Category Archives: Translator: Regina Anavy

Serious Denunciations Before the IACHR: Human Rights Situation of Journalists in Cuba. The Santiesteban Case

The lawyer, Veizant Boloy, and the journalists Roberto de Jesús Guerra and Julio Aliaga have presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denunciations about the permanent violations of human rights of the independent journalists, and explained how the persecution of information professionals operates. They have shown the Commission the video of the detention of Angel Santiesteban on November 8, 2012.

Cuban journalists reported before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that they continue being persecuted in Cuba. 

March 25, 2014

Washington, March 25 (EFE). Two Cuban journalists and a Cuban lawyer reported today before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that independent reporters “continue suffering persecution” in Cuba.

They explained in a hearing on the subject about the situation of freedom of expression and the rights of journalists on the island, organized by the IACHR, an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States (OEA), at which no representative of Raúl Castro’s government turned up.

“The repression continues against the journalists, the opposition and citizens who wish to express themselves freely,” said the journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, of the agency Hablemos Press, who described himself to the IACHR as an ex-political prisoner.

Guerra Pérez testified that in March, four journalists were detained while they were performing their work on the island, and he added that in 2013 the workers in his agency were arrested more than 70 times and that they had their material confiscated on repeated occasions.

The lawyer Veizant Boloy González, from the center of legal information, Cubalex, explained that Cuban journalists are  submitted to censorship, incarceration, surveillance and requisition of material.

“The authorities continue persecuting independent journalists,” affirmed Boloy.

“Although the Cuban state projects an image of economic and political opening, it doesn’t take weighty measures to promote freedom of expression. The medium of diffusion of information continues being in the power of the State. The citizens continue without participating in the political life of the country, and the government doesn’t take this into account,” added Boloy.

Another journalist, Julio Aliaga, told how he had been detained on several occasions, and he pointed out that in Cuba the provinces are “dark zones” as far as journalistic coverage is concerned, owing to the fact that the international media is centered in Havana.

Aliago requested of the Castro regime that they develop a law that establishes freedom of expression and abolishes the crimes in the penal code that affect this right, and the law known as the “gag” law, as well as modify the law of association.

Furthermore, the journalist appealed to the IACHR that it develop a report on the situation of freedom of expression in Cuba and that it invite the government to participate in the inter-American system of human rights.

The constituents of the IACHR regretted the absence of representatives of the Cuban executive and recalled that the Commission always invites the State and notifies it of all the denunciations.

Participants: Hablemos Press Center of Information (CIPRESS)/CUBALEX

State of Cuba

Please sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 March 2014

The blog “The Children Nobody Wanted” on Twitter and Facebook / Angel Santiesteban

To follow the update of Ángel Santiesteban-Prats’ blog on Twitter:

@AngelSantiesteb


To follow on Facebook: Go Here.

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 March 2014

S.O.S. The Soldiers Are Suffocating Us / Angel Santiesteban

A daring prisoner has revealed to me the intention of high-ranking soldiers to become my enemies. To accomplish this they took away a pass, the most sacred thing for them; then they reduced even more the precarious nutrition. The ration of chicken, which is provided two times a month, has been reduced to one sole occurrence, and what before could be divided by two persons now is shared among three. The acid picadillo has been substituted for the main dish.

The chiefs of the Direction of Prisons, seeing that their pressure has not been effective, have advanced by four hours the schedule for returning from the pass. Before it was at six in the evening; now they stipulated that it be at two. Another gesture of manipulation has been that of the four hours granted for time on the telephone so prisoners can communicate with their families, they have left only one.

The day of access to the pass, they assign work that could be done the following day, with the sole purpose of annoying the prisoners, to increase the ill will against me, since, according to Lieutenant Colonel Eduardo, the head of the penal prosecution, I don’t comply with the schedule and discipline established because the inmates allow me to do it. He asked that they confront me, that they demand I be “re-educated,” so that, once they succeed, they will have privileges returned to them.

Today, payday, their salaries, gained according to contract, have been reduced; that is to say, they can calculate the amount they earned in the month and thus the salary they are owed. However, without explanation, they have been fleeced in the worst style of highway robbery.

I can’t predict how long the prisoners will support this subjugation of their “rights,” in a country where rights don’t exist, especially if people are detained in penitentiaries, where they are persecuted and receive the most inhuman treatment, where the blackmail of the officials is constant, since they control the prisoners’ lives and destinies. Tomorrow, for example, with a single movement of their lips, they can order that those prisoners wake up in Santa Clara, Camaguey or Santiago de Cuba, and thus be removed from their families.

I continue writing my literature in this sabbatical year that the dictatorship has granted me, and I remain standing in the struggle for human rights for all Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. March 2014.

Editor’s Note: The dictatorship continues to systematically violate the rights of Angel Santiesteban, in breach of their own laws. By law he should get a pass for 72 hours every 70 days, in agreement with the prison regimen to which he is submitted. From the second of August 2013 until now, they have “granted” him one single pass at the end of September. That week the rest of the prisoners “enjoyed” a pass of six days, and he was returned to remain alone with the jailers. These punishments that they impose on him don’t scare him. They should realize by now that the more they try to harm him, the more they strengthen him, and they are even collaborating with Cuban literature, which has – for a year – one of the great talents working without pause.

To sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience, please follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

19 March 2014

Signatories Forever, Unredeemed Brownnosers / Angel Santiesteban

The signatures of those artists from the unforgettable book open at UNEAC headquarters match the political calls of the dictatorship to support the execution of minors who tried to emigrate to the United States by hijacking the boat across the bay to the ultramarine village of Regla. Although the passengers declared that they didn’t hurt anyone, they were deceived. They promised them that if they surrendered, nothing would happen. But the next day they were executed after a summary trial.

After that event and the logical international condemnation that it aroused, they looked for accomplices, people who would “give rope,” and just as in the film, “The Man Maisinicu,” they involved more people, besmirching their hands with manure and blood, a recurring combination of a totalitarian regime.

Now these intellectuals are called to sign for a government that assassinates its students. Neither does the fact of protesting violently, if it’s true, justify annihilation. The sad thing is that most of these signatories recognize that it’s an error of the Venezuelan government, in the figure of Nicolas Maduro, ordering repression. Those lives have a cost, of course, and those who continue signing from fear or for personal benefit will be recognized by history as being brownnosers, sycophants of the omnipotent power of the Castro brothers.

Génesis Carmona, estudiante y modelo del estado Carabobo, fue asesinada por un disparo  en la cabeza durante una manifestación opositora

Genesis Carmona, a student and model from Carabobo state, was killed by a shot in the head during an opposition demonstration.

For everyone a little piece of history touches us, and consequently we gain merit or demerit.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, March 2014

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

 Translated by Regina Anavy

RWB: The Castro Regime Has Developed an Original Model of Control / Angel Santiesteban

Reporters without Borders: Cuba prohibits a free Internet

All content considered “antirevolutionary” is automatically blocked. All information that is published in the media is filtered, according to the criteria of the Party.

Cuba continues preventing the majority of its population from having access to a free (i.e. uncensored) Internet, even though the submarine fiber-optic cable, ALBA-1, coming from Venezuela and the unblocking of some web sites constitute a ray of hope. The Castro regime has developed an original model of control, based on the existence of a local Intranet. Access to the Internet is excessively expensive. The prices are prohibitive. Add to that the omnipresence of the government institutions.

The country’s organ of censorship, the Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR), filters all the information that is published in the official communication media, according to the Party’s criteria. They automatically block all content considered “antirevolutionary.” This censorship, that applies not only to the web, it is based on the Penal Code in force that criminalizes “disrespect,” “defamation,” “slander,” “insults,” and “offenses against the authorities, the institutions of the Republic, and the heroes and martyrs of the nation,” among other things.

 The Ministry of Computing and Communications

It was created in the year 2000 with the goal of ensuring respect for the Revolutionary ideology defended by the DOR on the Internet. There is very little information available on the technology that the Cuban authorities employ in terms of censorship. The University of Computer Sciences (UCI), as well as the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) — the national provider of access to the Internet — work with the departments of surveillance and censorship that back up the actions of the Ministry. The blockade of Internet content is carried out by ETECSA.

The year 2011 was marked by certain concessions of the government, like the unblocking of some web sites. This is the case with the sites Desde Cuba and Voces Cubana (From Cuba and Cuban Voices), where numerous opposition blogs are posted, among them Generación Y (Generation Y), whose author is Yoani Sánchez.

However, the detention of a dozen bloggers and netcitizens at the end of 2012, among them Calixto Ramón Martínez, who was freed seven months after being in prison, counteracted this small advance. Although these interruptions were more sporadic in 2013, it’s accurate to note that the changes in Cuba are millimetric and that the situation remains stagnant.

In 2008, the percentage of connectivity to the Internet was about 1.2 percent of the population. Since then, the number of public points of access to the Internet has increased: According to the authorities, in June 2013, 118 new cyber-salons were inaugurated.

However, the price of connecting continued to be prohibitive: the equivalent to one-third of the average monthly salary of a Cuban (some US $21). The authorities claim that in 2013, four out of ten Cubans accessed the Intranet regularly, which allowed them to read their email, as well as some pages of official sites. According to the independent bureau of information, Hablemos Press, this figure is reduced to two out of 10. It’s possible to get on the Internet in the international hotels, but the usage is reserved for tourists, who can allow themselves to spend US $10 (two weeks of salary for a Cuban, on average).

Furthermore, the connections are surveilled almost systematically. To get on the national network, Cubans must present their identity cards; they surf below the vigilant eye of cameras and the surveillance agents in the cyber-cafes.

Also, the computers are equipped with programs like Avila Link (a link in English), developed in Cuba, that can cut off the connection at the least suspicion of “some violation of the norms of ethical behavior that the Cuban state promotes.” Independent informative Cuban web sites hosted outside Cuba, like Cubanet, Martí Noticias, Cuba Encuentro, Payo Libre and Hablemos Press, are on the black list, and it’s not possible to have access to them, even from the Internet in international hotels.

For a long time the Cuban authorities have attributed the difficulties of connecting to the Internet to the U.S. embargo. However, now that Cuba has the ALBA-1 fiber-optic cable, this argument becomes obsolete and makes it obvious that the authorities want to control the Web, showing their fear of Cubans being able to have free access to the Internet. The use of the high-speed Internet, which is now possible with ALBA-1, is mainly restricted to government officials.

If we believe the official declarations, 2014 should be a good year for accessing the Internet in Cuba. ETECSA forecast that it would begin to install DSL lines at the end of 2014 in zones that have the adequate technology. It’s cruel, but the country lacks infrastructure and the necessary funds to install it. The telephone network is not developed for this type of connection and is under total control of the national service provider, ETECSA. Under these conditions it’s difficult to imagine that the arrival of DSL on the island would have a big impact.

Last January they also announced that Cubans could access the Internet from their mobile phones, thanks to the vigorous entry of a measure that permits telephone bills for users on the island to be paid by people in the Exterior. But the cost of the foreign recharge, more than an opening for Cubans, is an economic strategy to get hard currency into the country.

In spite of this, some analysts observe that there is a tendency toward opening. The informative website Cubanet, based in the U.S., made seven technological predictions for Cuba in 2014. Among them were access to the Internet through mobile phones, the development of WiFi on the island, and even the possibility that the activists could travel outside the island, and acquire knowledge and education in computer science useful for their security online: all this thanks to the immigration and travel reforms that entered into force on January 14, 2013.

 The bloggers, those “mercenaries”

In the report on the “Enemies of the Internet” in 2012, Reporters Without Borders denounced the Cuban propaganda, which “didn’t stop attacking the bloggers who were critical of the regime, whom they accuse of being mercenaries in the service of the ’U.S. Empire’.” The bloggers “have been victims of campaigns to discredit and defame them in the State media, on propaganda sites outside the island, and in blogs like Blogueros y Corresponsales de la Revolución (Bloggers and Correspondents of the Revolution) and Las Razones de Cuba (The Reasons of Cuba).

The cable from the U.S. government — spread by WikiLeaks in 2009 — that suggested that the Regime feared the bloggers more than other types of dissidents, is more real than ever. During her world tour, Yoani Sánchez announced that she would launch a digital daily newspaper in Cuba. “The first day that we do it could be the worst; they could shut it down and attack all of us by blocking us from the web,” she said. “But it could also happen that we are sowing some seeds of a free press,” she added.

By contrast with the obstacles to access the Internet, information passes from hand to hand through USB flash drives. Some also try to create illegal points of access to the Internet. But government agents are in the streets to detect and destroy satellite antennas, so that there are real risks for people who try to have them.

Furthermore, they have positioned antennas to block the signals every five square kilometers. The netcitizens sometimes can use Twitter to send an SMS, without being sure that their messages will appear on Twitter. This microblogging frequently is not detected by the blockades orchestrated by ETECSA, which sometimes last for months.

The bloggers and collaborators of opposition websites like Hablemos Press or Payo Libre, are obliged to turn to certain diplomatic locations in order to publish their writings on websites outside the island.

Others, like the group Martí Noticias, located in Miami, count on correspondents on the island. The purveyors of information found there often are victims of raids in the communication media where they work, or of arbitrary detentions.

Such was the case with Mario Echevarría Driggs, David Ágila Montero, William Cacer Díaz, Denis Noa Martínez and Pablo Morales Marchán, detained for several days in October 2013.

The writer and author of the informative blog, Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted), Ángel Santiesteban, was imprisoned, and his lawyer was suspended, so that she couldn’t practice law in the courts for a period of six months. The blog continues informing us about the situation of Ángel Santiesteban Prats, thanks to the work of activists who collaborate outside Cuba.

, 12 March 2014

Translated by Regina Anavy

13 March 2014

When Freedom Becomes Agony / Angel Santiesteban

 

“Thank you Fidel, for all you give us…”

Prisoners curse their freedom

Convicts say that when they get a pass for almost 72 hours every 10 days, their worries increase. They experience a major agony in the sense of feeling useless before the economic situation of their families. The little money they earn as slaves of the Regime that keeps them captive barely lets them satisfy the shortages that exist at home. They find their families without food, the children without shoes to go to school, and the electrical appliances broken, among other calamities.

In the first hours at home, already they have exhausted their savings, seeing themselves obligated to loan or offend, with the goal that at the end of their days on pass, their families remain with the minimum of needs guaranteed.

Once back in their beds in prison, they recognize that it’s preferable to be a prisoner, since they suffer less when they don’t have to confront the everyday reality and the constant pain of not knowing how to find a solution, how to stay on top of the poverty, without the familiar temptation of breaking the law.

“At least while we’re in prison we’re not suffering. We don’t see how poor our kids are,” they assert. “And we avoid crime, because we also know that it’s the only possible way to solve things,” says a convict, with whom the rest agree, and he affirms that “it’s preferable to be a prisoner, eat the acid, dirty rice with picadillo, to be beaten and put in a cell each time you feel like venting, than to see your loved ones looking at you like sparrows with open beaks, waiting for us to do a magic act and get some food to fall into them,” he says, and he keeps silent for a bit.

“Outside things have gotten worse. We feel fear when we leave because surely we’ll commit some misdeed,” someone affirms from the door, “and the hard part is to start another more severe sentence,” adds another. “We will never have the chance to be those ’citizens’ they want us to be, because society and the laws forget that we don’t have the least possible chance of surviving without stealing, and if we don’t, we would die of hunger.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, March 2014.

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

12 March 2014

The Ministry of Revenge Imparts Punishment in the Castros’ Cuba

Raul Castro, are you satisfied now?

One year can be a sigh in time or an interminable nightmare; it depends on how you pass the year. To be deprived of freedom is always a bitter drink, but when in addition you’re innocent, when you’re condemned and incarcerated by a judicial system answering to the guidelines of political power of a dictatorship like that of the dynasty that you incarnate today, it’s much worse.

To this you have to add the characteristics of the prisons and concentration camps elaborated on by your Regime, which in no way resemble, neither in form nor in treatment, what you tried to make the national and international journalists who visited last year believe. They cowardly and immorally endorsed the farce to which they were subjected, ridiculing the tragic reality of the thousands of Cubans who, the length and width of the island, are brutally treated, tortured, humiliated and living in conditions that are absolutely inhumane.

As if the dirty complicity of the press wouldn’t have been enough the year before, this year, you, Castro II, tried – and with great success – to gain support for your dictatorship from the member presidents of CELAC, the secretary of the OAS, the director general of the United Nations and the European Union – which only a few days ago, announced that it would resume negotiations with your dictatorship, without caring in the slightest about the destiny of the 11 million inhabitants of the island. Economic interests are more powerful than the fundamentals at the dawn of the 21st century, but the OAS and the UN seem not to notice that they are consenting silently to letting other nations enrich themselves at the cost of Cuban blood and tears. Pathetic but true.

Meanwhile, in the concentration camps and penitentiaries of the Prison Island, more than a hundred political prisoners wait in vain for justice and freedom, and much of the opposition who are being besieged today will, before long, be political prisoners also.

The existence of the opposition in these circumstances should cause an international scandal, but on the contrary, it’s ignored obstreperously by those who can do something. Only the governments of Chile and Costa Rica showed interest and concern for the reality of the opposition in Cuba, and not for the Chinese story that they sold to all the rest of Havana in the context of the Second Summit of CELAC.

How far can the hypocrisy of the bigshots of the world and their selective blindness go? If the clamor for freedom, democracy and justice by the Cuban people isn’t enough for them, they should lend an ear to the people of Venezuela, whose country was colonized by its dictatorship in order to exploit the natural resources, to submit to its people and thereby perpetuate the badly-named “Revolution,” whose true name is “military dictatorship,” which attains power through a coup in order to subvert another military dictatorship.

Now we can’t understand the suffering of Cuba without understanding what’s happening in its sister country, Venezuela. There you have 30 million inhabitants who are submitted to the designs of Havana through its dauphin, Maduro, who came to power through electoral fraud, and since then has only intensified the task of “Castroization” of the country initiated by the deceased Chavez, another general who attempted a coup, and who governed as a dictator for 14 years in spite of having come to the presidency through the ballot box. The same as Adolf Hitler.

Venezuela also has an increasing number of political prisoners; the communications media are being accosted and gagged; and the students who go into the street demanding freedom are brutally massacred by the FANB and paramilitary groups. There are many denunciations with photographs of Cuban State Security agents who are infiltrated into these barbarous acts and who, only by seeing the images, are clearly recognized by their “style.”

In Cuba we can’t talk about electoral fraud because the whole communist system set up by the dictatorship is a fraud. For 55 years they call “elections” with a system of one party and candidates chosen by the elite of the Communist Party. Only they are chosen; only they can be voted for.

All this terrible situation that both countries live, twinned by the stomp of your boot, Castro II, unites the whopping number of 41 million people who cry out and need liberty and democracy NOW, and the full presence of their rights and guarantees.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats is a talented Cuban writer, a national and international award-winner, who one day decided to take off the mask and – whatever it cost – denounce to the world the sufferings of his country through his blog, opened in 2008, The Children Nobody Wanted.

Once he opened the blog, the “good” and the “bad” started arriving: the messages and warnings that he abandon his path. The pressure didn’t matter to him, and he went forward with his moral duty as a citizen of denouncing the Regime and reclaiming the rights that all sovereign people should have.

He undertook a long and difficult path the day he took the side of liberty and democracy, from physical aggressions, all types of threats, even ostracism and marginalization, including from those who called themselves good friends; and of course, betrayals here and there. None of this stopped him.

Finally the biggest infamy happened: His ex-wife and mother of his son made a false accusation with the support and advice of her then-partner, an agent of the political police. It didn’t matter to her to lie shamelessly and buy a false witness to send her ex-mate to prison because she couldn’t handle – after having abandoned him and leaving him with a small child during two and a half years – coming back to him to try again, and at that point he was involved in a happy and stable relationship.

These Machiavellian false denunciations finished by sending Angel to five years in prison for crimes that he did not commit after a farce of a trial that should be the shame of the Cuban judicial system. But no, in place of that, they insist on multiplying the violations of Angel’s rights, now ignoring the request for review of his trial that was presented in July last year by his lawyer, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, (recently disqualified – in a surprise move – for six months from exercising her profession in the courts).

He has been assaulted, harassed and threatened by his jailers, and they invented disciplinary punishments for him, like taking away the 70-day pass required for his type of penalty. In seven months he has left prison only once, at the end of September. That’s to say, not only are they violating rights universally consecrated but also they’re violating their own law, because it’s a right in force in the Cuban constitution to repeat the trial if the condemned requests it.

Today, February 28, 2014, Angel completes one year of imprisonment, hoping for a justice that doesn’t come, nor can it come while a dictatorship continues to occupy power in Cuba illegally. International solidarity can pressure the Regime to demand not only justice for him but also that the United Nations pacts be ratified. But that solidarity must be huge in order to counteract the immense harm that the presidents of the region have caused to Cubans: Secretary Inzulsa, Mr. Ban Ki Moon and the European Union, which drools over the chance to profit by doing business on the island.

I am calling for international solidarity on the part of governments, organizations and well-meaning citizens, to mobilize for Cuba and for all its political prisoners.

And meanwhile, I remind you, Raul Castro, of your absolute responsibility for the life and integrity of Angel, and for all political prisoners and members of civil society who are punished every day for expressing themselves and demanding freedom.

And I ask – now that you’re trying to make the world believe that you’re a reformist president and that you’re bringing change to Cuba – at least hide it a bit and take democratic steps that show your “good will.” Free all the political prisoners, ratify the UN pacts and call for open and free elections. If you don’t take these three steps, it will only go to prove that you continue being a ruthless dictator as you have been up to now, the same as your older brother.

I know perfectly that the ambition for power blinded your brother the same as you, but at that height of life, you should ask yourself if you can feel satisfied and rectify the course, so that at least the few haggard people who still have confidence in you don’t feel so defrauded when freedom finally comes and they can recognize the difference. And by the way, may God forgive you.

The Editor

Translated by Regina Anavy

28 February 2014

Reporters Without Borders: We urge the Cuban authorities to drop all charges against Angel Santiesteban Prats and release him at once

The blogger Angel Santiesteban Prats now has completed one year in prison.

It’s been one year today since Ángel Santiesteban Prats was detained in prison. The writer and netizen is the author of an informative blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, created in 2008, known for its open criticism of the government. On December 8, 2012, after an arbitrary and hasty trial, the Prosecutor declared Angel Santiesteban Prats guilty of the charges against him. Officially, he was condemned to five years in prison for “home violation and injuries,” in spite of the fact that no tangible proof existed. Thus, the blogger was transferred April 9, 2013 to Prison 1850 in San Miguel del Padrón (Havana), where on repeated occasions he suffered mistreatment and torture.

On February 18, 2014, Reporters without Borders learned that the National Association of Law Offices (ONBC) suspended his lawyer, Amelia Rodríguez Cala, so that she cannot practice in the courts for a period of six months. This considerably affects her efforts to have the journalist released. The lawyer is also in charge of the defense of two other dissidents, the musician Gorki Aguila, and Sonia Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, a peaceful protest movement made up of the wives and family members of the political prisoners, which in 2005 received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience. 

“A year ago Reporters without Borders denounced these cruel and draconian practices. We urge the Cuban authorities to drop all charges against Ángel  Santiesteban Prats and request that the journalist be released immediately,” said Lucie Morillon, Director of Investigations of the organization.

“The intimidation to which journalists are constantly subjected in Cuba is extremely worrying. Cuba occupies last place in the Americas in the World Classification of Freedom of the Press in 2014. It’s in place 170, out of 180 countries,” Lucie Morillon explained.

Although Ángel Santiesteban Prats is the only blogger currently serving a sentence in prison, the authorities continue harassing all the journalists who contradict the official propaganda. The correspondents from independent Cuban websites like Hablemos Press are frequently detained arbitrarily. Hours later they are freed. Other victims of this method are the journalist William Cacer Diaz, on February 14, as well as at least six other news providers: Magaly Novis Otero, Pablo Morales Marchán, Ignacio Luis González Vidal, Denis Noa Martínez and Tamara Rodríguez Quesada, in January 2014.

Ángel Santiestaban-Prats, who today sent an open letter to Raúl Castro, is listed in the Barometer of Press Freedom, as is José Antonio Torres, a correspondent in Santiago de Cuba for the official daily, Granma, imprisoned since May 1, 2011.

Published in Reporteros sin Fronteras (Reporters without Borders)

Translated by Regina Anavy

Spanish post
28 February 2014

Second Open Letter to Raul Castro from Angel Santiesteban

First page of the handwritten letter

First page of the handwritten letter

Mr. Ruler:

On February 28 I completed one year of unjust imprisonment, after a trial where I demonstrated my innocence with multiple proofs and witnesses. In exchange, the Prosecutor couldn’t present one single consistent proof against me, except the malicious – in addition to being ridiculous – one of an expert calligrapher who, after having ordered me to copy an economic article from the newspaper Granma, the Official Organ of the Communist Party, gave an opinion that the height and slant of my handwriting showed I was guilty.

All this happened four years after the supposed event, where they saddled me with a crime that I didn’t commit. To make things worse, this whole circus that went down against me was corroborated by the henchman Camilo, an official of State Security, long before the Court passed sentence.

Being detained – after a demonstration of support by other compatriots in opposition – this official announced to me before witnesses that I “would be sentenced to five years of privation of liberty,” a declaration that he published on the Internet, one month before the official pronouncement of the Court, an organ that should be impartial, should act independently, but that in addition to clearly following the rulings of State Security, perpetrated another flagrant violation during the judicial trial, upon adding to my penalty one more year than the maximum established by the Penal Code.

My case, like many others, shows that after the coming to power of your family, the Castros, there isn’t even a minimum of independence among the legislative, executive and judicial powers, which exists in all nations that are truly democratic.

These powers are managed by you at your whim and convenience. And history shows that when these powers are manipulated by the same entity, whatever the ideology, we are dealing with a dictatorship, where the only thing left to us is the possibility of interrupting and having influence with our opinions in the fourth power: communication, the news, achieved thanks to the development of the Internet, and to thereby circumvent your iron control on the media. And for that I have been punished.

Since my incarceration I have been physically and psychologically tortured; on several occasions I have suffered cold in the concrete beds of your cells, beatings from your henchmen, and I have rejected all your proposals that I abandon the national territory or desist from my ideals of freedom for my country.

I want to remind you that before opening my blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, where I only said what I thought about the terrible circumstances of the lives of my people, I was an exemplary citizen who, thanks to the literary talent that God gave me, won prizes and recognition from national and international cultural institutions.

But, General, one day I discovered that the ethical price I was paying to be seen as an exemplary citizen for the totalitarian society that your family has imposed on Cubans was too high for my soul and my time in history. I had to overcome the fear of repression with which the institutions of indoctrination created by your family educated me from my birth.

I decided to overcome the fear implanted by you in the generations of Cubans who have grown up under this failure that you call “Revolution,” and, in particular, the muzzle on the conscience of the artists who mainly pretend to support the socialist process that you command, but later are heard criticizing the Regime under their breath, because, apparently, the Cuban people have preferred to take the easiest, but the longest, road.

This reality of social pretense became for me an insupportable moral burden. I didn’t want to continue doing what they were doing – and still do – this large part of the Cuban generations who have been educated under the law of the cynicism of survival, pretending what they don’t feel.

My conscience lead me to open my blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, and beginning with this event, I signed my death sentence, as your repressors have told me on several occasions.

Expressing a critical opinion as a citizen about the social process that you lead is the only “crime” I have committed, and I accept it.

From this moment I have been prohibited from traveling abroad. They have marginalized me from all national cultural activity, and as a very important detail, just after writing you my First Open Letter, a judicial farce began against me for a crime I supposedly committed four and a half years ago.

Doesn’t this seem like a suspicious coincidence?

Now, one year later, I write you this Second Open Letter, running the risk of unleashing even more your cruelty against me, and even, at the risk of losing my life – although it would be so easy for you to accomplish that, only a snap of your fingers and it would happen.

I urge you to do it, by any of the methods you have applied in more than fifty years of dictatorship against many of those who have opposed your plans: a suspicious terminal illness, an assassination because of a supposed brawl with a common prisoner, or an accidental fall, to cite examples.

Your masters, the Russian KGB and the East German STASI, have taught your stooges well in how to eliminate “enemies” while leaving their guilt on the terrain of speculation.

I assure you, luckily for me, that what I was born to do in this life has already been accomplished, because my ambitions are small. This helped me to decide to change my status, my literary future, what some call “to boycott my fate,” since to sacrifice the well-being and happiness of my children, to limit to the extreme my publications and artistic life, I have done only in exchange for one humble aspiration: that my biography show that I struggled for the freedom of my country and against the dictatorship of my time.

That is enough; it’s sufficient for me.

It only remains for me to add that thanks to you and your repressive machinery, I have learned how much capacity for suffering I can stand; I have verified that ravenous hunger, the cold and the beatings were crushed by the force of my ideals and feelings.

I have seen that it’s worthy to suffer for the rest upon seeing them abused by the power that you hold, hurt by the jailers. I have learned to share the last crust of bread with those I live with in the cells to whom I have been drawn.

I have learned to defend my ideas above the hunger and the illnesses, and I have convinced myself that there is no way of making me change my ideas about what I consider just or about the wide universal right that I have to freedom of expression.

I am grateful for this miserable life to which you and your “humane socialist system” have confined me, because I have grown before every obstacle and, above all, because with each test I have become a better human being.

I have taken advantage of the time to write several books which I have collected in a safe place, and in part of them I describe the terrifying and inhumane reality inside your prisons.

The ideals that I brought with me to prison have been strengthened, they have revived with an unimaginable force. For injustice and impunity, I count on you to this day. For telling the truth without fear of your reprisals, I count on me.

May God forgive you,

Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, February 2014

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuba and the European Union: Oil and Water / Angel Santiesteban

If the European Union only recommends that its chief of diplomacy, Catherine Ashton, “talk” with Havana’s dictatorship, it won’t serve any purpose other than to understand one more time that totalitarian governments cannot transform themselves nor do they want to. Nevertheless the Foreign Ministers have approved “opening up negotiations for a bilateral agreement.”

Negotiating with the Castro brothers would be a betrayal of the European block itself. The Cuban regime holds an extremist position and won’t cede one iota of its unanimous power. The Universal Rights that the 28 members of the EU proclaim would never be found in the current Cuban system.

What more does the opposition want than to meet the formula that ends the anguish on the archipelago? Although it tries to be optimistic, that possibility seems far away to me, especially when the Cuban regime hasn’t even signed the United Nations Human Rights pacts. Cuba has refused for more than five years to ratify the pacts, justifying itself by saying that first some points in the Constitution must be changed.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t prejudice the members from electing Cuba to the Commission of Human Rights. Thus can cynicism and irony be found at times in politics. Let’s hope that the European Union doesn’t repeat this terrible error, in spite of the lobbying of Cuba’s ambassadors in their countries.

The European Union, in order to be coherent in foreign politics, first must think about the Cuban people, and then of the millions who can stop profiting from negotiating with a tyranny. The opposite would be to disrespect themselves, and to regress in their foreign policies and position on Universal Human Rights.

Luckily, the wisest words I’ve read on the change of the “Common Position” of the European Union have been those of the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Barroso, who warned the Havana regime that, “It’s very important that Cuba respect human rights, that it release its political prisoners. It’s very important that there be freedom of expression and freedom of association,” Barroso declared before a press conference in Madrid, together with the president of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy. The community commissioner emphasized the necessity that “Cuba open itself to values that are completely democratic.”

Personally, disgracefully, I’m not optimistic. I agree with the reservations of Germany and the Czech Republic that Raúl Castro will not respect the idea of democratizing the country, and that he has devised some interplay of political manipulation for the negotiation.

As long as the European Union maintains the principles set forth in the Common Position, it doesn’t have to fear a weakness in its reception abroad, since it understands that for the Cuban government to be flexible on the issue of human rights would weaken its iron grip on the Cuban people, its slaves.

What is clear is that without changes Cuba can only go backwards, because what is certain — we reaffirm — is that the Castro family isn’t thinking of abandoning power, because they behave like a dynasty and believe that power belongs to them by right. The opposition, with international help, must show them they are wrong.

Once again the Cuban people see themselves exposed to different economic interests, without the possibility of having any say in the matter. Let’s pray and fight so that this time is the exception.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, February 2014

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

26 February 2014