Monthly Archives: July 2013

Prison Diary XL: A Broth for the Dictator

My family sends me the underground solidarity of friends and neighbors toward my reality. If we add up the population that doesn’t support the regime, we would think the fall of the dictatorship was imminent; but I know first hand that those who reject the existing process, are the same people who then go to the Plaza of the Revolution because they fear having it worse.

I once told the story of Stalin, who standing in the snow, wanted to teach his functionaries how to  subjugate a people, and before the eyes of his companions, deprived a bird of its plumage and threw it into the snow. Immediately, the bird ran for cover between the boots of the assassin. Several times he pushed him away, and with no other choice to survive, the animal returned to his feet.

I assume his lackeys understood the example well. I would like to ass to that story that after they returned to the shelter of the palace, convinced of the bird’s plea, of its utter helplessness and unlimited surrender, the dictator asked his cook to prepare him a nice broth to satisfy his unlimited whims.

Of course Cubans have never been masochists or stupid, although in these more than fifty years we might well have won; but I understand that the logic of the Cuban is thinking that it could be worse.

The prisoners complain all the time, and every time they bring me a complaint I ask them if they accept that the complaint will be filed with their name, then they get scared, and tell me they’ll be deprived of their benefits.

“And therein lies the price,” I tell them, “change is at the cost of sacrifices.”

Sometimes they complain about the food, and I think rightly, the stink of it makes me think an animal wouldn’t eat it.

I tell them that the following day, June 9, will be four months since my arrival in prison and I have never entered he dining room, I have no idea what’s inside, I assure them that the day we agree to unite in not going to get the food, things will change, they will take steps to improve it.

“Political,” one says to me, “if it were that easy we’d do it with pleasure. The food, which is a stew, they will feed to their pigs, and they will send us to the other end of the island and our families will be hit the hardest, and with the lost of our credits, they will deprive us of every possible chance to get out before serving our whole sentence and everything will remain the same.”

Those who have emigrated know that is true, any rebellion is shut down, in the place where it is, with the worse experience, with the hardest of punishments, and most, therefore, turn their backs on our reality.

It seems that our internal problems will be resolved by international demands like the UN, and like the racist regime of South Africa, they will force respect for the Human Rights of Cubans.

As a start, the first big step of the climb to freedom, and in turn, the beginning of the fall of the dictatorship, will be with the ratification of the UN Covenants; which they are about to demand a the FIDH Congress in Istanbul in the month of May.  Congratulations!

Angel Santiesteban-Prats. Prison 1580, July 2013

29 July 2013

Prison Diary XXXIX: State Security — Factory of Detractors and Betrayers

Intent to discredit UNPACU (Patriotic Union of Cuba)

The machinery of the Castro regime’s State Security creates detractors, traitors, and division among the opposition; this has historically been its most persistent work.

We learned that to confront the designs of the Castro brothers, is to enter the hall where they teach the “instruments” of psychological and physical torture, if persuasion, persecutions, interviews, threats and blackmail haven’t been enough.

For this mission, to enroll you as an “agent,” covert or concealed, appears on the path to achieving their purpose of making you desist. Some agree when they themselves are persecuted, and then give in, and they are then used against those who, like them, once decided to dissent.

These beings become human missiles capable, like androids, of complying to the letter with orders; to this must be added that most of those who lend themselves to the needs of the regime are, in addition to being cowards, usually mediocre, lacking in artistic talent, such that they will not be remembered for their work; nor for their treachery and meanness. They are negative beings, dark, murky, pieces in the gears of the dictatorship who take advantage of the immediate benefits provided to them by the totalitarian government as payment for their intrigues and support of their smear campaigns.

I know that this happened with the National Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and particularly with the most visible of its organizers, the patriot José Daniel Ferrer. They are nothing more than smokescreens used to discredit one the most outstanding figures of the Cuban revolutionaries, pursuing, risking his life and that of his family for the freedom of Cuba, with a change in the current political process that guarantees the rights for all Cubans, backed by the UN Covenants.

The death throes of the regime are visible, the kicking of the hanged man, without logic or direction, its feet lashing out in all directions. If we have the patience to wait and get this far, how can we not stand up to their latest injustices and excesses.

Justice is what we are trying to achieve with change. Then we will analyze their abuses, impositions to placate their anger, and the course of national treasure; we will pursue their family bank accounts globally, and return to Cuban its patrimony.

That is, indeed, the immediate reality which they fear and they will not hesitate to raise their hands to order the physical disappearance of those who hinder them, as has happened so far with several of our leaders. In any event, we know that whether we are here or not, there will be others who will impose order, laws and justice.

Our conscience rests on it.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison 1580,

26 July 2013

Prison Diary XXXVIII: Inducement to Suicide

In the days they had me in the punishment cell and I declared a hunger strike as the only way to protest against their injustices, several officers visited me, the Lieutenant Colonel and head of the prison, Villaurreta Reinaldo Vargas, Major Erasmus, the political major of the prison, and Captain De la Cruz who, cynically, urged me to hang myself, as it would be the best way to avoid our having to coexist.

When he mentioned it, he looked at the bars on the windows. I then explained that given how tall I am, I needed more height, since my feet would remain on the floor.

“As you,” I said to him, “are a short person, perhaps you’re thinking of yourself; fortunately we’re not all the same height.”

He was looking serious and, without answering, he left. That insinuation certainly came from State Security, and it was he who was sent to me to suggest suicide.

The prisoners comment among themselves that Lt. Col. Ceja, after giving an underage prisoner a savage beating that killed him, hung the boy in the cell as if he had hung himself. The inmates know the name of the victim, the officer and also the place and date.

Perhaps one day soon we can get justice, not to be confused with revenge. What’s important is that mistakes should have consequences, and that in our collective future as a society no ideology, political movement or leader, no matter how charismatic they may be, can again drag us down the path that turns us into executioners.

Each time a judicial process is opened in the world against corrupt or murderous ex-presidents, a joy overwhelms me, it is the sign, the warning, that nothing will be forgotten, that good deeds will be remembered, and bad ones punished.

The only thing unacceptable is to forgive them. This they must ask of God, while serving their sentences for genocide, murder, torture, human rights violation, false witness, the evil actions in their status as civil servants, and so on.

From that day, Cuba will begin its ascent to civility.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison 1580.

24 July 2013

Prison Diary XXXVII: Cowardice Disguised as Naivete

The naiveté of Cubans on the island sometimes dresses itself up and asks my family if they’d really tortured me in prison.

I remembered when, on the first beating, back in 2009, they fractured my arm, many doubted that fact because, some told me, State Security didn’t behave this way, given the scandal it would mean to publicly beat a writer. Other colleagues questioned the incident, and the then Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, appointed a commission who investigated the events.

I have said previously that another of the ways they harassed me was to stop friends who visited me at home, hold them for hours, asking them if I received foreigners in my house, or if I met with them somewhere else; if I received money from abroad and so on.

When I denounced the proceedings, all thanks to my blessed blog, they began to deploy their agents disguised as artists, that the incident that had happened to me was personal and had nothing to do with the State.

I was never said what definition the investigative commission arrived it, everything was forgotten and my fracture was “forgotten.”

I remember that at that time I published how they were going to find themselves.

On November 8, 2012, State Security beat me savagely, the following day, inside the cell, they beat me harder; only this time, a dissident had the courage, the audacity and ethics to divulge the horrors of the dictatorship, by filming the event.

I always wondered if those intellectuals, having seen the brutal beating, were then convinced that State Security did act that way, and what they think of their own silence back then, when they doubted, and now that they know how is it possible that they can continue to remain silence. Do they know that if they speak up they’ll get the same? Do they know if they talk they will come to this prison where I am?

Here, they have beaten me, forced me to eat food against my will, food that stinks and is colorless and tasteless. They torture me psychologically at all times. What do they need? Another video?

Their cowardice disguises their naiveté, it will be veil that accompanies them until they die. Thus, they will be collected by History.

I don’t understand how they can sleep.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison 1580, July 2013

22 July 2013

Prison Diary XXXVI: Proposal for Freedom for Angel Santiesteban

A few days after Angel completed 4 months in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, and having been tried in a gross travesty where they found him “guilty” — for the size and slant of his handwriting — he was visited by some State Security agents who offered him his freedom in exchange for renouncing his political position. The blackmail included that they would film a video, declaring that it wouldn’t see the light of day unless he failed in his promise to abandon the opposition. Needless to say, Angel flatly rejected this “very generous” offer.

This offer didn’t surprise us like it had surprised Angel, because we live in the free world and we have access to information that is denied to Cubans in general and to prisoners in particular.

When Angel received these “friendly” agents, which was only 17 days ago, he didn’t know that we had published his full court file on his blog: “The State Security Case Against Angel Santiesteban-Prats.” The evidence that all the charges had been invented in order to lock him up and silence him, is already available on the Internet. Just now that we have made available to the entire world the file that shows how in the dictatorial Castro clan Justice is a subsidiary of political power, and that Angel is one of the more than 100 political prisoners who inhabit the Castro regimes’ concentration camps.

Regarding the offer they made to Angel, they wouldn’t have made it if they didn’t assume from their own mouths what the world already knows: that Angel is innocent. How many violent attackers of homes have been offered release in exchange for renouncing their political position?

But that’s not all. Angel having rejected the proposal, they have said openly that they’re looking for a diplomat to give him a visa to leave the country. Having made this suggestion they have demonstrated that Angel is an uncomfortable element for them because he has his own clear ideas, because he seeks liberty and justice for his country, because he says things head on, and because he doesn’t care if he loses his personal privileges in order to defend his ideals. Angels has shown them from the beginning of this shameful process of search and seizure, that dignity is not negotiable, and so as not to let himself be blackmailed during the process, much less he will not have the double mission of denouncing the regime’s abuses from within the bowels of evil.

It’s not blackmailing as they can’t get anything out of people with solid principles. On the contrary. If they really want to offer freedom to Angel they can act accordingly: subject him to a fair trial and with all the guarantees they denied him when they locked him up. With fair trial and with all guarantees he can’t help but be absolved, and with the proposition they’ve made, they’ve corroborated — for those who still couldn’t see it — that Angel is innocent.

Angel’s lawyer, Ms. Amelia Rodriguez Cala, has already filed with the Ministry of Justice, on July 4, 2013, with receipt #1778,  the request for a Review of the trial. We have filed the corresponding complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and we have asked precautionary measures following the latest death threat Angel received in prison from a jailer.

The only thing left to do is for the Cuban government to accede to the request for a retrial and to release Angel immediately.

Angel is a great writer, recognized internationally, and has a great deal to say. His literary career and his life circumstances have focused the eyes of the free world.  The longer Angel is locked up for daring to express himself freely, the more it proves to the world that freedom does not exist in Cuba and that no one is deceived by the cosmetic “reforms” they are trying to sell to those who buy.

The Cuban prison system was put to the test in Geneva, and it came out pretty badly, receiving 292 recommendations for implementation. In Istanbul, Cuba came out even worse: the Worldwide Human Rights Movement (FIDH) declared Cuba to be a country that commits violations of each and every one of the civil and political rights in Latin America. The irregularities in the case of Angel also show that the judicial system is as perverse as the penitentiary.

We demand again that Angel receive a fair trial and that he be released immediately with guarantees of his physical and moral integrity.

We hold Raul Castro Ruz responsible for everything that happens to Angel, and reiterate our demand which we extend to each and every one of the political prisoners who flood the Cuban prisons.

The family and friends of Angel Santiesteban-Prats

 State Security Visits Me

by Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Two State Security agents visited me on July 4. After identifying themselves and asking how I was doing, I responded I was fine, with more strength to face them than when I entered the prison, and they offered to release me immediately in exchange for allowing them to film a video of me renouncing my political position. A video that would not see the light of day unless I went back on my word and re-joined the opposition.

I’m not going to deny that they surprised me, I never thought I’d hear such an offer.  It can only come from the cowardice they carry within themselves.

“I don’t want this type of freedom,” I responded. They looked at me without surprise, as if they expected this answer or as if they were automatons.

“Then,” one started, “look among your diplomatic friends for a way they can give you a visa to get out of the country. “Negative,” I started to answer. “I’ll leave on the same plane when Fidel and Raul Castro go with me.”

They were annoyed, whenever I mentioned the dictators, on the various visits they showed they were offended. It seems that in the script they’re playing out, there is that indication. Perhaps they do it so that one of the others, in his report, will describe the annoyance of his seconds.

“Then make yourself comfortable, you’re on a long journey,” says another. Shrugging his shoulders.

“For me, it’s an honor,” I tell them, “to be imprisoned by this regime. I didn’t get off the planes that took me to international fairs to desert. I rather be a prisoner, to your shame, than give up and continue to live under the totalitarian regime.”

“Well you’re going to be pleased,” he said, sarcastically.

“I’m grateful.”

We parted.

While they drove me to my barracks, I witnessed some guards beating a prisoner who was handcuffed in the “Shakira” position. I shouted out them in protest, that they were cowards, I shouted, “Down with the dictatorship!” to make the two interrogators turn and look at what they were defending. Fortunately, they stopped beating the prisoner, and then I saw it was an older gentleman who was crying from the pain. They really tightened my handcuffs to shut me up, and pushed me to hurry my return.

To top it off, they then had to listen to the officials who attended the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, which, like the childish people they are, repeated the silliness that the dictators write to try to fool international public opinion. Those who lie for the government do not allow Rights, nor do they allow us to be treated as humans.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison 1580

16 July 2013

More Jail Time for Shouting and Handing out Leaflets than Castro got for Assaulting an Army Barracks / Angel Santiesteban

Prisoner of conscience in punishment cell

Piloto Barceló is in the punishment cell for demanding his rights. He has served more than half of his sentence, so he should be receiving the benefit of “minimum security”; but the authorities are like always, and their ears are especially deaf to opponents of the regime.

Piloto finds himself sentenced to six years in jail for protesting in the Plaza of the Revolution against the atrocities of the Cuban regime. According to his indictment  “for threatening the figures of the leaders of the Revolution,” that is, right now, Pilot has served the same amount of time that Fidel Castro served for assaulting the barracks of the constitutional army, to which must be added the lives of the fallen soldiers. Clearly, Piloto will be imprisoned longer for shouting and handing out leaflets, than was Castro for assaulting a barracks with their firearms.

Whoever utters a word against the dictator, is punished as if he assasinated him. However, Piloto, from his cell, continues to struggle against the regime, and warns them that the time will come when he will be testifying before a jury about their abuse.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. Prison 1580, July 2013

15 July 2013

Prison Diary XXXV: The Silence of the Lambs

It’s been over a month since Sunday, May 26, when Cuba was named — in the 38th Congress of the International Federation of Human Rights in Istanbul, Turkey — as the country in Latin America that commits violations against each and every one of the civil and political rights.

What should be a national holiday, can’t be celebrated because it’s like the story of the first centuries of the colonizers, having to wait for the boat, powered by the wind and the will of God, sailing the Atlantic.

The silence about the violations is another violation that adds to the Calvary that we Cubans suffer. To this chain of silences is added that of the journalists with access to the Internet who remain silent until their bosses dictate the news and the style in which it must be presented; while their conscience slept, making this humiliation of their profession an everyday event.

In September the Cuban functionaries will return to Geneva, and, once more, try to cover their misdeeds, displaying their cunning and deceit, underestimating the intelligence of others.

For now Cuba, as for over half a century, is served by the voice of the people. The news passes from one to another, crossing the city and the whole island, with the echo of those who listen to Radio Martí and those who can read it on the Internet.

Really, we are close to the reality of Cuban changing, we just have to push the wall, making the ultimate effort to produce the social change we need.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison 1580, July 2013

12 July 2013

Santiesteban depends on us

By Lilianne Ruiz

Havana, Cuba, April,  After having been more than a week in a punishment cell, Angel Santiesteban was seen Tuesday, April 16 by his lawyer Amelia Rodriguez Cala, who was denied a visit on April 11.

The prison’s own officials had declared that Santiesteban was in a punishment cell and carrying out a hunger strike.

Since the week before April 9, in which it had been announced the visit by the official Cuban press and a group of foreign correspondents to some jails, it had been proposed that Santiesteban be transferred to the Salvador Allende military hospital in order to receive treatment for dermatological problems.  Santiesteban refused.

Then he was informed that they would give him a pass to visit his home. Santiesteban called his family to advise them and told them that he would call again to pin down when they should expect him on Monday, April 8.  But the second call was never made.  He was transferred in handcuffs and by force, in an illegal manner, from the Lima jail to the jail known as 15-80 in San Miguel del Padron, in order to prevent him from interacting with the press.

It was known that Santiesteban tried to resist the transfer and this had been carried out Sunday, April 7, in the night. Besides the arbitrary transfer from a regime of minimal severity in La Lima, to a regime of maximum harshness in the 15-80, the writer was thrown into the punishment cell for having demanded his rights.

The government of Raul Castro published in Granma, the official organ of his party, and on its official website Cubadebate, Wednesday, April 10, the visit made by some select journalists to see a part of the jail system; but it has refused on all occasions to allow the human rights mechanisms established on an international level see the situation in Cuba, and in particular the inside of the prisons.

Next May 1 it is expected that the Cuban government will appeal before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in the Periodic Universal Review, in order to examine the Human Rights situation on the island.

Cuba still has not ratified with the second signature the United Nation’s Human Rights Accords, and in the last review received the Council’s recommendation that it ratify as soon as possible.  To which the Raul Castro regime responded “that it needs time to analyze the contents of the Accords and to harmonize them with national legislation.”

Santiesteban, like many other Cuban political prisoners of whom there is news — as is the case of Ernesto Borges Perez, Sonia Garro and her husband — was hidden from the press in this announced visit.  Maybe, as we know, in order not to ruin for the correspondents the script agreed upon with the government, and in this way to give to the Cuban delegation before the UN’s Human Rights Council the chance to boast that the press visits Cuban jails.

In the case of the prize-winning artist Angel Santiesteban, the determination to destroy him symbolically and physically began for the second time with the opening of his blog The Children Nobody Wanted.

Because Santiesteban is a man marked by the experience of Cuban imprisonment: at 17 years of age he was held in the La Cabana jail for having gone to say goodbye to his uncles and sister who were “illegally” (in a boat) leaving the country, and they were all captured and accused of “counterrevolution.”  All were sent to different jails in Cuba; even the young Santiesteban, who at 17 years of age had only gone to the coast to say goodbye to them.

The national and international prizes, won for his work and his talent, did not erase Angel’s dissident brand, who unlike many Cuban intellectuals could not be bought with foreign trips nor privileges of any kind.  Neither was he paralyzed by fear.

He was judged without legal guarantees, in a fraudulent process as the monitoring of the details of the process itself indicates.  He himself commented on an opportunity:  “It was so incredible that first we thought that the trial would not be held.”  In the end, it was shown once more that in Cuba there do not exist, within the system and through that legal recourse, independent mechanisms of protection for the citizen who finds himself in the sight of a complex apparatus of State Security.

The only thing left to us Cubans is the effective memory of us that people of good will in the world have of us, that they work for solidarity with those who suffer and that they formally impose limits on the Castro government, so that it recognizes once and for all the rights of the Cubans, higher than the ideological monstrosity that serves no one and that is the excuse brandished before the world in order to continue destroying, incarcerating, assassinating, with total impunity within our borders and without recognizing the political opposition.

In the next week, Santiesteban’s lawyer must present a revision of appeal of the case.

May 1, while Cuba is being reviewed in the Periodic Universal Review, some influential people in the world may remember that phrase by Vaclav Havel who also suffered a communist dictatorship:  “They lie when they say they don’t lie.”

That day, where will Angel Santiesteban and the rest of the Cuban political prisoners be, standing and rebellious?

Published on Cubanet

Translated by mlk

20 April 2013

The legal farce against Angel Santiesteban reminds me of the celebrated storyteller Reinaldo Arenas and the poets Heberto Padilla and Raul Rivero

Three memories of Angel Santiesteban

Miguel Iturria Savon

September 2, 2011, I published on Cubanet the article SOS for Angel Santiesteban, then harassed by the political police of the Cuban government in spite of being a writer awarded multiple prizes by the regime’s own institutions.

At the end of 2012 Angel was sentenced to five years in prison after a rigged trial in which they used his ex-wife as a lance point against him.  I will not refer to the details of the case, because they still circulate in various writings and on Santesteban’s blog, but to my personal impressions about this wordsmith.

Before personally knowing the author of Dreams of a Summer Day, The Children Nobody Wanted, Happy Are They Who Mourn, and South: Latitude 13, I read his books and heard several anecdotes that reflect his temperament and satirize the Cuban political situation.  It is hard to forget some characters from his stories about jail and the Cuban intervention in the African wars.  Maybe the masterful design of those alienated beings that gallop on the pages of his works are the true cause of the degrading judicial process that attempts to nullify his rebellion and the voice of this audacious and mask-free man.

As my son was the lawyer for Angel Santiesteban I had the privilege of receiving him in my Havana home and speaking with him over a glass of water — Angel does not drink rum or coffee.  We spoke of literature and of his family experience.  Only on one occasion, on asking him about one of his characters, did he reveal to me the traumatic imprint of his brief prison stay before turning 20 years of age after being detained on the north coast while saying goodbye to a relative who tried to leave the island on a raft.

I encountered Santiesteban several times in the home of blogger Yoani Sanchez and in the cultural gatherings organized in the residence of the physicist Antonio Rodiles, leader of the Estado de Sats program.  I remember that Angel barely intervened in the debates and sat almost always at the end of the room, far from posturing and prominence but cordial to whoever approached him.  In the end he would leave in his car with four or five others whom he took to or near their homes.

The last time that we met was across from the Infanta and Manglar Police station, next to the building “Fame and Applause,” where half a hundred opponents demanded the liberation of Antonio Rodiles, detained after the burial of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, dead in a suspicious accident.  There we talked while Wilfredo Vallin and Reinaldo Escobar tried to negotiate with the Station Chief, also surrounded by a band of delinquents who awaited orders from Security officers to kick and drag the opponents.

The legal farce against Angel Santiesteban reminds me of the celebrated storyteller Reinaldo Arenas and the poets Heberto Padilla — incarcerated in 1971 — and Raul Rivero — sentenced in 2003 — victims of a dictatorship that sanctions freedom of expression and promotes the quietism and complicit silence of intellectuals.

Translated by mlk

9 June 2013

Prison Diary XXXIV: Courts That Offer Revenge

The best thing that could happen to me in prison is that time slips away, because between editing unpublished manuscripts, creating some story, reading, writing posts, and listening to complaints from the prisoners, I barely have time to sleep.

Alexander Sanchez Izquierda complains about the arbitrariness with which they sentenced him. The instructor, First Lieutenant Dueña of the Sixth Station, is the godmother of his ex, and assured him during his detention that she would get revenge for his breaking up his marriage to her.

To achieve this, the officer to let him know he hurt-Alexander-was the one who had committed the crime and not accepted during the trial witnesses attesting to his innocence.

To achieve this, the officer told the injured one that he — Alexander — was the one who committed the crime, and during the trial they didn’t accept witnesses who’d testified to his innocence.

Alexander asked me how it’s possible that a government can ask for “justice” for five spies who carry several deaths on their shoulders, and not worry about the courts handing out justice to its nationals.

Alexander is waiting to finish his ten-year sentence to fight for the freedom of Cuba. He says the Cuban people can continue supporting the prisons being flooded by innocent people.

This is what we all are waiting for, I say to him. Meanwhile, we continue being the children nobody wants.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison 1580, June 2013

4 July 2013