Angel Santiesteban Explains What Happened During His Arbitrary Detention

“I traded one cell for a slightly roomier prison, because I continue to think that this island is a prison.”

Elisa Tabakman (Blog Editor), 6 November 2015 — Angel Santiesteban-Prats was arrested on November 4, suspiciously, after reporting the previous day that the political prisoner Lamberto Henández Planas died in Combinado del Este Prison as a consequence of the hunger strike he maintained during his re-imprisonment, the result of a sinister new maneuver by State Security to lock him back up after 23 years in prison.

What happened since Angel’s arrest at his home, and the new “Kafkaesque process” that ended in a summary trial, lasting only 5 minutes, in which they “revoked his probation and in the same act revoked the revocation because there are no reasons to re-incarcerate him” shows that they threw together a crude spectacle to draw media attention, releasing from the police station (where he remained until being transferred to the court) all kinds of false, absurd and contradictory versions, which we believe were concocted to cast a new shadow of suspicion on Angel and to discredit the serious accusation he made about Lamberto’s life, and incidentally, to continue the ongoing campaign they have mounted to destroy Angel’s reputation and to try to diminish the numerous international awards he obtained during his two and a half years in prison, something they well know has failed. Precisely for these reasons, we preferred to maintain a cautious silence about what was happening and to wait for Angel himself to explain it and not to keep playing the dictatorship’s game.

This is an excellent opportunity to remind the dictator Raul Castro that Angel is waiting for the response to the Review of the judgment, filed July 4, 2013, and that was admitted to the 3 instances why it happened, proving that they have already acknowledged errors, irregularities, and violations of judicial procedures, because, it never hurts to remember, THERE IS NO OBLIGATION to acknowledge the revisions, only to acknowledge them when such “mistakes” are proven.

General Raul Castro, it is very sad to go down in history through the sewer, to be remembered by posterity as a violator of human rights and the architect of all kinds of crimes against humanity.

What follows is the account of the “episode” in Angel’s own words. [Recording of phone call in Spanish is available here.]

The Editor


Any Life in Havana / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, Havana, 26 September 2015 — Rolando never wanted wealth, depending on the point of view you look at it from, because wishing for blue jeans, a good pair of sneakers and some brand name t-shirts, carries an extra sacrifice above and beyond the daily one. It is going beyond, through “ambition,” the possibilities, that usually set or rule an average Cuban’s behavior.

Graduating from nursing school, despite the terrible food that he endured at school, the little enjoyment of those youth years, and the humiliation of being financially supported by his grandmother with her precarious pension, made him walk the desired path of the “easy,” and once his Diploma was endorsed after completion of the mandatory community service required from graduates, he experienced the bad night shift hours at the Hospital emergency rooms, lousy professional rewards and underpayment, and so, among many reasons, accepted the invitation to meet an old but interesting foreigner who offered him, for one night, the equivalent of several months wages.

Young Rolando is a regular on the Malecon, in clubs, gay bars, the piece of beach called “My Cayito” and many places available for homosexual gatherings. Meanwhile his nursing Diploma remains hanging on the wall. At least that way he could pay back his grandmother, who did not get to see his “profession” change or the prosperous life he’s living now. At times he takes flowers to the cemetery and softly, almost in the ear of her spirit, begs her for forgiveness.

“This is crappy life I have to live, with no choices,” he says disappointed, while sucking his cigarette. “My grandmother has to understand wherever she is … She knows I tried everything and nothing worked.”

And he starts walking along the edge of the Malecon while the streetlights draw shadows he drags down like the ordeal of his own life.

by Ángel Santiesteban

Havana, September 23rd, on probation.

Translated by: Rafael

#PapaEnCuba [Pope in Cuba]: A Shout for Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto)

Danilo (El Sexto) painting one of the piglets for his planned performance.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 21 September 2015 — Today, Monday, September 21, makes 13 days since he has been on a hunger strike inside a solitary confinement and punishment cell. Separated from his family and from all human companionship, for the act and right as an artist of attempting to put on a performance that alluded, according to the political police, to the dictators when he applied two common names, Fidel and Raúl–names borne by many in this nation–on the bodies of two pigs.

He has spent nine months in captivity without due process and will not therefore have a fair trial from the judges. The lawyer I have met with assures me that her intention is to “help,” but that it is not in her power, “because she is a simple attorney, from whom the case file has been kept for several months.”

Danilo’s nights are long, extremely extensive. The dawn seems elusive, while he feels his body coming apart. His faculties are failing, and that mental deterioration which, at times, inserts ideas of desisting–along with the fear of dying, of not ever again seeing his mother and his little dauther, of losing his teeth, of ruining his kidneys, among so many fears–are the battles he fights secretly in solitary confinement.

“This too shall pass” — A Danilo made in prison.

These days we are being visited by Pope Francis, the merciful one who spreads peace for being the messenger of God and who, out of respect, those who say they revere him should interrupt their wicked actions, their pride and the abuse they inflict on the helpless, whose only intent is to be artists who fight for their beliefs.

But the dictators Fidel and Raúl only manipulate the Pope, the presidents, the UN and any international courts where they appear–as they have done throughout their more than half century in power, robbing destinies, destroying futures, extinguishing lives, undoing dreams–and consequently ignoring pleas for Danilo’s release, because always, with dictators, their commitment to evil and to assuring their totalitarian power comes first.

“Peace is a white (dove) knife that is placed in our hands.”

Danilo’s little daughter sobs for wanting to see her father. Danilo’s mother bravely endures the trance of pain not wishing to break down and say goodbye to her son and, at the same time, lives the contradiction of admiring him and respecting his ideas.

Danilo’s grandparents look on with that mixture of despair and sorrow, and one feels that they need to demand, to scream, for someone to show them where to find justice, and we can only respond with our heads bent low or look away so that they don’t see our tears.

The Ladies in White along with the members of the forum for Rights and Liberties, with the hashtag #todosmarchamos [We All March], march every Sunday, for the last 22 weekends, bearing Danilo’s photo along with those of other political prisoners through the streets of Miramar, demanding their release–even when on every one of those weekends, they are subjected to brutal beatings and arrests.

Danilo’s friends accompany his family, trying to give them support in the emptiness caused by his absence. We take it upon ourselves to demand his freedom, to go along on visits to the lawyer, or to deliver letters to the prosecutors’ offices regarding the violations to the law committed against him according to their own judicial laws, which they should respect and to which they should adhere.

The regime cannot, as it always does, arm wrestle with Danilo, and have it affect his health. Their duty, their obligation, must be to free him immediately before greater harm is done, and not add another international crime to their dictatorial records.

Freedom for Danilo Maldonado, Now!

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats,

Havana, 21 September, “free” on parole

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison


The Pope, So as Not to Say Anything, Said Nothing / Angel Santiesteban

The Inverted Pyramid

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 17 September 2015 — It always irritates me that it is accepted, ironically, for the Cuban dictatorship to ply its totalitarian propaganda and be visible in foreign countries, via the media and its “solidarity”committees, when not even Cubans themselves in their own country are not allowed to claim freedom of thought, association, and all  the rights contained in the magna carta of the United Nations. Is it just that a country that violates these rights by denying them to its own citizens be allowed the spaces to cover up, manipulate, and lie to international public opinion?

A front-page article in Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, reports “anti-blockade [embargo] tour begins in Washington,” which will include stops in other North American cities and various countries. It also announces a confirmed total of 44 visits to the Congress, 37 to congressional offices, and 7 visits to senators’ offices.

However, it is soon coming on six months since the Ladies in White, supported by members of the Forum for Rights and Liberties, as well as activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and other political groups who answer to the hashtag #todosmarchamos [“We all march”] have been subject every Sunday (22, to be exact), to brutal beatings and arrests. Just last Sunday it happened again, in the presence of members of the foreign press, who could see for themselves the peaceful way in which the opposition members carry out their demonstration–and in turn, the violent way they are treated, and the humiliation they suffer, upon being arrested.

The world seems to be turned on its head. President Barack Obama ignores the pleas of the dissidence clamoring for an end to the dictatorship’s violations of basic human rights. Pope Francis serves as mediator between the regime and the United States, and encourages the European Union to engage in and continue the steps taken by the United States, and so the first contacts and studies have begun to realize them in the near future.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Cuba’s top ecclesiastical representative, is more attached to the dictatorship than to his people, and so he publicly says that “in Cuba there are no political prisoners,” when he himself has met with some of them, and he has been given a list of who they are, and the details of the disgraceful legal proceedings to which they have been subjected.

To top it off, during a televised interview, he didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge the courageous Ladies in White and their current struggle–or for that matter, the abuses they suffer every weekend very near to his Santa Rita church–and he refers to them in past tense, without calling them by name, but merely as “those women who dressed in white.”

The Pope, just hours before his arrival in Havana, for the first time had the opportunity to address the Cuban people, but so as not to say anything, he said nothing. Those of us who awaited a message of salvation for a long suffering nation–one where his children launch themselves desperately on the sea without the least guarantee of survival, who need the encouragement of hope, the least glimmer of light to assure us that off in the distance an oasis awaits us–we were not granted it. He did not mention the families of this dispersed, and therefore divided, people, nor did he even speak of the pain that for more than half a century of dictatorship, we have suffered in our deepest flesh.

Hopefully once the Pope has visited our nation we may say with certainty that His Holiness visited with us, and not that he passed through this land like one more tourist.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, 17 September, “free” on parole

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Reporters Without Borders to John Kerry: Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard’ / Angel Santiesteban

Photo taken from the internet

Open letter to John Kerry: “Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard?”

Published Thursday, August 13, 2015.

On Friday August 14, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cuba to strengthen the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He is the first U.S. Secretary of State to make an official visit to the island since 1945. This is a unique opportunity to address the catastrophic situation for freedom of press and information in Cuba. RSF sent an open letter to John Kerry addressing these fundamental issues.

Paris, August 13, 2015

Dear Secretary Kerry,

On the occasion of your historic visit to Cuba this August 14th, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) asks that during your meetings with Cuban authorities you address the problem of freedom of press and information. As the first high-level American politician to visit Cuba since 1959, you have the duty, and the power, to positively influence Cuban policies.

Cuba ranks 169th among 180 countries in the World Ranking of Press Freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in 2015. The Cuban government maintains a monopoly on information and does not tolerate any independent voices: it prohibits the existence of free media. Only official media are authorized (and the list of them is very short). The media that do not have state authorization are deemed illegal and are censored. Moreover, Cuba is considered one of the countries with the least access to the Internet worldwide.

Cuba’s control of information and censorship do not affect only the local media; Foreign journalists are also subjected to these restrictions. Press credentials are awarded selectively. And if the regime considers news stories by foreign journalists “too negative,” they are deported.

In addition to censorship, Cuba has a long history of violence and harassment towards journalists. Many journalists working for independent media have received violent threats from the government. Roberto de Jesus Guerra, editor of Hablemos Press, the independent news agency and free-speech NGO, was physically attacked by agents of the Internal Security Department in June 2014. Another correspondent from the same publication was run down by a car that same month. In July of this year, many activists and journalists were arrested at a protest organized by the Ladies in White opposition movement. Unfortunately, these are only several examples of a widespread problem. These events served as a sad reminder of 2003’s Black Spring, when 27* journalists were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Prominent journalists have recently been arrested and sentenced to long prison sentences for merely doing their job. Writer and blogger Angel Santiesteban-Prats was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment on trumped-up charges of “domestic violation and injuries.” These charges were used as pretexts to punish him for his outspoken criticism of the government. He was released on parole on July 17, 2015, after serving more than two years of his prison sentence. According to his website editor, during his time in prison he was repeatedly mistreated and tortured. Amid these reports, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights submitted a formal request last September urging the Cuban government to guarantee Santiesteban-Prats’ physical safety. Now that he has been released, the journalist is calling for a retrial. He sees his release as an attempt by the Cuban government to silence him, since he was able to write and express himself from inside his prison cell. But he has no intention of remaining silent and has already published a book entitled “Last Symphony,” a collection of short stories about violence in Cuba, which he began writing in prison.

While Reporters Without Borders welcomes his release, we cannot forget two journalists still imprisoned in Cuba, in troubling and dangerous conditions. Yoeni de Jesús Guerra García, an independent blogger from the agency Yayabo Press, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in March 2014 on charges of “illegally slaughtering cattle.” He maintains that the charges were fabricated to put a stop to his reporting activities. Yoeni has repeatedly been the victim of violence and torture inflicted by prison staff. José Antonio Torres, former correspondent for Granma, was sentenced to 14 years prison in 2012 for the crime of esponiage, a questionable accusation.

In this new era beginning for Cuba, barriers to press freedom must be broken. The United States has the opportunity and the responsibility to facilitate this change through diplomacy. Now is the time for releasing jailed journalists, and allowing independent media to operate without fear of violence or arrest. Now is the time to make sure that all of Cuba’s many voices are heard.

I thank you in advance, Secretary Kerry, for the attention you give to this letter.


Christophe Deloire

Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders

Published in RSF

*Translator’s note: The total Black Spring arrests, which included other types of human rights activists, were 75.

Translated by Tomás A.

Angel Santiesteban: Most of our people pretend


Disoriented in time like all ex-prisoners, Ángel Santiesteban brings with him a thousand prison demons.

Interview with Ángel Santiesteban after his conditional release – Cuba 2015.

Havana, Cuba, Augusto César San Martín —  The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats suffers with every word he writes. “I classify my work as social,” he declares in an interview given to Cubanet. “It’s always about the environment that surrounds the Cuban,” he adds.

And “suffering” is the best word to describe a people numb with fear, according to the writer who won the Short Story Prize from the National Union of Artists and Writers in Cuba (UNEAC).

“Most of our people pretend; they hope that this will pass and that they don’t encounter that wall. They don’t brave any consesquences they might receive for confronting the dictatorship,” he expressed.

Named by Reporters Without Borders as one of the 100 Information Heroes in 2014, Santiesteban was released from prison under a cautionary measure that can reverse his current limited freedom.

The author of several books of short stories, he received the Franz Kafka Novels of the Drawer Prize for his novel, “The Summer When God Was Sleeping,” where he recounts highlights that mark Cuban society: the participation of Cubans in the war in Africa, prison and the rafters.

Perhaps this last is a reckoning with his past for the 14 months he remained a prisoner at the age of 17, accused of conspiracy for saying goodbye, on the coast, to the family that failed as rafters.

He confessed to Cubanet that he carries fears with him in order to defend his ideas. They are in his blog, The Children That Nobody Wanted, and in the fear of dragging his family along when he’s repressed by the police.

He states that the two and one-half years in prison made him grow as a writer, a human being, and revealed to him the courage of Cuban freemasonry, to which he belongs.

His memory for the offenses he received has the same power as his disposition to reconcile with his adversaries. He suggested that I invite them to a rapprochement, even though conciliation appears difficult.

Disoriented in time like every ex-prisoner, he brings with him a thousand prison demons that will sleep with him for the rest of his days. Perhaps he doesn’t know that they’ll be persistent companions, but he is convinced that they are there, watching over his spiritual damage on the orders of those who imprisoned him.

The writer describes death threats by the police, arrests, insults, psychological damage to his family and imprisonment – a scenario that could well accommodate negative feelings. But in the hour that we share in one of the offices of the Great Masonic Temple, Ángel Santiesteban Prats doesn’t show the least hint of rancor.

Published in Cubanet.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Latest news: They are freeing Ángel Santiesteban

17 July 2015 — Ángel Santiesteban’s family just called me from Havana to report that a few minutes ago he was in contact by telephone and told them that his freedom is imminent. I don’t have more information at the moment.

When there is more news it will be communicated through this blog.

The Editor

Translated by Regina Anavy

#Cuba Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White #TodosMarchamos

Photo: Courtesy of Angel Moya

Angel Santiesteban attended the Ladies in White march today, 19 July 2015, just 36 hours after have been paroled from prison and despite warnings from officials from the political police.

19 July 2015

The Languid and Protean Miguel Barnet / Angel Santiesteban

Barnet accompanied by Castro’s mobs in Panama City, Panama.

We reproduce here an excellent article by Felix Viera about Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) and one of the most servile cultural commissar of Castro’s dictatorship. In the article Viera offers the example of what has happened to Angel Santiesteban.

Félix Luis Viera, México DF

Miguel Barnet, president of Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC, ruling) chaired a meeting at the headquarters of this organization in the city of Pinar del Rio, reports Granma — official news paper — (like all the existing press in Cuba, paid by the government), in its issue of June 30th.

Barnet, as he was candid instead of cynical, brought to the memory of those present, what he has called “Fidel’s words to the Intellectuals,” a terrible moment in the history of Cuban culture.

The versatile “Miguelito” (little Miguel) recalls (he was the youngest in that meeting in 1961, in the National Library), according to the note published in Granma, that Fidel Castro, in that meeting, besides being “in a context in which he was promoting important projects such as Agrarian Reform [which was useless, Barnet could clarify, but either way we clarify it] and also facing the first aggression from US imperialism, he was able to give the hight priority to the issue of culture.”

Barnet knows it’s a lie. Lies. He’s a liar, an upstart.

He  knows, that Fidel Castro put together that meeting to put the screws on those who might think there would be freedom of expression in art and literature, if he didn’t, let’s remember: “Within the Revolution, everything, against the Revolution, nothing,” the most terrible maxim from Castro in the meeting. Which means, who is not with me, is against me.

However, interestingly, the above phrase is not included by Miguel Barnet in his vibrant speech at the aforementioned assembly.

The president of UNEAC affirms that, thanks to that “presentation” from the Commander, there were many achievements for writers, for example, “to publish a book in capitalism, a writer had to get the funds from his own pocket, or look here and there, making concessions.”

It is not a lie, but it isn’t true either. Many writers received royalties, few, yes, by the publication of his work, but mostly for periodical publications. Writers then, in the Republic, had to perform two jobs, as in the Castro regime.

A good question for the languid yet protean Barnet, would be: Tell me if UNEAC would agree to publish from the exiled writers any rebellious book about the Castro regime and sell it throughout the island, if we would pay for it? I am willing to pay and I know many others would do the same.

But as we know, the answer is No. So, Miguelito, what advantages are we talking about?

“Today we have so many figures, so many great artists who have never had the chance to develop, as happened from the words to the intellectuals, and the idea from the Commander of democratizing culture and stimulating the search for new talents in the most remote places of the country,” says Barnet in the above note.

The Commander, he says, “democratized culture” and encouraged the search for “new talents.”

He lies. He knows he lies and he doesn’t even blink. He lies, he knew and his audience knew as well, but the island has already become a place where to lie in favor of the Castro regime is a tacit agreement among those who speak and those who listen. Bilge water.

I think this is a good question for Barnet: Isn’t there a huge group of artists, intellectuals, artists in general who live abroad, because there they could not, they cannot express themselves freely?

Isn’t there within the island punished, censored or imprisoned intellectuals, for publishing the truth about “politics,” as is the case with Angel Santiesteban?

Is there a future in Cuba for a young artist who attempts to break the rules of the dictatorship regarding what should not be in a play?


We see every day how Miguel Barnet drags himself down more. And one of his fine moments is “to rumple the Commander’s beard” whenever he has a microphone in hand.

What a pity.

You know, Miguel, no one will love you, neither those who listen beyond those fallacies there, nor those above you, pretending to rejoice with your “revolutionary spirit.”

Many disdain you, because they know that you do know that what you say is false; you’re made of a different wood and thus result in a lousy actor. You’ll see it, you’ll see the day when the bells ring the alarm.

Good luck.

You see. That’s how things are going.

Translated by: Rafael

7 July 2015

Lambs of God / Angel Santiesteban

L to r: Victor Fowler, unidentified, Mariela Castro

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 April 2015 — A friend’s grandmother claimed that most people complain,”When their own toe is stepped on, but not for someone else’s” because it does not hurt them.

Just a few days ago I wrote a post in which I mentioned the Cuban intellectual Victor Fowler. Despite having explained the real dilemma for which State Security threatened to imprison me — and he listened to me and at least said he recognized my situation at that time — I offered him a ride in my car, when I saw him on the street taking his son to José Martí National Library for a cultural workshop. At that moment he made me believe that he empathized with my case. I swear if he had disagreed with me, I wouldn’t have put them the car, on the contrary, I would have admired him.

The truth is, that after he stepped out of the car, he gave his signature to those ladies from UNEAC, the Cuban Writers and Artists Union. And then he did not sign when actress Ana Luisa Rubio was beaten outside her house because of her dissident attitude. A serious inconsistency for some who claims he has been humiliated by a building guard who would not let him in, he said, because of the color of his skin, and tries to make a national scandal out of it.

Of course, I declare myself totally opposed to any discriminatory act by race, sexual orientation, religion, origin, cultural or political views. I am opposed to any abuse like the one committed against the Ladies in White and government opponents throughout the island. You stand up against every injustice or none, above any personal cause.

Far right: Abel Prieto

I remember back in the mid-90s, I heard the then president of UNEAC, and today Raul Castro’s advisor, Abel Prieto, express disdain and speak in a threatening manner about Victor Fowler, regarding a complaint Fowler made publicly before a group of Cuban philosophers who were at the UNEAC building: “But what is Fowler saying? He better keep quiet, we just gave him an apartment.”

I found myself in precisely that place after winning the national UNEAC award for the genre of story and — the theme of my book being based on the Angolan war — Abel Prieto begged me to make a deal and remove five stories considered very critical from my book.

“In my mandate I have not censured anyone,” he told me. Therefore, that call was not censorship, because he offered me an apartment for making the deal, which I finally did after reminding him of his phrase against Fowler, fearing he would do the same to me. He threw his arm around my shoulders, saying, “politics”in the end, and laughing he assured me that he would not do it again, a way to recognize his negative and humiliating attitude.

Maybe, Victor Fowler may not need my wholehearted support, but — besides doing it for him — I do it for a personal need. For taking such positions, I find myself  behind bars today.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 April 2015

Border Patrol Prison, Havana, Cuba

Translated by: Rafael