laura in Havana” (134 pages, 14 euros), available in bookstores beginning December 17.

Published by Le Monde, December 9, 2012

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 24 2013

Kafkaesque Chronology in the Island Utopia

1359151216_Angel-Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban

By Wichy García Fuentes  | Originally appeared in  Revista Replicante

A Cuban writer has just been sentenced to five years in jail for a crime he never committed. He has just been sent again to the galleys for that bad obsession that some have to wish that a hundred, fifty, ten, five or one person should have the same right to think and choose as the other millions of Cubans.

It was ten years ago that Ángel Santiesteban appeared at the International Book Festival of Guadalajara, where he was taken by the Cuban cultural authorities after winning the Alejo Carpentier Prize for his compilation of the stories The Children Nobody Wanted.

Ten years ago Ángel Santiesteban dared to be the discordant voice in a delegation which, on being asked constantly by university students about the human rights situation in Cuba, could only repeat the Fidelist refrains which, for half a century, have accused anybody with his own ideas of being “an imperialist mercenary”, and, not being able to tolerate this, that brilliant narrator born in 1968 said publicly that “a hundred, fifty, ten, five or one person have the same rights to think and choose as the other millions of Cubans”,  receiving the applause of the young audience, an applause which greatly irritated the government representatives at the FIL (International Book Festival), and with the result that for the rest of the event, they deliberately detached themselves, without trying to hide the fact, from the programmed activities.

Ángel Santiesteban had received the Carpentier Prize, after obvious skirmishes with the Casa de las Americas, which he finally gained after two attempts in which the jury came under pressure from the authorities to put him to one side to make room for others — on those two occasions (1992 and 1994) the winners were, according to Amir Valle, “two of the weakest books to gain prizes in the history of that competition in the story category” — and although by 1995 he was able to win the UNEAC (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba) prize and the Carpentier in the 2001 competition, it was only in 2006 that he was recognised by the Casa de las Americas, in a half-hearted recognition, which was not free from pressure on the jury, and which hardly allowed him to enjoy the controlled publication of Happy are those who mourn.

Nevertheless, his books, mostly published with a mediocre presentation, immediately sold out in the Book Fairs in Havana. They flew off into the eager hands of the same readers who left the most officially-favored volumes to gather dust on the bookshelves.

Ángel Santiesteban had already suffered imprisonment. Although absolved after a tribunal recognised that there had been no crime in seeing off his sister on the coast – she illegally left the island – he just the same had to suffer fourteen months in jail before it was recognised he was innocent of the supposed crime of a “cover-up.” From that experience emerged literature, translation into the written word of the hunger and inhumane treatment in the Cuban prisons.

But the NeoStalinist regime could not permit what happened next. Ángel, who had already made clear his ethical line on officialism, opted to write his opinions and to publish them in the nascent independent Cuban blogosphere. An old friend, the poet Camilo Vanegas, instructed him in internet avatars and Blogspot. Like a good Cuban, half-literate in 2.0, he hit the net and brought out the blog The Children Nobody Wanted, taming the limitations of connectivity on the island and posting whenever he could his written criticisms, his truths and his explicit risk.

At the end of 2011 Ángel had a legal process to face, a Kafkaesque mechanism with the intention of seeking to sentence him to fifty years for alleged crimes of rape, robbery, attempted homicide, threats, harassment, injuries, and running over a child on the public highway. All of this in a very badly written script in which his ex-wife banded together with an official of the political police in order to cause him the greatest possible damage.

The false evidence was falling apart little by little and only terminating at the end of 2012 — and after the writer and other peaceful activists were brutally detained opposite an office of the State Security in Havana, beaten up and locked up for several days — the dreadful process started up again and Ángel Santiesteban, once again without evidence and with sufficient witnesses in his favor, is brought before the “revolutionary tribunals” and sentenced to five years prison for the shamelessly fabricated offences of housebreaking and injury.”

He isn’t, by a long way, the first Cuban to be stitched up by false accusations, clumsily put together by the Castro dictatorship. Many others have been systematically discredited by official publicity, sent to jail on unlawful charges, but until recently the dissent moved compulsively into areas of physical protest, with little thought of philosophy or sociological analysis.

Ángel, in his role of prestigious storyteller, joined in the debates that another intellectual, Antonio G. Rodiles, had arranged in his house. Estado de Sats refers to that space for integration, conceptualisation, civic projection, which is so much-needed by the new generation to share their differing thoughts.

The government has not been able to show a relationship, even superficially, with the CIA or with the United States Interests Section in Cuba. It hasn’t been able to find a way to demonstrate “imperialist mercenary”, so as to impose an unofficial punishment. The false accusation of aggravated crimes could be the answer, since among so many alleged crimes something is likely to work. And it worked.

A Cuban writer has just been sentenced to five years in jail for a crime he never committed. He has just been sent again to the galleys for that bad obsession that some have to wish that a hundred, fifty, ten, five or one person should have the same right to think and choose as the other millions of Cubans.

Young university students applauded Ángel Santiesteban Prats ten years ago at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara. Today, the writer needs them, and the Mexican intellectuals who can still distinguish between the revolutionary utopia and the decadent obstinacy of a totalitarian regime which cons all of us equally.

Given that the media and the limited virtual network in Cuba remain under the strict control of his captors, Ángel Santiesteban needs international help, needs the solidarity of his colleagues and as many decent people as can join together in the social media to demand his freedom.  ®

Published by Revista Replicante

 Translated by GH

January 25 2013

Santiesteban: The Fundamentals of Law and Reasonable Doubt

1359244819_6-vallin_21Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

The case of the honored and prize-winning writer Angel Santiesteban Prats has been appealed to the Supreme Court by his defense attorney, using the right to appeal to the highest court in the land.

In a previous post I analyzed the facts that were present in the case and now I will do the same with the law that, in my opinion, is also involved in this controversial issue.

First of all, let me start with what has been called the principle of immediacy. This principle refers to the time that may elapse between the events and the trial and essentially proposes that this time should be as short as possible.

When so much time has elapsed between the events that are going to be addressed in the trial and the holding of that trial  (as in the present case because between the events and the trial it was more three years), the passage of time can:

  • Distort memories, erase details, change impressions;
  • Lead to the absence of important witnesses for one reason or another;
  • Other undesirable and disruptive elements of objectivity, truthfulness and accuracy that in a case of this nature should be avoided.

Moreover, article 70 paragraph 4 of the Criminal Procedure Act reads: “When not expressed clearly and strictly in the judgment, the facts are considered proven, or there a manifest contradiction between them.”

And this is the case with Santiesteban: there was a contradiction in the facts given by the court and proved by other evidence presented at the trial and the testimony of several witnesses. Also there is a lack of clarity because of “the omission of essential elements legal significance.”

To add another legal element (I could add others), I will refer to Article 350 of the Criminal Procedure Act itself when it says:

“If some element or circumstance has been omitted that, without substantially altering the facts, can affect the classification of the crime, or if an error has been committed regarding this or the degree of participation of the accused or the aggravating circumstances of criminal responsibility … “

The judgment requires compliance with this article, but the formalities have not been observed.

A final detail (for reasons of space):

The Provincial Court itself recognizes in its judgments the personal merit and prizes awarded to Santiesteban. Moreover Instruction 175 of 21 July 2004 the Governing Council of the People’s Supreme Court directs, when the penalty of imprisonment does not exceed five years, such a penalty can be replaced with one that does not involve incarceration.

However, for Ángel Santiesteban the sanction does not refer to these substitutions, leaving jail as the only option.

Is there some special problem with Santiesteban that has been ignored in this trial?

Cuban Law Association

January 26 2013

The Crime of Angel Santiesteban

Felix Luis Viera, Mexico City

Felix Luis Viera, Mexico City

Felix Luis Veira: “I believe what Santiesteban says, not what a dictatorship says or might say, a dictatorship that maintains silence on this sentence before the residents in Cuba.”

One of the most outstanding storytellers in the literature of the Island in recent times has been sentenced to five years in prison.

By Felix Luis Viera

The Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban, one of the most outstanding storytellers in the literature of the Island in recent times, has been sentenced to five years in prison.

His offense: “housebreaking and injury.”

However, the condemned himself said that “No court sentenced me: State Security sentenced me for opening a blog and being a government opponent.” He adds that the case against him for alleged crimes began about three and a half years after he “got sick of continuing to wear a mask” and opened an independent blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, from which he has been publishing the truth about the current state of Cuban culture and society.

So, he was successively accused of running over a child and absconding, rape, armed robbery, attempted murder and injuries, charges that later were not sustained. The writer says that the with regards to the two offenses for which he was finally prosecuted, seven people testified that he was not at the scene of the event in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, but in the distant town of Diez de Octubre, studying with a lodge brother who had an exam for Master Mason.

I believe what Santiesteban says, not what a dictatorship says or might say, a dictatorship that maintains silence on this sentence before the residents in Cuba. I also believe in what he says because the offender has proven to be a brave man, who had earlier said that he would not pay even “a fine of five dollars,” but that in this case he would go to jail because he is innocent.

On November 8 Santiesteban was severely beaten by the Castro hordes when he and a small group of activists went to inquire about the situation of the regime opponent  Antonio G. Rodiles, at the police station where he had been arrested in Havana. As a result of the beatings, the writer was left with damaged ribs and a considerable wound in his head, among other injuries. Subsequently he was locked in a cell from which he was released days later, interestingly, when a photograph of the shirt — now bloodied — that he had been wearing when attacked began to circulate through social networks. While in the brig, Santiesteban had declared a hunger strike.

I think to remove certain mystery that covers why the accusation, Ángel Santiesteban, who still has time to do so before going to serve the sentence (which is being appealed), should tell the story a little more about the facts alleged against him and which led to the penalty. Although, as I said before, I, and many others, believe in his innocence. And we believe that the dictatorship is trying to silence in this way a voice that has made them uncomfortable in recent times.

In these cases, one thinks we should ask the writers living in Cuba for solidarity for an honest, brave, selfless compatriot. But the writers on the island who could be in solidarity with their colleague do not have access to this information, since it does not suit the dictatorship for them to know it and they do not have Internet access.

Moreover, it makes no sense to ask for solidarity from is other colleagues, that minority who do have Internet access. Because of this minority, most of them have sold out to the Castro regime so long as they publish their books, they get to travel, they get medals and diplomas; that is, they enjoy the high privileges that make them say, as the great vassal Miguel Barnet said recently, “It is a privilege to live in Cuba.”

To Ángel Santiesteban who has been tried for crimes of a “housebreaking and injury.” However, to those who brutally beat him, who locked him in a cell for several days, where he was humiliated with gestures and words, they will not be held accountable, although they live under the same Penal Code.

What happened with this Cuban writer could be the start of an escalation of the dictatorship, as happened in 2003, when 75 dissident journalists were sentenced to long prison terms and three men who did not deserve death were sentenced to it. I only say this to give an example.

© cubaencuentro.com

January 27 2013

The Metamorphosis of a Butterfly into a Worm as Staged in the Court Theater of the Castros

se-buscaIntellectual Repression in Cuba

How to Convert the Writer Ángel Santiesteban from Butterfly to Worm
by Amir Valle

Wanted: Angel Santiesteban – Taken from Rodrigo Kuang’s Blog

In Number 3 of this magazine, in my personal column, I wrote about an issue I was very curious about then: how the political regime that prevails in Cuba changed the “category” of intellectuals, and changed them from “the great glories of letters” to “the mediocre chattering class,” as if the bad idea occurred to them to have opinions or thoughts different from “the established” by the “moral” imposed by the rulers.

He said then: “All the roads, as a certain phrase said, lead to the Cuban Revolution (and in the area of its influence in the process of this metamorphosis we could talk about the step from worm to butterfly, or vice versa, it will depend on how the little creature behaves with respect to this supposedly most significant environment in human history which is a Revolution).

Under this influence, in recent decades, we witnessed a group of metamorphoses, each more astonishing than the last: the butterfly Raúl Rivero turned into a drunk worm who couldn’t write “even a single line of good poetry” according to the Minister’s words.

The worm Lino Novás Calvo went back to being a brilliant butterfly (someone who returned to the island dried out and pinned to a board after his death). The butterfly Jesus Diaz transformed into the most horrible worm Cuban eyes had ever seen, before whose death the joy shattered (again, according to the Minister, I’m a witness).

The worm Edmundo Desnoes was deranged into a butterfly who wanted to nostalgically pose his colorful old skeleton in the rickety skeleton of the Revolution.

The butter Manuel Díaz Martínez turned into a caterpillar “full of anger and frustration,” according to a writer and ex-president of the Cuban Book Institute. “The detestable worm” Virgilio Piñera reemerged as graceful moth that can be exposed internationally, and proudly (!) mind you (!) among the laurels of revolutionary literature.

The list is rather long. So complex, it would break the head of the most enlightened experts on metamorphosis. And curiously (something that would give many scientists a lot to think about) where usually the conversion of worms to butterflies is increasingly rare and the transformation of butterflies to worms is ever more common.”

Right now, what they call “government” in Havana has decided to convert, again, a famous writer into a “vile worm working in service to the Empire.”

Ángel Santiesteban, a writer who was cited by the officialdom of Cuban culture as “one of the great storytellers who emerged in the Revolutionary period,” is now the latest victim of this Kafkaesque metamorphosis (as we know, typical in the socialist regimes which have hitherto existed in this Blue Planet) that tries to forget his intellectual trajectory, unjustly accusing him of invented crimes so as to sentence him to 15 years in prison and attempt to silence his voice.

A voice is heard with great interest in much of the world since he decided to assume the act of writing freely and began to publish in his blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, a very critical view of the national disaster to which our politicians have condemned our island.

The prosecutor called in his lawyer and told him the request for sentence: 54 years to be reduced to a term of 15 years served concurrently. And they used a spiteful ex-wife, a witness with mental disorders, who even confessed on a video recorded by the writer that the government had bribed her to testify.

The greatest “sin” of Ángel Santiesteban, it’s obvious, is not having said what he thinks about the disaster invented by Fidel Castro and now prolonged by his brother Raul. The “sin” is to have launched himself against the institution that keeps Cuban dictators in power: State Security.

Others have taken on the same cross, but only when they have left behind the bars of the island prison that is Cuba today. But Ángel Santiesteban has done it from within the Island, face to face, and has started by something many of us Cuban writers experienced first hand: how police tried to convert us into political informers on our own colleagues, brothers and comrades of letters and culture.

So we decided to bring this denunciation to these pages, which has been published by various media recently, especially thanking the contributions of Isbel Alba, Rodrigo Kuang, Cubancuentro, Café Fuerte and Diario de Cuba.

It is one of the most direct ways we have found to bring the truth to our readers: intellectuals, academics, writers, journalists and researchers of culture.

Published by Otro Lunes

January 27 2013

Invented Charges and Other Judicial Crimes

My lawyer has already filed an appeal which is available for reading in my blog.

This appeal details each and every one of the violations of law committed by the same Justice that has condemned me for “writing with a ’certain’ bias, and drawing letters of a very suspicious size.”

The Justice that seeks put me in a cage is the same one which — a month before failing to prove my “guilt” and condemning me to five years — send the agent Camilo after me to harass, threaten and warn me that I had already been sentenced, a month before the Court issued its judgment.

A process with no guarantees where they invent accusations and dictate a priori judgment. Agent Camilo is so happy in his role as henchman stalker that he does not cease in his efforts to persecute and threaten me, as I showed in a couple of videos.

Again I appeal to international public opinion to denounce the abuses suffered in Cuba by all those who profess no idolatry to the dictator and his criminal system of government.

Translator’s note: Apologies for not having subtitles for the video

January 18 2013

Let me be clear: If “something” happens to me there is no way it will be an “accident”

The most serious offense a citizen in Cuba can commit is to want their country to be free and democratic, but even worse is speaking out against the criminal dictatorship that has governed us for 53 years. And in my case, the catalog of “crimes” that calligraphically crowned writing with “a certain” tilt and drawing the letters of a very suspicious size, if anyone still had any doubts, are those that are now taking me to one of Castro’s concentration camp if someone does not stop this barbarism.

The sentence of five years in prison for alleged crimes of domestic rape and injury, was anticipated in my case by an agent of State Security when I was severely beaten and then arrested along with other colleagues who were demanding the release of Antonio Rodiles at Aguilera police station, in the Lawton neighborhood on November 8 last year.

Agent Camilo, in his “infinite benevolence,” asked if I wasn’t satisfied with the five years in prison that they were already going to throw at me because of the alleged “common” case.

Agent Camilo

Agent Camilo

Agent Camilo

The court didn’t sentence me: I was condemned by State Security for opening a blog and being a government opponent.

A low-level “secret” agent, who’s nothing more than a thug from the slums, knew my sentence before the Court pronounced it. Does anyone in their right mind call that Justice?

In a country whose government was kidnapped five decades ago by a bunch of shameless and corrupt criminals who call themselves “Communists” and who share everything within the dynasty as if it were a satrapy, no one can think for a second that Justice exists there. What exists is “Castro justice,” i.e. the power of the state and, in service to the same, regulating and administering punishments and vengeance as decided on by the political power under the exclusive mandate of the tyrant Castro II.

On that occasion I was released after a video made it out of Cuba showing the operation against me, along with a photo of the shirt I was wearing, which together became irrefutable evidence that the Cuban political police violently repressed me. With this proof circulating all over the world they couldn’t continue to keep me caged.

[Below: Screenshots labeled "Them beating Angel Santiesteban"]

After being released and pending the sentence the appeal of the which is now in process, the harassment and persecution of me by State Security did not cease. The same agent Camilo who they entrusted to spy on me, pursue me and harass me. On December 15th I finally managed to get proof it was immortalized here. In these shots agent Camilo in the green car is driving himself and making a threatening gesture:

Agent Camilo in green car.

Agent Camilo in green car.

Agent Camilo making a threatening gesture.

The white car is the one accompanying agent Camilo on the “mission.”

The white car accompanies Camilo on his mission to follow me.

With the evidence presented here, I want to state that if something happens to me, if I have a traffic “accident” or die of a “strange virus” or in any other strange circumstance, it will be a murder ordered by dictator Raul Castro who wants me out of the picture at any cost.

Ángel Santistesteban-Prats
Cuban writer

January 15 2013