Monthly Archives: February 2013

Action of the International Pen Club for Calixto Martinez, Antonio Torres and Angel Santiesteban

CUBA: Two journalists jailed, one writer sentenced to five years in prison

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International protests a renewed wave of repression and harassment against journalists and writers in Cuba, including the imprisonment of two journalists and the conviction of a writer. Independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias has been detained pending trial since September 2012 on charges of “disrespect” against the head of state, while state journalist José Antonio Torres is reportedly serving a 14-year sentence for espionage; both were jailed after reporting on sensitive subjects. Writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been sentenced to five years in prison for alleged trespassing and assault on the basis of an apparently flawed trial. The WiPC calls for Martínez Arias’ immediate and unconditional release. It also calls on the Cuban authorities to provide assurances that Torres’ and Santiesteban’s sentences are not related to their reporting, and to make public details of their trials.

Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, journalist for the independent news agency Hablemos Press, was arrested by the Cuban Revolutionary Police at José Martí International airport on 16 September 2012. He had been investigating allegations that medicine provided by the World Health Organisation to fight the cholera outbreak, which began in mid-2012, was being kept at the airport instead of being distributed, as the Cuban government was trying to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak. He was taken to a police station near the airport where he was put in a cell. When he complained about his detention, he was allegedly beaten and pepper-sprayed in the eyes and called out “Down with Raúl, down with Fidel” (“Abajo Raúl, abajo Fidel”). He was held at the police station for 10 days before being transferred to Valle Grande prison until 10 November 2012, when he was transferred to Combinado del Este prison, where he remains.

Although Martínez Arias has not been informed of any official charges against him, he is reportedly being accused of “disrespect” (desacato) towards President Raúl Castro and former president Fidel Castro, which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. His lawyer has not been allowed access to his case file.

There are concerns for Martínez Arias’ welfare in prison. In September 2012 he was reportedly transferred to hospital for treatment for blows received to the left eye. In November-December 2012, he carried out a 33-day hunger strike in protest against at prison conditions. On 12 December 2012 he was placed in solitary confinement after calling Hablemos Press and informing them of the poor conditions inside the prison, in defiance of an order by prison authorities forbidding him to use the telephone. In early January 2013 Martínez Arias reported that he was running a fever but had been denied medical attention.

Prior to his detention, Martínez Arias was arrested several times in May and June 2012. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

Also imprisoned is José Antonio Torres, former correspondent for the government newspaper Granma. Torres was arrested in February 2011 after writing articles about the mismanagement of an aqueduct project in Santiago de Cuba and the installation of fibre-optic cable between Venezuela and Cuba. Torres’ 5,000-word article on the mismanagement of the aqueduct project, published in July 2010, was reportedly praised by President Raúl Castro, who wrote in Granma that “this is the spirit that should characterise the (Communist) Party press: transparent, critical and self-critical.” His report on the fibre-optic cable was published four months later. Torres noted in neutral terms that the Vice President Ramiro Valdés was responsible for supervising both projects.

Three months later Torres was arrested and in mid-June 2012, following a closed trial, he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 14 years in prison and the withdrawal of his university degree in journalism. He has reportedly appealed against his conviction, but fears that his sentence could be increased as a result. Cuba’s state-run media has made only a few brief references to Torres’ case and little is known about the espionage charge, although there are rumours that he may have offered or given confidential information to the US diplomatic mission in Havana.

Meanwhile, Ángel Santiesteban Prats, award-winning writer and author of the blog ‘The Children Nobody Wanted’ (‘Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso’), is awaiting imprisonment after being sentenced to five years in prison for alleged assault and trespassing. The case dates back to 2009, when a number of charges were filed against him, including charges of a hit and run and aggravated robbery.He was eventually found guilty of having broken into his ex-wife’s house and physically assaulted her; all of the other charges were dropped. His sentence was handed down on 8 December 2012 and confirmed on appeal by the Supreme Court on 28 January.

Santiesteban maintains that the charges are fabricated and politically motivated, retribution for his blog which is critical of the Cuban situation and government. He also claims that he was informed of what the outcome of the trial would be on 8 November 2012, one month before the sentencing took place, when he was arrested along with 15 others following the detention of lawyer Yaremis Flores Julián, and then beaten.

Details of the case against Santiesteban have not been made public in state media. However, according to the appeal lodged by his lawyer, there were a number of irregularities in the trial and sentencing. The plaintiff is said to have changed her statement four times and overall her testimony was inconsistent with the crimes of which Santiesteban was eventually found guilty. A supposed eyewitness for the plaintiff allegedly later confessed in a home video that he had been pressured and bribed by the plaintiff to lie, but this was reportedly discarded by the court. A number of important witnesses in Santiesteban’s defence are said to have been overlooked, including three individuals who testified that he was not at the scene at the time that the crimes are alleged to have taken place, and the headmistress at his son’s school, who stated that the boy had confessed to her that his mother had forced him to make statements incriminating his father. The two-year sentence for trespassing is reportedly a year above the maximum one year penalty for such an offence.

Sanitesteban is a member of the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba – UNEAC). He has won a number of awards, including the Juan Rudolfo Prize from Radio France International (1989), National Prize from UNEAC (1995), Cesar Galeano award (1999), Alejo Carpentier Prize from the Cuban Book Institute for his short story collection Los hijos que nadie quiso (2001) and the Casa de las Américas Prize for his book Dichosos los que lloran (2006).

Please send appeals:

  • Protesting the imprisonment of Hablemos Press journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias in violation of his right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Cuba signed in 2008;
  • Calling for Martínez Arias to be released immediately and unconditionally;
  • Expressing concern that the trials of former Granma correspondent José Antonio Torres and writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats apparently failed to meet international human rights standards for fair trials, outlined in Article 14 of the ICCPR;
  • Calling on the Cuban authorities to provide assurances that Torres’ and Santiesteban’s sentences are not related to their reporting, and to make public details of their trials;
  • Urging the Cuban authorities to remove unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly in Cuba.

Appeals to:

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba office in Geneva);
+1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Attorney General
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella, Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your country.
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with the WiPC if sending appeals after 20 April 2013***
For further details contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER UK, United Kingdom Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338  Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339  e-mail:

Published by Pen Deutschland

February 24 2013

Worldwide Launch of Angel Santiesteban Prats’ Latest Book

Isla Interior

Interior Island. Angel Santiesteban Prats. Condemned. (the one with the slanted handwriting) 2013

Moments ago my latest book  Isla Interior  was published in the journal Otro Lunes in a digital edition available for free download. This is a compilation of  posts that make up this blog and that have so greatly irritated the dictatorship.

My appreciation to all who participated in this edition: Michael H. Miranda, Sindo Pacheco, Enrique Del Risco, Luis Felipe Rojas, Elisa Tabakman and Amir Valle.

This work has been made possible thanks to Editorial El barco ebrio [Druken Boat Publishers] which collaborated, from Spain, ceding the rights of the book Bloguear a cieges [Blogging blind], published earlier with a brief sample of articles from the blog. I appreciate its wide dissemination and invite you to leave your comments on this post.

Angel Prats Santiesteban
Cuban writer

23 February 2013

Jorge Olivera Castillo: State Security (DSE) Agent Raul Capote is NOT a Member of the Writers Club

Juan Gonzalez Febles

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Written by Juan Gonzalez Febles

Cuba news, Lawton, Havana:

The recently unmasked infiltrated State Security (DSE) agent, Raul Capote, is not a member of the Writers Club of Cuba.

This was confirmed by former prisoner of conscience, a member of the Group of 75 and a writer and independent journalist Jorge Olivera Castillo who chairs the Club.

The question arose when among the signers of a statement of solidarity with fellow writer Ángel Santiesteban, issued by the Writers’ Club of Cuba, the name “Raul Capote” was slipped in. Olivera said that the name was slipped in as a signatory of the declaration, a product of those who in times past were effectively part of the Club. “We have files, secretaries, or bureaucratic structures that are normal in the abnormal conditions we develop our work,” he concluded.

The Writers Club of Cuba develops its work in the same circumstances as the entire fabric of society, civil opposition and dissidents, present on the island and subjected to the same pressures. Notwithstanding this, their work feels like an active and successful effort in promoting a literary art made with passion, dedication and commitment, but still fails to empower all of its aspiring promoters.

For Cuba news: j.gonzalez.febles @

February 15 2013

Cuban Writers Club and an Involuntary Mistake

The Cuban Writers Club publishes an explanatory note apologizing for the mistake of including “… the name of Raul Antonio Capote, an improbable democrat, and confessed agent of the political police who is also a civic thinker. This triggered Cuban alarms, including ours, and we urgently reviewed the error and its causes, clearly unintentional, a blunder that we hope that time, and a good heart (…) will dispel.”


Cuban Writers Club
Explanatory Note

In the Open Letter of Monday, February 11, where members of the Writers Club of Cuba expressed and claimed intellectual solidarity with the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban, something happened that we can only describe as a mess.

It appears in the name of Raul Antonio Capote, an improbable democrat, and confessed agent of the political police who is also a civic thinker. This triggered Cuban alarms, including ours, and we urgently reviewed the error and its causes, clearly unintentional, a blunder that we hope that time, and a good heart, as one prominent member of the Cuban says, will dispel.

Obviously the urgency of our solidarity conspired against our rigor. On collating the list of the Club members with the consensus for this Open Letter the original file in the Club archive got mixed it and we put him where we should have put Diego. We take responsibility for this mistake, apologize and assure you of our good faith.

The Open Letter, that reaffirms in its intentions, words, intensity, continues to generate support and affection, and is supported by most of the names that appear on the public list. A clean list with new additions that will appear publicly in our blog: and that we will send to the media. We already have the prestigious signatures of Venezuelans Edilio Pena and Elisabeth Burgos.

So we reiterate our support for Santiesteban Prats, we apologize again and we fulfill our commitment to the arts, along with our civic duty.

Cuban Writers Club

February 14 2013

How Amir Valle Came to be a Writer Who Was Read

Amir Valle en una foto de Anna Weisse, publicada en la página web del escritor.

Amir Valle in a photo by Anna Weisse published on the writer’s web page.

After being denied the Casa de las Americas award by the irreverence of his work, Habana Babilonia, the Dark Side of Prostitution, Amir Valle received an award that made up for any censorship: more than 5,000 messages from underground readers celebrating his book in testimonials.

“Someone from the Casa of the Americas stole a copy and evidently posted it on the Internet. I never put a copy of it anywhere. From then on, people I had never met began to write me, and they started to read me backwards, because I was like a kind of myth,” Valle remembers, on the program 1800 Online, of Radio Marti.

“That pleased me a lot,” revealed the author, “because all the censorship I got with the book was compensated for, the fact that people thanked me and sent signs that they were with me and that it was a necessary book.” From that moment, the fact that they had wanted to silence him converted him into a “writer who was read.”

As if predestined to live a nomadic life, Amir was born in Guantanamo and remained until he was 11 years old in Central Antonio Maceo, in Holguin. Later he moved with his family to Santiago de Cuba, where he took his first two years of Journalism, finishing his degree in Havana. Later, he moved to Cienfuegos to do his social service.

For many years his narratives, which had an intimate edge, were accepted and celebrated, in such a way that he won the most important literary prizes in Cuba, but when he took a step toward more critical literature, the “encounters” began, including with writer-friends in power, charged with ensuring political correctness.

He realized that “liberty has its limits, above all when I started to use the word ’liberty’,” and his rebellion ended in exile. In 2004 he visited Spain for professional reasons, and never again was he permitted to return to Cuba.

Again circumstances obliged him to change his home. In 2006, a German foundation, which protected persecuted writers, awarded him a scholarship and a residence. His wife and son joined him in exile, but not before the government withheld permission from them to leave for two years.

“Living in exile has allowed me to exercise this liberty with more ease, to say what i think, to ally myself with none of the extremes and to continue being a citizen of any place in the world,” observes the author of 20-some titles, in the fields of narrative, journalism, essay and literary criticism.

At present he manages the Hispanic Culture Review,  Otro Lunes(Another Monday) and is putting the final touches on a novel about his exile, entitled No hay hormigas en la nieve (There are no ants in snow). “After the big trauma I experienced upon leaving Cuba, when they banned me from returning, for a long time I couldn’t write one line about it; I tried and couldn’t do it. I had a very strong inner block, but after a couple of years I felt I could do it, and a complete chapter came out.”

The plot of the novel tells the stories of five Cubans who emigrate to Germany at distinct times. In addition to his own story, he tells that of a black violinist in Germany, Brindis de Salas, in the second half of the nineteenth century, and that of a young man who tries to cross the German border and is imprisoned by the STASI, who today works as a tourist guide in the then prison of this organ of German intelligence.

Having lived it in his own skin, and by way of thanking those authors both read and unknown who opened his eyes to thinking differently, Valle is a defender of writers who are persecuted in Cuba.

His most recent cause is freedom for the writer Angel Santiesteban, who he defines as “a great writer of my generation on the island,” in addition to being “a good friend, a brother,” with whom he shared adventures when they were both 16 years old. In his blog, loyal to the truth and free to tell it, he gives a strong criticism of those who know about the innocence of Santiesteban and remain silent.

Published in Martí Noticias .

Translated by Regina Anavy

February 14 2013

The number of political prisoners in Cuba is doubling: the case of Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban

By El Manisero (The Peanut Seller)

In this article, our Cuban contributor condemns Ángel Santiesteban’s  prison sentence and the grave situation regarding political prisoners in Cuba.

The Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission recently published a report about political prisoners of the dictatorial regime of the Castro brothers, which was made known by its spokesman, Elizardo Sánchez, and in which we can learn that between March 2012 and January 22 of this year the number of political prisoners has gone up from 45 to 90. The report emphasises that in spite of the fact that as a result of the closed character of the political regime the list does not include 100% of those imprisoned in Cuba for political reasons, it is noteworthy that the number of political prisoners has doubled in the last ten months.

This fact puts Cuba in the shameful and inhumane first position in the western hemisphere, and most of the world, for its number of persons condemned for political reasons. In this document, they also make reference to the regime’s change in strategy during the ten years following the Black Spring of 2003 in its effort to put in place, instead of its repression based on long prison sentences, a form of repression called “low intensity”, which consists of thousands of short-term detentions a year.

Included within this total of sentences, which does not constitute 100% of those imprisoned for straightforward political reasons, we find those who are condemned for common fictitious reasons clearly invented and manipulated by the regime, as is the case with the rigged sentence handed down a few days ago against the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban, in spite of having been denounced several months ago before the High Commission on Human Rights by the independent lawyers Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent, consultants acting for internal opposition groups. These lawyers condemned the accusations of fake offences, which is a common practice against detainees and political opponents.

In the case of Ángel Santiesteban it is his ex-wife Kenia, about whose mental health there are serious doubts, who is utilised by the regime, taking advantage of her non-acceptance of her divorce and her very spiteful attitude, which led her to make a series of accusations which progressed into legal actions.

In the beginning, these accusations were not given much credence by the court, which declared the accused to be innocent, but, on Kenia’s second attempt, when they were linked by the case investigator to the accused’s role in opposing the government, he was found guilty, starting off a legal process of sentences adding up to nearly fifty years.

The final case brought against the accused asked for a combined sentence of fifteen years. After appealing the accusations and the sentence, finally the accused was sentenced to five years in prison; when in fact his only crime is: criticising and denouncing the regime in his internet blog The Children Nobody Wanted, as well as in his general writing and his journalistic work where he is trying to exercise his right of freedom of expression.

All the opposition groups in the island and in exile have supported the writer and have condemned the made-up fairy-tale put together in order to send to jail an innocent person whom the regime finds a nuisance through one of the most cruel injustices: a politically motivated sentence.

Cuba Ya Twittea, a project strongly supporting liberty in Cuba by means of giving dissent back its voice, has published in its blog, as a last and desperate move, a collection of information which includes an interview with one of the principle witnesses who denounces the Castro regime’s farce against Ángel Santiesteban and although there is a summary below of what actually happened, the reader can see and hear this more completely in the following YouTube video.

The facts

Kenia D.R.G accuses her son’s father of rape after several years’ separation, but she declines to go to a legal medical centre to corroborate that she really has been raped; later she accuses him of stealing family jewellery, but when the case investigator asks her to provide details of the items supposedly stolen so that he could verify with the family members and friends that she really possessed them, she retracted the accusation and alleged that what he really took was bank notes in various currencies: American dollars, euros, etc.

Finally she asserts that she was hit by her son’s father, attempting to demonstrate this with a photo she had with her, in which you can see some scratches on her skin, with additionally the diagnosis of a doctor who later on in the investigation does not remember the case nor having attended to her, according to his testimony which appears in the record of the investigation.

The examining magistrate notes Kenia’s incoherence, summons the accused, brings up the records, producing witnesses who corroborate his plea of absolute innocence and, without any other intervening measures, he is free to leave.

A month later a fire occurs in the entrance to Kenia’s house. Of course, what better opportunity could there be to level a further accusation against her child’s father, who presents reliable witnesses from the place he was at on the day and at the time of the occurrence. He was allowed to remain at liberty without any kind of bail.

Five months later Kenia went to the Federation of Cuban Women to declare that being a single woman with a child, she was not protected by the police and successfully persuaded that organisation to send a letter to the National Police requesting her ex-husband’s arrest and an investigation with a view to the accused being condemned.

Immediately the accused was summoned and bail is set at 1500 pesos. A report was issued to Captain Amaury, who does not set about investigating and reaching the truth, but rather looks for anything which can incriminate Angel, nor does he go to original sources of information, like neighbours who would be able to offer impartial evidence. Neither did he understand that it was necessary to approach the doctor who in the following days attended Kenia when she checked into a psychiatric hospital and showed that she could not come to terms with the  death of her grandmother and the loss of her marriage.

The investigating magistrate by contrast set about bringing forward the false accusations which started off the process, succeeding in extending the list of alleged crimes committed by the accused: rape, robbery, wounding and attempted homicide, on the basis of which the prosecutor, without insisting on evidence showing guilt, applied for a sentence with a total approaching fifty years in jail, with an associated fifteen years, against the accused.

It is worth stressing that the Provincial Court rejected nearly all the testimonies presented by the defence and those accepted were subject to political pressure. It also needs to be emphasised that the accuser Kenia, following her son’s father’s refusal to authorise the child’s exit from the country, assured him that she would lodge as many further accusations as necessary against him until he changed his mind.

The accused, finding unacceptable the wishes of Captain Amaury in clarifying the facts took advantage of the opportunity presented by the evidence of Alexis Quintana and decided to record this video where, in a live interview, the evidence demonstrates the farce upon which all the accusations are based.

International support

Cuba YA Twittea declares in its blog: we have the evidence to prove that it’s all a fiction in order to deprive Angel of his liberty. And here we present the proof and request that everyone circulates it through as many media as possible, in order that some international court will take action on the case and not permit the dictatorship to continue committing with impunity all these violations of human rights now and in the future.

In the face of the great injustice perpetrated against this Cuban intellectual, whose works have been recognised by various national and international prizes and who has been published over half the world, I join in condemning the anti-freedom system of the Castro brothers’ dictatorship and their indiscriminate sophistry, as every human being who respects law and justice, and freedom of expression, has the duty to do.

Justice for Ángel Santiesteban whose innocence merits international investigation in order to clarify and put in place the whole truth of what really happened.

Translated by GH

January 31 2013

The Children The Revolution Didn’t Want

Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez

HAVANA, Cuba, February, History repeats itself. Another Cuban writer will be sent to prison. Angel Santiesteban, author of the blog The Children Nobody Wanted, was sentenced to five years in prison under the crime of housebreaking and injury. The Supreme Court upheld the penalty.

According to what Santiesteban said to martí, no evidence of his guilt was presented at the trial. One of the supposed proofs rests on the declaration of one of the regime’s Lieutenant Colonels, who argues that his handwriting proves his guilt.

The prize-winning author (for the books Dream of a Summer’s Day, UNEAC Prize 1995, The Children Nobody Wanted, Alego Carpentier Prize 2001, and Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, winner of the Casa de las Americas prize in 2006) declared that before he was condemned to prison without proof, his former colleagues in Cuba maintained a complicit silence, in order to preserve their little privileges.

It is not unique. So much of the imprisonment of some writers who dissent from the official ideology, as well as the silence and complicity of the intellectuals faced with the arbitrariness of Cuban political culture, has been a constant during the more than half a century of revolution.

Since its founding on August 22, 1961, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), have been nothing more than a group of posers, a “cascarón de figurones” as defined by the poet Heberto Padilla in his polemic with the writer Lisandro Otero, in the pages of the cultural supplement, The Bearded Cayman.

Already by 1965, “every man for himself” ran through the halls of UNEAC, and the complicit and ominous silence became permanent among its members, who did not raise their voices against sending the poet Josí Mario Rodríguez “Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) concentration camps, accused of being “a dissolute fake leftist”, along with other members of Ediciones El Puente.

Nor did they speak up after a speech by Fidel Castro, in March 1966, when he lashed out at the homosexuals of UNEAC and threatened to send them to work in agriculture. Much less did the writers and artists raise their voices when, in the so-called “Five Grey Years” the poets imprisoned Lina de Feria and Heberto Padilla were imprisoned, as well as the writers Josi Lorenzo Fuentes, Reinaldo Arenas and Manuel Ballagas, for alleged defamation against the Revolution or for writing subversive texts.

It was the members of the UNEAC who in the preface of the book The Seven Against Thebes (theater) by Anton Arrufat and Out of the Game (poetry) by Heberto Padilla–awarded the prize of that organization, in 1968–denounced them as “ideologically opposed to our revolution. ”

Perhaps it is this group of posers who came out with the accusations launched from the magazine Olive Green against Anton Arrufat, Heberto Padilla, Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Josi Triana, among other writers, by a censor hidden under the pseudonym of Leopold Ávila?

The sense of sin sowed by Che in the Cuban intellectuals who did not fight against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, plus their personal cowardice and some privileges astutely granted by the regime, made them into docile scribes who write only at the dictates of their master.

The writers who fall from grace are like a plague that the rest distance themselves from, and not only were they out of the guild, but also of the circle of friends, until they are vindicated, if they happen to still be alive, by some so-called political cultural rectification. This base act was illustrated by the writer Eduardo Heras in his memoirs about the intellectual purges, collected in a presentation entitled “The Five Grey Years: Testimony of Loyalty”, delivered like an exorcism against censorship at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in 2007.

The test of “loyalty,” according to Heras, is when every day returning from work you pass another man. You look, but never greet him. The only thing that unites them in that wretched 1971, is that both are writers and meet an unusual punishment for writing books labeled as counterrevolutionary. However, he adds, the only thing that unites them in this crucial moment of their lives is the ability of resistance to injustice.

So, according to what was written by Heras León, to endure humiliation, abuses, to remain silent and not even have the courage to greet another outcast, is an act of unity. Unity in misery? In human misery?

However, later, now vindicated, didn’t Heras himself, along with Arrufat, Arango, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Cesar Lopez, Miguel Barnet, Nancy Morejon and company, sign the UNEAC Complaint against the Ten Intellectuals who asked the regime for reforms May 31, 1991?

As Heras and other members of the UNEAC expressed in their years of anguish, the signatories of the Charter of Ten, more than colleagues, were friends, and shared the good and bad in this open and democratic social project which then devoured them. So why did they support with their signatures the attack and marginalization of renowned literary colleagues like Manuel Díaz Martínez, Raúl Rivero, Manuel Granados, José Lorenzo Fuentes and Bernardo Marques-Ravelo? Did they ever once extend a hand? Say hello to them again?Did Heras León or Anton Arrufat dare to raise their voices for Maria Elena Cruz Varela, Roberto Luque Escalona, Fernando Velázquez Medina, Víctor Serpa Riestra and Nancy Estrada Galván, also signers of the Charter of Ten?

When, two years later, a mob instigated by the State Security forced Maria Elena Cruz Varela to swallow her poems, and she was sentenced to two years in prison for signing the Charter of Ten and creating the Alternative Opinion movement, no member of UNEAC protested. Nor did they when the poet Raúl Rivero was sentenced to twenty years in prison, in 2003, for exercising a free press. Quite the contrary: in an Open Letter they condemned all these acts and called them conspirators against the Revolution.

Therefore, although proven to be innocent, the writer Ángel Santiesteban will be sent to prison, the only place, along with exile, where the children the Revolution didn’t want nor will want end up. His comrades from UNEAC, in the best case, will remain silent one more time, and of those “above” don’t “direct” them to sign some condemnatory document.

victor-manuel-dominguez.thumbnailVictor Manuel Dominguez is an independent journalist living in Havana.

Published by Cubanet

February 14 2013

Blessed are Those Who Have Friends

Amir, listen, I was remembering a lot of intellectuals we respected and loved who on many occasions went to my house to talk about the interviews you were doing with me because they claimed that you were going to betray me when State Security attacked me.

Today I arrived at the conclusion — once again — that those who betrayed me were them. You have always been by my side as a true brother. A warm embrace.


Ángel Santiesteban: From Butterfly to Worm

Amir Valle

Here the video sequences edited for those who can’t watch it.

Angel Santiesteban Prats

From Worm to Butterfly

How a dictatorship tries to turn a prize-winning author into a criminal.

Angel Santiesteban Prats (Short story writer, novelist, blogger). Condemned to 5 years in prison for the only crime of thinking and writing differently from the official Cuban dictatorship.

With two of his books already considered classics of contemporary Cuban storytelling, Angel Santiesteban is an essential name in Cuban letters. He only had to write three books to garner the three most important literary prizes on the island in the short story genre.

UNEAC Short Story Prize 1995
Alejo Carpentier Short Story Prize 2001
The Children Nobody Wanted
Casa de las Americas Short Story Prize 2006
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
His work, included in all the national and international anthologies of Cuban short stories, is also published outside the island.
In Spain
Angel Santiesteban
Blind Blogger
In Slovenia
In France
In Spain
At those times, when he wasn’t yet a “problem” he was seen on many cultural stages on the island.
Many foreign colleagues have asked about Angel Santiesteban’s life as a writer. These images, with other very well-known Cuban writers, speak more than a thousand words.
With his former teacher and mentor Eduardo Heras Leon, the editor Pablo Vargas, and Francisco Lopez Sacha, then president of the Writers Association of UNEAC
With the writer Reynaldo Gonzalez, winner of the 2003 National Prize in Literature
In Havana with the Cuban actress Sheila Roche, and the writers Francisco Lopez Sacha (right) and Jose Miguel Sanchez-Yoss
In Havana with the world-renowned novelist Daniel Chavarria
In Havana with the great Cuban poet Rafael Alcides
In Havana with Pedro Juan Gutierrez who, along with Leonard Padura, is the Cuban writer on the island with the greatest international renown.
In Havana with Manuel Garcia Mendez, also a winner of the Casa de las Americas prize in 1992, one of the most renowned Cuban writers in exile.
In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with two famous Cuban writers, Arturo Arango and Camilo Venegas (center)
With two of his true friends, Nelton Perez (back) and Guillermo Vidal (white shirt) one of the greatest Cuban writers of the 20th century.
With a great friend, the poet and novelist Rafael Viches Proenza, one of his most faithful friends.
Embracing the also ell-known writers Felix Sanchez and David Curbelo, at the Havana International Book Fair.
Here he is with some of the youngest writers of the time (early 2000s), all admirers of the works of Angel.
His first sin: Writing the reality of our country in his blog.
His second sin: Defending his right to the free expression of his ideas.
His right not to participate in an electoral system that doesn’t represent him.
His right to freely express his political thoughts.
His right to freely choose his human and social relations. Here with Gorki Aguila, of the rock group “Porno para Ricardo.”
His third sin: To join in friendship and social activism with other activists of peaceful change in Cuba.
With the director of the independent Estado de Sats project, Antonio Rodiles, another voice that makes the dictatorship tremble.
With Eliecer Avila, one of the most lucid critics of the Cuban dictatorship.
With writer and journalist Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabel, another writer who bravely challenges the dictatorship.
To silence his voice, first they sent plainclothes agents to attack him.
And so this.
Months later they arrested him and beat him so much the shirt he was wearing looked like this. November 2012.
One of the political police agents, so-called “Camilo,” threatened him with death.
On this occasion the same agent told him: “The five years in prison you’re going to get isn’t enough? And this happened when the court still hadn’t deliberated at rigged trial.
How could this henchman of the dictatorship know the sentence, if supposedly Cuban justice is independent of the police, as the defenders of the dictator Raul Castro claim?

Angel Santiesteban should not go to prison. Speak up!

When Hitler and Stalin were murdering thousands of people many said: “Why are we criticized for not speaking up, if democracy is precisely this: having the right to be silent or to scream?
This is the response of cowards.
This justification makes us cowards and opportunists when, taking shelter in this democratic right, we allow the crime to continue… this makes those who remain silent accomplices to the crime.
Alexander Solzhenitzen
Nobel Prize for Literature 1970

Translated by: @hachhe

February 8 2013

Blessed Are Those Who Have Friends II

Dear Regina,

Having you and Alcides by my side is a luxury that a few mortals can have. You are a friendship treasure I keep jealously. Thanks for asking for justice, I only ask that, that is all I need to remain free; but the Court answers through the voice of the State security. Here — as you well know — the vast majority obeys to remain in their positions.

Thanks for this proof of friendship. I know that offering thanks is sometimes annoying, but it is the brightest way I find to tell you that I love you too.




Translated by @hachhe

February 9 2013

THs — Twisted Humans — The Creation of a Dictatorship to Humilate Their People

The situation of Cubans under the oppression of the Castro dictatorship does nothing but get worse day by day.

The complicity of the world’s governments, whatever their political orientations may be, is unexplainable and unjustifable.

In Cuba, Human Rights do NOT exist, liberty and justice do not exist. The oldest dynastic dictatorship in the world created the THs – “Twisted Humans” – in order to subdue and oppress the people while it assassinated Human Rights. And it seems that the dictatorship will be be given a prize in Chile for precisely that.

How much longer should we wait for the world to wake up and slow the feet of the monster that will assume the presidency of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, created in 2011?

The acceptance of this presidency signifies worldwide recognition for the dictatorship and a stance taken by its leader before the nations of the continent and of the world.

While Raúl has done nothing but intensify repressive policies implemented by his brother—whose whereabouts today are unknown—and has just plunged the country into horrible misery, an unprecedented diplomatic “achievement” establishes him as leader of the region; meanwhile, more than 6,000 arbitrary arrests have marked a new record in 2012, along with the growth of the jailed population with an ever-increasing number not only of political prisoners but also ordinary prisoners. The surge of repression and the harassment of all sectors of the population have multiplied a hundredfold.

It’s easy to imagine the future of our continent where there are already various leaders who follow in the footsteps of the Castros, and have decided that it will be precisely one of them who leads the request that unites them today in Santiago de Chile.

Democracy is diluted even more in Latin America.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
Cuban writer

Human Rights: More than 6,000 arrests and new political imprisonments in 2012

The release of prisoners from 2010–2011 was not the end point: in Cuba there are already another 80 political prisoners with senences. Interview with the spokesperson of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), Elizardo Sánchez.

Rolando Cartaya /

Elizardo Sánchez, spokesperson for the Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation

Since its creation in 1987, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, CCDHRN, has laid the foundation, despite its official illegality, of a solid international standing as the most diligent, systematic and objective internal source for the day-to-day of human rights on the island. Its work has been awarded with the Order of Human Rights of the French Republic, the international Human Rights Watch award, and the Freedom of Speech award from the Interamerican Press Society, among other distinctions.

In order to outline the trajectory of human rights in Cuba in the past year, martinoticias hosted a phone interview with the founder and spokesperson of the CCDHRN, the ex-university professor and ex-political prisoner Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz.


MN: Practically every day that has passed since 2012 we have found out, thanks in large part to your organization, that some peaceful opponent was detained on the island.

ES: Our Commission tries to offer statistical information that we consider a useful indicator, although it does not reflect the entire reality in matters of political repression and of repression against all of society.

Thus far in 2012, the politically motivated arrests number more than 6,000 across the country, and even though we still don’t have the count from December, this figure is already greater than the 4,000 of 2011, and it triples the count of 2,000 in 2010. There is no signal that this increasing trend in the number of arrests will reverse itself anytime soon.

Besides repression against active opponents, we are worried about repression against different sectors of society, people who try to work outside the exploitative confines of the State, or to live independently from its political or administrative leaders, and who are objects of repression or exclusion for that reason. In the case of the youth, to be young in Cuba is already a grounds for suspicion for the police. This social repression manifests itself in practically every one of the municipalities of the Republic.


MN: These arrests took a massive turn before Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba.

ES: The papal visit stirred up the hopes of the people and led to many Cubans’ decision to express their desire to make major spaces of freedom and well-being available. The regime responded by doubling its oppressive efforts. The month of March, in the days leading up to the Pope’s visit, resulted in the highest single-month number of arrests out of the entire year, with 1,158 arrests confirmed.

The monthly average during the year is around 550 arrests per month. This spans the entire country, in the middle of a general climate of discontent, which includes articulated explosions of that same discontent. The focal points of major repression have been the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Villa Clara, Matanzas, Havana City, and Pinar del Río.

But we receive reports of political repression from almost every municipality of the country, because the political police are more present today than they have ever been in the history of Cuba, even in the nation’s smallest towns. That didn’t even happen in the age of colonial dominion or during the dictatorial/authoritarian regimes of the first half of the 20th century.


Generally this concerns short-term arrests, so there has without a doubt been a change of tactic in the repressive design, such that now it doesn’t consist, as it once did, of ordering long prison sentences and detaining thousands of political prisoners. In fact, in 2010 and 2011, 138 political prisoners with long sentences were liberated.

Nevertheless, even though we will present the partial report in January, I can speculate that in the last six six or eight months, the number of prisoners currently convicted for political reasons has also risen to some 80. With the negotiated releases of 2010–2011, the figure had dropped to 40, and now they’re double that number.

Elizardo Sánchez, on the arrests and recovery of political prisoners in 2012

At the same time, the number of common prisoners has also begun to rise. The government suddenly pardoned around 10,000 of them at the beginning of this year, in order to be able to give a presentable number, according to some, of 57,300 common prisoners. We reject that figure: according to our estimations, common prisoners actually number between 65,000 and 70,000.


MN: The Cuban government signed in 2008, but has not yet ratified, the Covenants of Civil and Political Rights and of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, which obligated signing governments to work to guarantee those rights to their citizens. What has the Cuban government done to secure those rights in 2012?

ES: In the sphere of civil and political rights, the government has introduced certain changes that, like the so-called migratory reform, are of little significance: they always leave an essence of exclusion and discrimination, precisely for political reasons, and they only seek a favorable presentation of its image to the media. But here no fundamental change has occurred, neither in the political nor the legal order. What’s more, I judge that the situation of those rights has worsened, as has that of economic, social and cultural rights, which is palpable in the high level of discontent and despair among the population.

I would predict that they will improve, but for example, in the aspect of social rights — one of the foundations of the regime’s propaganda — it’s clear that the poorest Cubans face more difficulties every day, and that they are ever more poor, those citizens who could be described as needy.

The government has other priorities, it needs to support a huge apparatus of repression and propaganda and a large bureaucracy that produces nothing, so that cuts are made at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people, as is happening with the recipients of social security.

Freedom of Expression and to Receive and Impart Information

MN: It is said that the right to express yourself and to seek, receive and impart information, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration, it is the guarantee of all other rights, because it allows us to know their violations. Was there progress or setbacks in Cuba these rights in 2012?

ES: The situation of freedom of expression and information in Cuba is visibly the worst in Latin America, much worse than in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, where there are governments that are allies of the Castro brothers, but that maintain minimum spaces for people to demonstrate, which are — albeit narrowly — open societies, even to international scrutiny. But that of Cuba has no name, it’s a rare month when we receive no reports of threats, harassment and repression of journalists, reporters, bloggers, people who express themselves in writing.

Calixto Martinez’s case, a reported for Hablemos Press, currently incarcerated and awaiting trial, has been the most noticeable this year, but all those working independently in this sector are subject to arrests, threats, various forms of harassment. And not just them: any citizen who openly expresses an opinion different from the official discourse, immediately unleashes repression on themselves.

Equally persistant — it is the only case in the hemisphere — is the refusal to allow the population to access the Internet. So we can not speak of a national public opinion, because it can not be defined because such an opinion is not well informed. In Cuba there is no news, just a propaganda apparatus, while independent efforts for demonstrating and reporting, such as bloggers, are seen by the government as a criminal act to be systematically repressed.

This also covers the field of art and culture, which continues to be ruled by the principle established by Fidel Castro, modeled on Mussolini — that all creation, to be acceptable, must be framed within the Revolution. It is a rule that remains in force, and a virtually insurmountable obstacle for artists and writers.


MN: Despite the change of tactics in favor of short-term detention, it is obvious that when state security fails to prevent peaceful opposition activities by warnings, summonses, threats or brief detentions, it seeks to sentence them in court.

ES: The goal is to get them out of circulation. In that sense this year the repression has been remarkable against the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU, who leads in the province of Santiago de Cuba Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia. It is an organization that is rooted in the very east of the country, and obviously the government has proposed to neutralize it. Right now there are no fewer than a dozen members of UNPACU in prison. Some have already been sentenced to prison terms of between one and four years.

Another case of blatant violation of due process is the writer and dissident blogger Angel Santiesteban. There is a negative political influence in everything that has been done against him to implicate him in crimes, including the recent sentencing to five years in prison. The hand of the political police is into the matter very clearly.


MN: Raul Castro has called for an open discussion of ideas in order to find solutions to the country’s problems. But it seems that his call does not include all Cubans.

ES: Santiesteban, for example, belongs to a group of young alternative intellectuals, artists, lawyers, bloggers and journalists are clearly and creatively expressing their desire greater freedom around projects such as Estado de Sats, the Demand for Another Cuba, the site Voces Cubanas, etc. Last November twenty of them were beaten and arrested, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, director Estado of Sats, remained hospitalized 19 days. The government has shown no mercy to them, because they are like the pearl in the crown of civil society.

But it has not stopped the harassment against veteran opponents, such as the psychologist Guillermo Fariñas, who was recently beaten on a corner of Vedado, in an obvious sting operation.


MN: You and I agree that in the 1980s the colonial prison of La Cabaña, a rat-filled place and beatings of prisoners, appalling by any measure. But compared to what is told of current prison conditions, that could have been a golden age.

ES: The prison system conditions have only changed for the worse, because many of the prison facilities have deteriorated over the years. Food for prisoners comes primarily from excess and waste, the expired food stores of the Armed Forces or agricultural waste. In the 1980s they showed a concern for maintaining certain minimum living conditions in prison. That ended years ago. Now they imprison people and, once behind bars, leave them to fend for themselves, expecting their families waiting to ensure their survival.

But that’s not the worst, it’s their treatment. The rule in the Cuban prison system is cruel, inhuman and degrading. Right now, as we speak, they’re probably beating a number of prisoners, because that happens every day, every hour in Cuban prisons, and in Cuba there are between 150 and 200 prisons and camps for prisoners, compared with 14 inthe country when the current leaders came to power.

MN: Is there physical torture in Cuban prisons?

ES: It seems that the most stark tortures have been abandoned or limited because of complaints and protests worldwide. Those applied to prisoners such as the famous “Shakira” or “swing”, tying hands and feet behind the back, looks like it was a fad a few years ago, but for now they settle for something equally unacceptable: the solitary confinement of the defendant in subhuman conditions (no light, no clothes, no mat, with a water bottle). They realize they do not need physical torture, because that torment is more than enough.

January 27 2013