Author Archives: Auto Post

Communication About the Prison Situation of Angel Santiesteban

Inexact information published in recent days with respect to the true state of Angel Santiesteban created information and confusion and has been spread on the Internet, causing concern to those in many countries of the world who are concerned about the unjust imprisonment of this writer.

For him, after confirmation with family sources and others close to the writer, we want to offer the only information at our disposal.

Angel Santiesteban is in a prison in Jaimanitas, in a cell, alone, with the guard at the door all the time. They allow him out of the cell every three days and let him make a phone call. In principal, he can receive visits every 21 days.

The editor

Please sign the link to request Amnesty International to recognize Angel as a prisoner of conscience.

Spanish post
25 August 2014

Angel Santiesteban and the Path of the Fugitive

By Armando Añel, July 30, 2014

The confused news that comes from Havana indicates that either Angel Santiesteban ran away from the prison-settlement where he was unjustly imprisoned or the political police have launched a fabrication to condemn him to a longer term of imprisonment and keep him isolated.

In any case, we must wait for specific statements from the novelist and blogger. Today we know that his children saw him in prison but they couldn’t speak freely with him: a member of State Security was with them the whole minuscule time they were with their father.

I don’t believe it, but if Santiesteban effectively took the decision to flee — in spite of the fact that, as his sister Maria de los Angeles Santiesteban said, at another time he could have remained in the exterior without major inconvenience and he didn’t do so — I congratulate him.

Begging pardon from friends and colleagues who disagree, one never should surrender to a delinquent regime. In Cuba no procedural guarantee exists, and we all know the degree of superlative helplessness that the citizenry suffers. A product that the Castro regime has exported to countries like Venezuela, where the case of Leopoldo Lopez shows that these gestures of chivalry are counterproductive in societies hijacked by the State.

I chatted with Idabell Rosales for a moment. Santiesteban never should go into prison voluntarily. Not only because of the rigged trial that he suffered previously and that made his sentence absolutely unjust, but also because in countries like Cuba all the gear of social coexistence, of daily structure, is flawed in advance and twists the logic of personal relations.

During these last months, in the face of the campaign for his freedom, he saw with clarity the degree of vilification by the Cuban intellectual class not only on the Island or among the pro-Castro creators, but also in the exterior and in a part of the media-oriented dissidence that he says “laments” his detention but travels half the world without advocating for his freedom.

To live in Cuba is to surrender to a darkly surrealist reality, and to yield to the jailers of the country as he did in 2013, seemed to me and seems to me to be doubly absurd. Fugitives don’t hand themselves over. But I respect, scrupulously, the author of The Summer God Slept and those who defend that type of attitude, brave like very few. It appears that God continues to sleep. Although, as Carlos Alberto Montaner said, we also know that He will wake up.

Published in NeoClub Press.

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience. Follow the link to sign the petition.

Translated by Regina Anavy

S.O.S.: Angel Santiesteban Transferred and His Whereabouts Unknown

Since yesterday, July 21, Angel Santiesteban Prats is in an unknown location.  I will now relate the events that preceded this new arbitrariness on the part of Cuban State Security.

Joining him in his helplessness is his younger son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban Rodriguez, 16 years old, the son of Angel and the woman who plotted against him with State Security in order to incarcerate him.

The youth — once old enough to escape from the clutches of his mother — asked to tell the truth about what had happened and how he was manipulated by her and by the Castro regime State Security to testify against his father.  Here is the link to his statements.

Obviously, we are very worried about the fate that may await the boy, for we already know through Angel’s own experience that no apologies are made for harassing and incarcerating minors.  In fact, Angel learned the drama of prison at 17 when he was jailed for saying goodbye to his three older brothers who were planning to leave the Island on a boat.  The escape was thwarted, the three “deserters” were captured, along with the youngest (Angel) for “harboring” them.  After a year and a half of incarceration, he was freed because saying goodbye to his brothers was deemed “not a crime.”

But no one gave him back the lost time and the hard experience he lived through, which — justifiably — became prime material for his prizewinning literature widely regarded for its unflinching realism and strong condemnation of the penitentiary system, among other condemnations.  Angel has already well-explained how the Regime endured this literature without taking much action, awaiting the opportunity to attack him directly, which happened in 2008 by opening the blog and publicizing everything that was of the public domain.

Now the son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban Rodriguez,  worthy seed of a valiant one such as Angel, runs grave risk of going through what his father did, or even worse. Eduardo Angel already has told what State Security did in collusion with his mother, Kenia Rodriguez Diley.

With regard to Angel’s own situation, the Regime continues to punish him for his upright position against it, and does not back down in its efforts to complicate all the judicial interventions to which he has a right by law.  The objective is to eventually water down his claims because they do NOT have any argument that can sustain all the false accusations hanging over him, now that his own son told the truth, unmasking the dictatorship’s judicial farce.

Angel declared on the blog:

“My family has just, coincidentally, found out that the Review Department has sent a letter to my lawyer Lourdes Arzua, who substitutes for Amelia Rodriguez, who was cut from service for six months, where they informed her that I have asked not to have legal representation, which is completely false.  I suppose that the “misunderstanding” is due to my call to that Department, in order to find out if the file had arrived in their hands, after the tribunal denied the number and my name matched.  My lawyer appeared in order to clarify that the number and my name were correct.  Although it appeared a joke, because that number — 444 — was that of a police serial that in 2012 was shown on Cuban television.  I suppose it has to do with some joke that the bosses played with my case.

I was assisted in the call by Chief Oslaydi, who has just been ousted, perhaps for assuring me that she “would correct it and that she would pass the verdict to the Ministry of Justice, which was who, definitively, would determine what measure to take in my case.”  The last time that I spoke with her, her affable and polite manner had changed.  Her behavior was coarse.  I supposed that she had already been visited by State Security officials, and they dictated to her what to write in my case, just as they did with the tribunal that “judged” me, then on Appeal and now on Review.

I always say, I am not naive, that the procedures to restore justice in my case are not for the government to straighten out, because they have never done it, they have never recognized an error, the “Revolution” is not mistaken, thus, its governors are perfect; complaints are made in order to continue sliming people and one day the truth may be known.  Justice demands it because that is our reason for being, what has us jailed, therefore, we must continue forcing them to grow their institutional evil, which they do by refusing to accept the truth as justice.

For my file to arrive at the Review Department more than a year has passed, when normally, and according to their laws, it should take no more than three months to issue an answer.  Once they had to accept the Review, six months from the filing, they invalidated my lawyer Amelia Rodriguez; now they send a letter to the office in a new effort to invalidate my representative and, as in the “trial,” leave me once more “legally defenseless,” as attorney Miguel Iturria, who was my defender then, recognized.

In recent days my lawyer inquired about the course of the file, and they informed her that a document “of the cause” is missing, which the tribunal must present; which contradicts what the ex-chief told me, that the file had already been delivered to a specialist who was working on his exhausting review.

All this foolishness by State Security, I feel it like the kicking of the hanged man.  If they thought that once I was incarcerated they were going to sap my strength, I cannot think anything other than that they calculated this as if they themselves were in my place, but in my case, my strength to fight for the liberty of my country has increased.”

The day after denouncing this new judicial hoax, he declared:

In the most extreme example of “the secretiveness of the State,” State Security is preparing my transfer to a border patrol unit.”

For days now a rumor has been circulating that is now taken as fact, given that the prison authorities await my transfer to be completed so that they can transport a Minister and a Vice-Minister of Construction who are serving sentences for “diversion of resources”.  There is no way that officials will allow these prisoners to coincide with me, fearing that I will obtain information from them and later divulge it on my blog. 

Following the escape of a prisoner and his arrival on the coast of Miami, State Security ordered a reinforcement of the surveillance being conducted on me. They established a 24-hour command post and they’re watching every move I make within the settlement.

A few minutes ago, they just ordered some bars to be soldered to secure the place where they will take me, and they said these had to be in place before tomorrow at the aforementioned border patrol unit.

Evidently, they will keep me there more watched and isolated. Thus begins another chapter in this journey of injustice, all for my my dangerous crime of thinking differently.

I reaffirm that I have more strength than on the first day of my incarceration. It is an honor that they commit these extreme acts against me, for exercising the faculty of thinking and expressing my opposition to the dictatorial regime that has been subjugating our country for more than half a century. Meanwhile, they tolerate murderers, drug traffickers and rapists, barely even harassing or watching them, as they do in my case.

Long live live Cuba, and may She Live Free.

 Sunday, June 20, 2014. Lawton Prison Settlement, 10:30pm. 

 The rumor became a reality

Ángel was transported yesterday, illegally, without his next of kin being notified nor him being permitted to make a telephone call. Since then, he has been held at an unknown location.

The recent confession by Ángel’s son regarding his father’s innocence, and the fact that just a year ago (2 August, 2013), Ángel was transported illegally and arbitrarily, without his family knowing, to the settlement where he currently resides — and that he was held for four days at a location unknown until his relatives investigated the matter outside of official channels, causes us to think that this time the punishment could be more severe.

The sadism of this Regime is enormous, and they are hitting him where it hurts the most: his son. Evidently they’re trying to punish the father for the courage shown by his son, isolate him even more, and prevent him from continuing to denounce to the world the reality of how it is with him and with Cuba.

Now, we are not speaking solely of accusations the human rights of an adult who committed to the liberty of his country. We are now dealing with a grave violation of the rights of the child during the Kafkaesque proceedings visited upon the father. They used the child as cannon fodder to falsely incriminate a dissident courageous enough to call Raúl Castro a dictator. Now, this child become an adolescent – who has provided a tremendous lesson in courage and honesty to the world – is at the mercy of State Security and its sadistic system for punishing those who dare express themselves freely. The boy’s helplessness is further increased by his father being not only encarcerated, but in a unknown location.

It is not an exaggeration to sound an international alert in support of Ángel and Eduardo Ángel. It is enough to witness the numerous cases publicized by the media regarding the abuses and punishments of the children of dissidents, including their incarceration. One such is the case of the three Alexei brothers, Vianco and Django Vargas Martín , who were jailed starting in late 2012, when the twins Vianco and Django were only 16 years old. They are the children of the dissident Miraida Martín Calderín, a member of the UNPACU [Patriotic Union of Cuba] and the Ladies in White. There is the case of an eight-year-old girl, Yanisleidis Olivier Reve’, daughter of Damaris Rodríguez Revé, member of the Ladies in White, who was held back a grade in school because of her mother’s activism.

From this post I call upon the international community to support Angel and his son, and I emphasize, once again, that the life and health of both are the exclusive responsibility of Raúl Castro. The world is watching and there is no longer any hiding it, even less in the sham accusations against Ángel, ripped apart by a mere boy.

 –The Editor

Translated by mlk and Alicia Barraqué Ellison 

22 July 2014

Leopoldo Lopez and Angel Santiesteban: Two Lives and One Destiny

If we paused to observe Leopoldo Lopez and Angel Santiesteban-Prats for one moment, we see two very different physical types. One is very slim, the other sturdy. One is a lawyer, the other a writer. One is Venezuelan, the other Cuban; both are the father of a girl and a boy. Both share the same gift: a great charisma accompanied by enormous generosity, and a desire to change the difficult reality of their countries: Leopoldo, from his active political participation, and Angel, through his civic opinion passed through his books and writings, with the cutting edge of the truthful word.

Beyond the similarities and differences, they appear to be cut from the same cloth. It is hard to find such men with such composure to dare tell two dictators — Cuban and Venezuelan — calling things clearly by their name and speaking directly, without euphemisms. Angel and Leopoldo did this and they continue to do it. For this reason, they both also share the terrible situation of being political prisoners of these two regimes brought together by the greed and evil of their rulers.

This week, Leopoldo has been a victim of a “violent requisition,” the same way that Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano, opposition mayors dismissed and imprisoned for designs of political power, using an “armed wing”: a justice that is corrupt and sold.

When we read the news about what is going on in Venezuela, we have to assure ourselves that we are reading news about Venezuela because, really, it appears copied from the news that independent journalists bring us in Cuba.

This week, Angel Santiesteban has been transferred in an illegal manner from the prison he had been in, a military facility in Lawton, Havana. Today is the sixth day of anguish and desperation without having received any news. This week we have also heard about how violence against those in the Venezuelan opposition is intensifying and how, not being satisfied with locking them up, the authorities enjoy punishing them with the same sadism of the Castro regime.

Angel already expressed his solidarity with Leopoldo Lopez in an open letter; today, Angel’s whereabouts remain unknown and isolated, probably tortured, and is oblivious to what is happening right now with Leopoldo. However, knowing full well Angel’s sentiments, from here we send all his solidarity in his name and in my own name, because I know that in the difficult moment he is going through, this is what he would have written in a new post.

And of course, our deepest affection to Lilian Tintori and her children. She, like the dignified Ladies in White of Cuba, exalts the word love.

I share here the brave letter that Leopoldo sent to his compatriots. In this letter one can see how – same as in the case of Angel – Maduro’s regime actually ends up strengthening Leopoldo. Without a doubt, as long as men like this exist, the liberty and peace of Venezuela and Cuba will arrive soon.

The Editor

Letter from Leopoldo Lopex Mendoza: I Accuse the Venezuelan Dictatorship

I have been politically persecuted under the “Chavista” regime for more than ten years. There have been more than 20 proceedings, political trials, homicide attempts dully reported and never resolved, moral assassination on behalf of the means of communication of the State and two political disqualifications, despite obtaining a favorable sentencing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the violation of my rights and in defense of my political participation.

For over a year, beginning in January of 2013, Nicolas Maduro publicly expressed, on national radio and television channels, his desire to put me in prison for the opinions issued against his government. It was in this context of permanent persecution and explicit threats made by Maduro that an order for my arrest was made on February 12 of this year.

I am in prison for denouncing the Venezuelan state as corrupt, inefficient, repressive, and anti-democratic. I am in prison for denouncing in a loud voice that in Venezuela there is no democracy, that public authority has been kidnapped by a corrupt elite, inefficient and anti-democratic, responsible for the serious social, economic, and political crisis that all Venezuelans suffer from today.

I am in prison for having denounced that in Venezuela we live in a dictatorship.

I am in prison for having proposed a profound change that can occur by replacing those that are in charge of all public authorities. I am in prison for having solicited the resignation or replacement of Nicolas Maduro as President of Venezuela through constitutional means.

I am in prison for having made a call to the Venezuelan people to go out to the streets to protest, making use of our historic and constitutional right of protest, until obtaining a political change that would guarantee peace, well-being, and progress for all Venezuelans.

I am in prison for having put forth ideas, opinions, and proposals that today a majority of Venezuelans share, who since their indignation have asked for a profound change that will set the nation on the right path.

I am physically in prison, they keep me isolated and with severe restrictions on visitors, but now or never will they be able to imprison my absolute conviction that we have the right and the duty to struggle to obtain democracy and liberty for Venezuela.

Thank God that I am not alone in these ideas, we are millions, we are in the majority, those of us who are willing to struggle for a change toward democracy. They might be able to imprison me and thousands more but will never be able to imprison the spirit of struggle that, with the young people at the vanguard, today runs through the streets of the towns, neighborhoods, and cities throughout the country.

Venezuela has already decided to change, therefore, my imprisonment and that of others is nothing but the face of a dictatorship that daily becomes weaker and weaker and has less popular support, that intends to stay in power by repressing, silencing critical voices, and criminalizing protest.

The accusation against me, based off of several speeches that I made between January 23 and February 12, has as it best defense the very speeches, read or seen from beginning to end, without edit or any form of manipulation. In these speeches, based on a critical analysis of the present crisis, I proposed a way out, a definitive political change, activated from the streets with nonviolent actions and embodied by a popular call to one of the four alternatives that the Constitution offers to bring about a change of government.

On January 23 we made a call to awaken our conscience, to lift the optimist spirit of the Venezuelan people, convinced that we can have a better Venezuela. A call to go out to the streets made on the anniversary of January 23, 1958, celebrated by the government and the opposition, is the date on which the Venezuelan people rose up against the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez.

On that day we had the celebration, February 2, of Popular Assemblies throughout Venezuela to discuss all of our options for overcoming the social, economic, and political crisis that we are now in.

On February 2, hundreds of gatherings were held throughout Venezuela, some big, some small, some in plazas, others in houses or  on the streets. At these gatherings, many different organizations, people, and parties with different proposals participated.

The conclusion was to commit to peaceful protests out on the streets for a better country, choosing February 12 as the date on which we would organize our first protest.

In that opportunity I said: “These struggles, sisters, brothers, have to have a clear direction and methodology based on nonviolence. Nonviolence has been the most effective method of struggle that oppressed peoples have created. Nonviolence does not mean passivity, nonviolence does not mean to hang one’s head low, nonviolence does not mean retreat. Nonviolence is to not have fear, it means to challenge, nonviolence means to be out on the streets, nonviolence means having a state of conscience where we do not allow manipulation.”

On February 12, as we had summoned, thousands of people came out to the streets in all of Venezuela. In Caracas, the protest began in Plaza Venezuela. From there we marched toward the headquarters of the Public Prosecutor’s office, just as we had notified the authorities. There we protested, in peace and without violence, for more than two hours, and we then left in peace. The violent acts occurred after our departure and in those, Nicolas Maduro’s government is to be held accountable.

Certainly, what calls the most attention with respect to the narrative of the facts by the government in its indictment against me is that they completely omit the most relevant act that occurred on that day: the murder of two Venezuelan citizens, Juan Montoya and Bassil Da Costa, executed by officials of the political police of the government. The government also remains silent about the fact that since that day, 42 Venezuelans have been murdered in the street protests, that thousands have been detained and subject to trial, and that more than one hundred are still deprived of their liberty for exercising their constitutional right to protest.

In my case, I have nothing that I have to rectify in word or deed. If it is a crime to denounce corruption, inefficiency, the loss of liberties and the anti-democratic calling of those who govern, I assume my responsibility. I further declare myself responsible for having summoned the protests in the streets with the intention of going out to conquer democracy and liberty for all Venezuelans.

I am innocent from the charges that they level against me, but I do not expect anything from a justice system composed of courts, a Public Prosecutor, and an Ombudsman highly corrupted, hijacked, and manipulated by the government of Nicolas Maduro. I am, along with hundreds of companions, a political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience.

Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza, Ramo Verde Prison. Los Teques, Venezuela

For complete information about repression in Venezuela: http://www.accionporlalibertad.com

Please sign so that Amnesty International declares the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

26 July 2014

Are Anguish, Bitterness and Loneliness Only Names of Havana Streets; / Angel Santiesteban

A voyage to the end of all things.

By Antonio Correa Iglesias, June 6, 2014

Angustia (Anguish), Amargura (Bitterness) and Soledad (Loneliness) are not only names of Havana streets. They also are discovered feelings that seize and condition that which we call Cuba, the infinite island, which Abilion Estevez and Virgilio Pinera call the fate of being cursed, a portion of earth that floats in the sea, a sea that is the beginning and end of everything, where weightlessness and drifting are forms of keeping afloat.

But the island is also longing and folly, desire and debauchery, hatred for those who have made Cuba a prison of 111,111 square kilometers, as Reinaldo Arenas reminds us in his Leprosorio. The island and its agony accompany us each morning when we prepare coffee, a coffee which reminds us where we came from, and by those smoky silhouettes of a woman we remembered the amazing knitting grandmother who  helped the homesick and the spoiled greet the dawn. How Cuba hurts, and hurts much more when we find in a literary exercise a daily reality like that which Angel Santiesteban Prats describes for us in a clear and visceral voice.

The Summer When God Slept (Neo Club Editions), by Santiesteban Prats, isn’t just one more novel that adds to the already extensive and archetypical denomination of “Cuban literature,” from which many — including the author himself — have been excluded.

The Summer When God Slept coexists in a very special place, once it encounters an unexploitable reality not only from the sociological and political order, but also the esthetic and experiential. A reality that by its “everydayness” passes to being assisted history — many times loaded with “comicality” — but that the author handles with the rigor that he always brings rigged to the traumatic act.

That’s to say that Angel Santiesteban’s novel isn’t only a stark x-ray picture of the Cuban context: It’s above all a blog where hidden desires and frustrations, longings and deceptions exist, trying to expunge the feeling of guilt that gravitates — consciously or unconsciously — over our heads.

The voyage is the driving thread of the narration, a voyage like going and returning, like a Nietzchean return, with an eternal return of the same, an endless spiral like those hallucinations that wake us up in the somersault of dawn and tighten our chests.

The voyage that Angel Santiesteban proposes results in a crossing marked by the curse of incertitude, a voyage like a traumatic passage associated with death, a voyage without the guarantee of a destination. A voyage in which death waits patiently and heteromorphically, cross-dressed in hallucinations, decomposition and the deterioration of the human being.

The decision to escape — the foundation of the voyage — the conviction to leave, a transcendental and definitive action of life, is the plot-line of the novel. However, this voyage drags with itself calamities and dangers narrated as extraordinary experiences, once the characters in the novel embody others who have met death on the trip. The desperation of the traveler brings them to grasp themselves “with their fingers, their fingernails …until they bite the wood, the wind or even my own skin….” Yes, it’s precise.

The author manages to construct the drama of the text, and the exercise is of such magnitude that the reader feels himself teletransported; you are no longer only the one who reads; you appear with them, you are one of them, and like an argonaut (that’s to say, like a hero), you search for the Golden Fleece — in our case, Liberty.

Because the sensation of fleeing has to be earned, the voyage is a process of tearing into shreds your awareness of what you leave and where you are going, although you know nothing of your final destination. The sensation is of abandoning weight like a ballast, like a stone infinitely weighing on your shoulders, since what you leave is who you are. So the sensation of abandon in the characters of the novel confuses itself with the coldness of the night, which always reminds you of death.

Because the flight comes associated with the anguish of saying goodbye, a goodbye that is in the voice that resonates in the depths of your being, the doom of a delirious echo that torments. Because the goodbye is accompanied by a sensation of eternity that weighs down and clouds the consciousness of whoever – mumbling his lyrics — knows that he has no guarantee of return.

So the dream of fleeing the island — a laboratory island of politics, a laboratory where the consequences of the experiment and the human cost aren’t registered (the cost in terms of a future isn’t considered in the statistics) — begins to be a reminiscence until it’s converted, as the author says, into a virus, a virus that has inoculated a whole society and that corrodes, in a slow but at the same time delicate and emphatic form, every portion of you, dawning one day, confused by the continuous evaporation of desires and illusions — now that all the illusions have died, like the song about the Matamoros* — and some other unknown end.

Antonio Correa and Carlos Alberto Montaner during the presentation of the book (photo by Ulises Regueiro).

In The Summer When God Slept, nostalgia for the past is a recurring theme, fictional, never political; however, the longing for the past not only invalidates the present for us but also makes the future impossible. For the characters in the novel, to be anchored in the past safeguards the possibility of existence, a life that no longer belongs to them because it lacks a fate, once it’s marked by the calamities and sufferings of a people.

Neo Club Press

*”Matamoras Banks” is a song by Bruce Springsteen about an illegal immigrant who drowns while crossing the Rio Grande River.

Translated by Regina Anavy

20 June 2014

Historical Remnants: Julio Sanguily, the Great Traitor / Angel Santiesteban

Men and women make history, later, it is collected by historians, based on documents that serve as evidence of those events.

For which Cuban is it not a point of pride, the rescue carried out by General Ignacio Agramonte he snatched the imprisoned official Julio Sanguily from the Spanish troops, which came to be one of the epic battles — – comparable to those of Ulysses and recorded in The Odyssey — for the waste of courage, noble sentiments, and generosity that could only cause that possible suicide, given the superiority in numbers of the enemy troops?

Nonetheless, it has been approximately 10 years since payments by the Spanish government to their spy, Julio Sanguily have been discovered. It is certain that he was also a spy for the American government and received his price in gold. It is a fact that in various occasions, Julio Sanguily received money and used it for his own personal purposes.

The most hurtful — to my understanding, because I am no historian, only one constant consumer of the investigations of those who are authorized in this subject — was that the money sent by José Martí for the start of the war in 1895, strategized and arranged by the Apostle (as Cubans call Martí), and which Sanguily received, was poorly wasted without helping the revolt. His brother Manuel maintained himself in an upright and consistent position with the fight for the good Cubans.

Despite the great wounds received in combat for Julio, the money was his weakness, or, seeing his body so sacrificed, he decided to exchange sacrifice for pleasure, something that was repeatedly done by a certain type of Cuban throughout history. This reality has also been dealt with with secrecy, although it has already been recorded by some historian, precisely the one who found the documents of the payments in the archives of the peninsula.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison settlement of Lawton. June, 2014.

Please follow the link so Amnesty International may declare Angel Santiesteban, a Cuban political prisoner

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

11 July 2014

The Tribal Unity of the Dissenters / Angel Santiesteban

I want to mention the appearance of laziness inside the Cuban opposition, because — in my opinion — this is what most corrodes our political force and does the lamentable work of the common enemy.

And I’m not even referring to those who must be sprinkled among us doing the terrible and cowardly work of the satraps, but also to that partitioning of ideas and movements, where each one thinks he’s better and more important, and that his work will be most recognized.

I have listened to those who talk about themselves and their work, and — even recognizing their merits — later I have seen how they end up lowering themselves, diminishing themselves as human beings. They leave much to be desired from those feelings that — I take for granted — all fighters for human rights should have.

Comprehension and respect are important to co-exist with others and above all, you know what, not thinking you’re better than anyone else… Just as there are a lot of people who don’t like me… it makes sense to assume that I can’t like a ton of imbeciles… no?

Sometimes, the daring of confronting a regime isn’t sufficient when we ignore common sense and let them impose that mechanism educated in misery that they have imposed on us since birth.

We will always fail when we show that we are isolated tribes, those on the Island as well as those in exile, and on that subject, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has taken a laudable step, uniting people in the whole national territory; today, together with the Ladies in White, it’s one of the most constant and effective coalitions against the dictatorship.

To attack each other, to envy and criticize any initiative, work, and recognition of others, and to not support and make known the sacrifice of others, turns us away from that dialogue with the regime that — in some moment — we will have to have by sitting down at the table of political negotiations for a better and democratic Cuba.

When we understand and assume that all of us are no more than grains of sand dissolved on that beautiful beach of our dreams, then we will understand that only if we remain joined and united will we be capable of constructing the wall that can support the calamities that totalitarianism still strikes us with and makes us suffer.

A political conscience, a soul like José Martí, and a respective dose of humility will be the only formula that makes us visible and respectable before the Regime of the Castro dynasty. Otherwise, let’s prepare to continue with the tyranny for half a century more.

We pray to God that He grants us the wisdom to form a national conscience that summons us to political unity, while we maintain and respect individual paths and objectives to accomplish the CHANGE that we all yearn for.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. May 2014.

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Amnesty International declare the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

30 June 2014

I Would Not Accept Trading My Freedom For That of the Spies / Angel Santiesteban

I hope that President Obama does not have the card up his sleeve to exchange Alan Gross for the three spies who are fulfilling their sentences in the United States. The dictatorship is aiming for that to happen. We all know – by the actions of more than a half-century of totalitarianism – that the régime survives on media circuses, the most remembered of them being the one that concerned the child Elian.

The latest theme that they have chosen was that of the “ZunZuneo”, which sought to raise dust in front of the calamities and the strict censorship in a country that is sinking but — incredibly — without even touching bottom, precisely, thanks to those life with those who manipulate the media of the Fourth Estate.

Fidel Castro, Champion of Disinformation

The Castro brothers, wise in foreign policy in terms of deception, blackmail and economic vampirism, understood – ever since the trial against began in Miami of the agents of Cuban Security – that they would have a cause, a slogan and entertainment for a while. Fidel Castro, invariably, has been the champion of disinformation, always making a defeat seem like a victory; that is what he has been doing since he failed in the attack on the Moncada Barracks.

Since his last lights and years in Government, he planned this blackmail of the United States. He tried also with the imprisonment of 75 dissidents, which later was called the “Black Spring” and paid a high price for it with the attitude taken by the European Community and its “Common Position”.

Alan Gross, hunted rabbit

Cuban State Security waited a long time for an opportunity to seize an American spy who had no diplomatic rank, and seeing that it was not going to happen, manufactured one, as suits its political ability.

The Obama government has not recognized the contractor Alan Gross as a spy for his country, although, on humanitarian grounds such as his age and state of health, it has asked Havana to release him.

Of course, Cuba has played all the cards, because if their prey were to die for whatever reasons, it would create a conflict of major proportions. But the Castros needed a victory to result, especially if it concerns their historic enemy, and so, winding the watch of their power and extending it for a while longer.

To top it off, as if it had to do with cattle, and seeing that a single hostage is not enough incentive, the political police has seen fit to apprehend four residents of Miami on serious allegations of terrorism, as a desperate gesture to undermine influences and press for the exchange.

Media campaigns that are bleeding us dry

One day it will be known the economic amount the media campaigns of Fidel Castro cost, but only the campaigns of the child Elian and the Five Spies have deeply bled the Cuban economy.

To maintain committees in dozens of countries, and elderly people paid at the service of the political police of the Island, they constitute an army that not even a prosperous state would be able to afford.

The paid publications in newspapers of great importance, the billboards along the highways — even in Miami itself — the payment for lawyers and constant travel of relatives around the globe, are only some of the costs of the infinite list that the Cuban citizen pays.

An exchange would be a setback for the United States

If President Obama, in the two years remaining to him, exchanges the spies for a maligned civilian, it would harm the Cuban vote, so important in Florida, and would lose that place for the candidate of his party.

In addition, Hillary Clinton just acknowledged — in her book of memoirs — that “she advised Obama to ease the embargo”, by which it can be inferred that she is willing to exchange them, which would be a major setback for the United States in terms of its position in defense of human rights in the Island, even more so, because these spies are related to bloody deeds — such as the shooting down of the small plane of the “Brothers to the Rescue” (Hermanos al Rescate) — and it would be a Pyrrhic victory with regard to policy, for their inhuman actions.

They should be incarcerated and with long sentences – the three who are left — should it be exclusively pride of Fidel Castro, who did not hesitate to expose his men in “enemy” territory. It was he who slaughtered and betrayed them.

An exchange would stain Gross

If the U.S. Government has maintained until today that Gross is not an agent, exchanging him would be a deadly act, first, because it would be recognizing him as such, after several years of ordeal as a hostage; second, it would be to accept that they have sacrificed it for nothing, because they could have exchanged him from the beginning; by the way, it would strengthen the Cuban dictatorship, and would weaken the effort for human rights that the American administrations have pursued for decades.

And lastly, by carrying out an exchange, it would pass into history as an act of cowardice by, a high cost that perhaps he is not willing to pay. To exchange a civilian for spies sentenced because of acts of blood, is to muddy Alan Gross, As the US President, maybe he is willing to pay that price, not exactly as a fighter for liberty, which does not at all have to do with the exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo, as a result of the war against Taliban extremists.

In my case in particular, as a civilian, artist and civil rights activist, I would prefer to die in Cuban jails before being so stained by history, by the simple and reasonable fact that I am innocent, as corroborated by my evidence, as should be Alan Gross, as has government has said so far.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. June 2014.

7 July 2014

Being In Prison is Worth It / Angel Santiesteban

Cartoon by Garrincha: 

“Excuse me, but we have a writer who they say beat his wife. Of course there is talk about him.”

“Dude, do I look like a marriage counselor or something?”

“It’s just that this writer is a dissident, you know?”

“Where is that abuser?!”

Seated in the door of my cabaña, many people ask me if it’s worth being a prisoner, and without doubt I say yes.

Here inside I see the internal and profound face of a society submerged in the horror of survival. Furthermore, it permits me to do a unique sociological study; it’s an exceptional experience. Seen in this way the suffering of confinement doesn’t hurt. To this I add the use of time spent in reading and writing.

I am sure that with my imprisonment the government, and particularly the Castro brothers, are the ones who have been harmed the most, because they left in evidence the credibility of the “reforms” that they wish to sell. They showed how they try to deceive the world in order to obtain financing for the ruined Cuban economy.

My truth and my rights are my armor, and with that I feel invincible before the dictatorship; I also add my illusion that one day I’ll know who planned to silence and humble me, which, no doubt was thought up by Raul Castro and his son, Alejandro, after my first “Open letter to Raul Castro,” which I wrote in November 2012. Also I’ll know who covered up the order, and those who have been willing accomplices in the cultural milieu, and even those who – inside the same opposition – made a pact of silence in exchange for some privilege.

What will be infallible is that sooner or later, all the truth that today we can’t even imagine will be known. Then it will be like opening a book and seeing peoples’ souls. That is my awesome tranquility, and like the Arab, I sit in the door of my cabaña hoping to see the cadaver of my enemies pass by. If before this I have to pay with my life, I shall equally hope for it, because they will purge my death.

What’s certain is that – in one way or another – they won’t escape paying for their injustice to me and to the hundreds of activists who they have beaten, imprisoned and assassinated. The Castros know that this moment is inevitable, and for that reason they are working now. They are pretending to make a transition that apparently satisfies “everybody” when Raul Castro leaves power, but they are leaving secure the threads that move the country, in politics and economics, to avoid being judged for crimes against humanity.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. May 2014.

Follow the link to ask Amnesty International to declare Angel a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 June 2014

Carolos Alberto Montaner: Someday God Will Awaken / Angel Santiesteban

I thank Neo Club Editions, Armando Anel and Idabell, his wife; Barcardi House of the University of Miami and the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, and the Alexandria Library for the opportunity to present this excellent novel by Angel Santiesteban Prats, The Summer that God Slept, winner of the Franz Kafka literary prize, Novels Genre 2013.

I want to especially mention the writer Amir Valle who, at the time, called to my attention Santiesteban’s human and professional quality revealing to me an exceptional writer.  Amir’s devotion to Santiesteban and his generous solidarity is good proof that communism has not been able to destroy the ties of friendship, although it has tried to control the emotional life of Cubans.

Repression as general punishment and intimidation

Santiesteban is a magnificent Cuban narrator, born in 1966.  He was incarcerated by the dictatorship and condemned to five years in prison, supposedly for a crime of domestic violence that was never proved. In reality, what they punished were his criticisms of the system and his confrontation with the regime. The accusation was only the formal alibi to hide political repression.

Naturally, the Cuban regime hides its repressive hand behind the supposed independence of a judicial power that in Cuba is only another feared expression of the apparatus of terror.

If the Castro regime, really, felt that it should pursue those guilty of great atrocities, and if it did not use the tribunals selectively in order to harass its adversaries, it would have severely punished commander Universo Sanchez when he shot to death an inconvenient neighbor. Or it would have initiated a responsible investigation into the assassination of dozens of innocents on the tug boat March 13th. Or it would have delved seriously into the accusation made by Angel Carromero about the probable execution of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in July 2012, to mention only three cases among the hundreds of unpunished crimes and abuses that Cubans have had to endure.

I have seen, lived and suffered enough to know that the dictatorship invariably lies about the nature of its adversaries. It accuses them of being terrorists, CIA agents, alcoholics, traitors, or, as in this case, even of domestic violence, in order not to have to assume an unpleasant truth: they use defamation, acts of repudiation, beatings, jail and, sometimes, the firing squad, to reign in critical people who have the audacity of saying what they think.

At the same time, those maltreated by word or deed sow terror with the objective of making an example that will not be spread. It is preventive punishment. They strike so that others will lower their heads.

Repression in Cuba, well, it has two clear purposes that Lenin was already recommending at the beginning of the Bolshevik revolution: punish those guilty of deviating from the official line and intimidate the rest of the population. They are, of course, the same mafia methods converted into government measures.

That process of destruction of the reputation of the dissident or of the simply disaffected, especially if dealing with a famed intellectual, is always the prelude to jail or physical aggression. It begins with the insult and evolves into a savage kicking, ostensible and public, aimed at “giving him a lesson” so that he does not dare to contradict the sacred gospels of the tribe of thugs who occupy power.

Angel Santiestebal has gone through all this. They have beaten him, defamed him, they have tried futilely to silence him, but what they have managed is to convert his case into what is called “a cause celebre” that has awakened the attention of half the world.

Something similar to what, in the past, happened to Heberto Padilla, Jose Mario, Armando Valladares, Jorge Valls, Angel Cuadra, Reinaldo Arenas, Rene Ariza, Hector Santiago, Maria Elena Cruz Varela, Juan Manuel Cao, or Raul Rivero, and to so many other writers and artists who suffered various forms of the same ordeal.

The novel and the escape

The Summer That God Slept tells of the flight of a group of Cubans on board a raft. The narrator relates, almost always in the first person, the ups and downs of the trip, and describes the characters who accompany him from the time they embark on the Cuban coast, full of dreams, until they return to the island, on board a ship of the US Navy which takes them to the Guantanamo camps where an uncertain destiny awaits them.

In this case, the eventful journey is less important that the author’s disquisitions on Cuban history and the failed communist government.  It is interesting to note a frequent presence in the novelist’s reflections: Jose Marti. Santiesteban, like so many Cubans, rightly, venerates Marti and uses his life and work as ideal and measure by which to judge what is happening on the Island.

The story is strong and dramatic for two reasons. The first, because thousands of Cubans have died of drowning or being devoured by sharks and barracudas in the seas near Cuba trying to escape from the communist system. That is to say, Santiesteban, in his fiction, which has so much of reality, gives a powerful voice to those thousand of victims. His novel, although the author has not proposed it, has a very important historical component.

How many Cubans have died in the attempt?  They are dozens of thousands.  It is not known exactly, but they are many.  Some speak of 75,000, others double that. Without doubt, many more than those who have died in combat in all the wars fought on the Island since Colombus set foot at the end of the 15th century.  And if they are not more, it is because Jose Basulto conceived and put in the air Brothers to the Rescue in order to help the rafters, until the dictatorship destroyed two of the unarmed airplanes that flew above international waters, killing four people who were just trying to help their fellow countrymen in danger of death.

The second reason that this novel is of notable importance is the theme of the relentless exodus of Cubans.  Why or rather from what do they flee, if since the 18th, 19th and very particularly the 20th centuries, until the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959, the Island had been a net receiver of hundreds of thousand of immigrants, to the point of being the American nation that received the most foreigners in relation to its population?  (More, proportionally, than Argentina and the United States).

They flee the lack of freedom, translated into lack of opportunity.  Successive generations of Cuban residents always perceived the promising experience of living better than their parents and grandparents, something that they routinely achieved.

Until the Comandantes arrived, mandated that the dreams of prosperity stop and imposed on Cubans a system of government that impedes the creation of wealth, is incapable of maintaining infrastructure, and destroys accumulated fiscal capital, as is observed in those cities devastated by the unmitigated stupidity of Castro-ism.

When you are born in Cuba, you know that, as much as you may study or try, you will not be able to improve your quality of life because the system prevents it. That is why Cuba is the only country in the world from which engineers, doctors, writers and all those who yearn to do something constructive with their lives and undertake a lucrative activity to achieve their own well being and that of their families escape on rafts, risking death.

They flee also the lying and tiresome discourse that tries to justify more than half a century of social failures with heroic references to violent activities that lost all connection with the young generation.

What the hell does the remote battle of Uvero — a shootout elevated to the category of epic combat — or Che’s disastrous adventure in Bolivia mean for some young kids who want to have fun and normal lives that permit them to spread their wings and pursue their individual dreams?

And when they achieve it, when finally, they have managed to emigrate, they experience another facet of the horror:  The State, that rancorous communist dictatorship bent on harming those who have fled and harassing and mortifying those who have stayed, denies them access to the academic titles that they legitimately acquired, sells them documents at exorbitant prices, describes them as scum or worms, treats them as enemies, and intends that the host country keep them in a legal limbo so that they cannot make their way.

While the rest of the nations of Latin America ask the United States to protect their undocumented citizens with such legal measures as the Law of Adjustment that protects Cubans when they touch US soil, the miserable State forged by the Castros tries to repeal such legislation.  Not satisfied with the damage inflicted on Cubans when they live on the Island, it tries to prolong their suffering in exile, creating for them difficulties so that they cannot adequately develop.

Nothing of what is said here is different from what is quietly muttered by Cuban intellectuals who have not been able to or desired to seek exile, including many of those miserable ones who sign letters in UNEAC to support the tyranny or to applaud executions, pressured by the political police.

That’s why a voice like that of Angel Santiesteban Prats is so uncomfortable.  Each time that a writer on the Island — and I think of Padilla, Maria Elena Cruz Varela, Antonio Jose Ponte, Raul Rivero, Yoani Sanchez, Ivan Garcia, and so many others — dares to describe reality without fear or swallowing the fear, their cowardly colleagues are victims of the disagreeable phenomenon of moral dissonance.  They think one thing but say another, while they applaud what, really, deep in their hearts, repels them.  The regime has managed to domesticate them, they know it, and they live with that annoying imprint that shackles always leave.

In the end, it must be very sad to live always masked officiating in the temple of the double standard.  Angel Santiesteban Prats freed himself from that ignominy and wrote, in order to test it, a splendid book.  Someday God will awaken, and he will come out of his cell.  Thousands of readers await him thankful to give him the embrace that he deserves.

Published in NeoClubPress.

Translated by mlk.

4 June 2014