Monthly Archives: January 2014

Farewell To The Revolutionary Sport / Angel Santiesteban

Life gives us the opportunity to use it at the whim of our possibilities of talent, for personal gain. In life we engage in a search for what we can be as good professionals, if it makes us happy to do it, and in doing so we discover that we add glory to the society around us, and we make our family proud. This is the perfect formula to feel fulfilled, amen, if we are also well-remunerated.

The outstanding sportsman, Lázaro Rivas, ¨Illustrious son of de San Nicolás de Bari,” could feel like that (except for feeling well-remunerated). He gained the world title in his weight class, in Greco-Roman wrestling, among other awards. He brought glory to his town and to Cuba, until his official retirement in 2011.

In recent days he disappeared physically as a consequence of a brawl with another sportsman. His family members came to say goodbye to his body, as did two trainers and some friends. The corresponding sports officials were not present, nor was the government. That was, in sum, the gesture of gratitude that the State awarded him for his efforts.

The precarious infrastructure on which sportsmen count is no secret to anyone, above all those at the bottom layer, to accomplish their feats. Your would have to appreciate more their human capacities and persistence to achieve such rewards, a great part of those being at the top and refusing opportunities in professional sports where they could earn large sums of cash, the only thing that would guarantee them economic sustenance after the official retirement pension given by the Cuban authorities.

I was witness to seeing the legendary boxer, Teofilo Stevenson, roaming the city to find ingredients for a sancocho (a type of soup), that some shops kept for him, to feed the pigs that he raised in the swimming pool of his house. He also participated in the familiar theater of pleasing foreigners who visited him and were itching to pose for a photo with their idol, after coming to an agreement to pay 100 euros, to put on the table some bottle of good whiskey, and in the best of cases, moreover, invite him to a restaurant, to obtain this souvenir.

The also distinguished fighter, Félix Savón, has had to accept this manner of survival. Visitors leave with his photo and a gesture, or a stench of knowing that their admired gladiators live off handouts. I got to know a Czech who visited them. Many ballplayers live off public charity; they eat and drink at the expense of their fan club.

Thanks to the opening of the State, above all in baseball, those older players with fewer performances are permitted to go to small clubs that can pay for them in some way, either as athletes or as trainers, so they can live of their savings, some years without destitution.

Among them are the pitcher Lazo, today contracted by a club in Mexico, and before that Victor Mesa in Japan. At least the most distinguished athletes have that opportunity of survival. The others, those whose names have been erased from the collective memory, today are ghosts lost in society, sons whom no one wants. That’s the destiny that revolutionary sports assures.

We would say that a large part of the most talented have made the most difficult decision: to abandon their country and their families, without knowing when they will return. A sad fate for Cuban sportsmen.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison settlement. January 2014

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy and Regina Anavy

10 January 2014

Advertisements

The Cuban System Isn’t That Absurd / Angel Santiesteban

Slogan on billboard is “We’re doing fine.”

There are few times in a nation’s history when the inhabitants of a country agree unanimously. Now with the prices of cars for sale, one of those scant opportunities has occurred.

Many have drawn upon Kafka, Cortázar, and Virgilio Piñera, but I guarantee that this is even further removed from reality.

The first question Cubans ask is if the person who has enough money to waste on a car would be able to go in person to the sales agency, since they know that they would be captured there. If no one, with the highest salary possible, can save this money, then it necessarily means this is black-market money from some lucrative business, like drug trafficking. You would have to come to the conclusion that the cars are a special offer for these traffickers, and an offer of paradise for prosecutors, the most unequal in the hemisphere.

We have and will have socialism

Cuba is a plaza for criminals, prohibited for honest Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. January 2014

Translated by Regina Anavy

29 January 2014

Traitors to the Thinking of Marti / Angel Santiesteban

If José Martí warned that “capitalism is the superior phase of slavery,” how can those who belong to the Communist Party, beginning with Fidel Castro, call themselves followers of Martí? It’s no secret that when the Comandante of the bearded ones came to power he said on several occasions, in Cuba and in the United States, that the Revolution was not communist, that this possibility was a campaign to discredit them.

Caption on video: “I’ve said very clearly that we are not communists.”

Videos exist where he denies he’s communist. And from night to morning, he declares the Marxist character of this social movement that catapulted him to power in the nation. I always wonder how great the despair of Cubans was that they forgave him and followed all his nonsense. Of course many glimpsed what would come and so resigned, like Comandante Huber Matos, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, William Morgan, among others who were disillusioned that after putting their lives on the line, they understood they had been betrayed by personal ambition.

Fidel Castro never put the people before his insatiable appetite for power. All the social power that at first he obtained was to mask his image of a dictator. Above all because then, economically, we didn’t depend on our own attempts, on the skill of investments, but we did have the teat of the Soviet Union and the rest of the socialist camp to satisfy his insanity and his plans for conquering the rest of the world.

If those countries didn’t exist who shared “ideology,” his mandate to govern wouldn’t have lasted more than five years, precisely by the great defect of not knowing how to listen to his specialists, to those who were suddenly removed if they didn’t agree with his dreams and his inconsistent, baseless mega-plans that always ended in failure.

Knowing this defect, his “collaborators” became adulators who lied in order to continue receiving the benefits of power. In spite of everything, he has been a brilliant manipulator who knows where to get resources for staying in power, now making his brother, Raúl, head of state.

At the end of this cursed cycle, the only thing that assures us is that José Martí is renewing himself, that his prophecies acquire more timeliness, and that for many years the Cuban people have been slaves, surviving in order to continue breathing, always scared of being whipped by the officials for any criticism or demand for improvement. We are a people basically seeking refuge in being run-away slaves, dispersed throughout the hemisphere.

Let’s hope that this 21st century will be prosperous for the Cuban nation and reunite its families, and that we will be capable of achieving a free and democratic society that assures and balances the needs of its people.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. January 2014

Translated by Regina Anavy

25 January 2014

The Attendees of the II CELAC Summit Should Know the Authorities’ Deception / Angel Santiesteban

Disgracefully the image of José Martí (January 28, 1853) has been used from one side to the other, for one thing or another, thanks to its universal meaning. And his great image.

Tomorrow will be another one of those days when the Castro brothers use the birth of the Apostle to dirty his ideas.

To assume that Marti would support the “revolution” is one more of the frauds to which we are accustomed. It’s no secret to anyone that they are taking up the old practice that “the university is for revolutionaries,” so those who don’t participate in the political convocations are stigmatized as being against the regime, disaffected from the regime, and therefore will suffer the consequences. Secondary-school and pre-university students will never reach a higher level, and those who now have finished their studies could lose their graduation certificate.

But the blackmail won’t end even after graduation, because they won’t get the degree until two years later, after they’ve completed their military service. Then they will need an endorsement of good behavior and political participation to be situated as qualified professionals in suitable positions.

Nor will the odyssey end there, because the threat and constant blackmail of being unemployed is permanent. Maintaining a correct affiliation with the Castro brothers is the only indispensable requirement for surviving on the Cuban archipelago.

The presidents who attend CELAC should know this. We are a repressed people, with a guillotine hanging over our necks, and with the least breath, whatever the capacity for respiration, the bloody blade will come down. Keeping sight of that cutting blade creates major fear for Cubans. Their perpetual torment.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. January 2014

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 January 2014

Angel Santiesteban Asks the CELAC Summit not to convert their visit into support for Raul Castro’s regime

From Prison:

Cuban writer sends message to the attendees at the CELAC Summit.

Ángel Santiesteban, sentenced to five years in prison, asks the leaders invited to the meeting to not convert their visit into an act of support for Raúl Castro’s regime.

The writer Angel Santiesteban is sentenced to five years in prison (Cortesía).

Luis Leonel León / Special

The Cuban writer, Ángel Santiesteban, sentenced to five years in prison, asks the presidents and international political figures invited to the Second Summit of the Community of Latin Amerian and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana, that they not convert their visit into an act of support for Raúl Castro’s regime.

“The Castro brothers have been the most skilled manipulators in the hemisphere. Their political astuteness has kept them in power for more than half a century. To support relations with the dictatorship is a shameless act that the attendees will add to their curriculum vitae,” Santiesteban declared, in a message sent from the Lawton Prison Settlement in Havana.

Santiesteban, one of the most prominent contemporaneous writers of the island, affirmed that Cubans could never resolve their internal problems by way of civic protest, since any popular demonstration would be suppressed in hours, as happened on August 5, 1994.

“We don’t have the possibility nor the way to decide our future. All of us who have taken this step find ourselves in prison or obligated to abandon the country,” the intellectual pointed out.

The CELAC Summit will take place in Havana on January 28 and 29, with the attendance of some 20 heads of state and governments, including the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza.

Santiesteban, 48 years old, was condemned under charges of “violation of domicile and injuries” against his ex-wife in a controversial judicial process. He entered prison on January 28, 2013, and since then has gone on hunger strikes to protest the conditions of his detention and “a fabricated trial.”

“My crime has been to write what I think about Cuba and its dictatorship, something that I’m not going to stop doing,” said Santiesteban in an interview granted from prison to Diario Las Americas.

A few days ago, several officials violently ransacked his cell, since they presumed he could be preparing to make a statement to the foreign press.

During the search, they confiscated the magazines and books they found, among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the by-laws of Amnesty International and a story that he hadn’t finished writing.

Although other Cuban intellectuals have been interested in his case, the government continues to keep him isolated “hoping that they forget about me.”

During the beating that a group of agents from State Security gave him before he was sent to prison, one of them warned him that he could have something happen to him like the opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, who died in a controversial accident in July 2012.

“When you get out of prison, you could die as if it were an accident,” Santiesteban remembered an agent warned him while they were beating him in November 2012.

That year Santiesteban also wrote an open letter to Raúl Castro, in which he accused him of intensifying the repression against the opposition. Days after sending it, they charged and condemned him for the supposed crime of domestic violence, which under a normal proceeding would have been sanctioned only with a fine.

“Since I began my blog they always told me to give it up and occupy myself with literature. As I didn’t stop, they fabricated a case of domestic violence in which they alleged that I entered the house of my ex-wife, the mother of my son, to beat her. They used false witnesses, hoping to silence the true reason they were prosecuting me, which is my dissidence,” argued the writer.

Amnesty International 

Intellectuals, activists and human rights organizations have requested that Amnesty International recognize Santiesteban as a prisoner of conscience, but up to now the organization hasn’t responded.

However, he considers that “something strange has happened.”

“I don’t know what purpose those lists serve,” he declared. “Except to support a cause and offer cover to someone in the claws of a totalitarian power, to more or less assure his life.”

He remembered that two days before going to prison he received a call from Amnesty International assuring him that they recognize his cause, but that they couldn’t add his name to the list until he was in prison. Later he learned that someone in Cuba had bothered to puruse it, because the organization had placed his name on the list of political prisoners without consulting him.

“However, it doesn’t make me lose sleep. I can’t turn back from the road I took. Everything started when I expressed ideas that were adverse to totalitarianism. My crime has been to think differently.”

False proofs, manipulations and silences

To reveal the falsity of the judicial process they planned against him, Santiesteban used the collaboration of a friend who pretended to be a prosecutor and demanded that the false witness tell her the truth about what she maintained about the accused.

“The conversation with the supposed prosecutor was recorded,” he said. In it the witness confesses that she had been pressured and bribed to testify against me.”

He described that during his presentation in court, searching for arguments to condemn him for the supposed maltreatment of his ex-spouse, they ordered him to write a sentence extracted from the newspaper Granma (the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba).

“After analyzing my handwriting, a proficient calligrapher dressed as a soldier certified my guilt, saying he found a certain inclination and a suspicious size in my letters. It would be a joke if I weren’t in prison,” he commented.

Six months ago, the request for review of the case was delivered to the Minister of Justice, where they allege that the documents have been lost and that they don’t know who removed them. Recently the attorney who represents Santiestbean discovered that some of the documents had been extracted from the file.

“The regime is hoping that they will forget about me, in order to kill me later,” reported Santiesteban. “They’ve threatened me with that on multiple occasions,” he pointed out.

Published in Diario las Americas

Ángel Santiesteban, a victim of the repressive politics in Cuba

The Cuban writer is in the Lawton Prison Settlement, in Havana.

Ángel Santiesteban, Cuban writer. (otrolunes.com)

Iliana Lavastida/Special 

@IlianaLavastida

Destroying the image of their political adversaries is a tactic of regimes that want to control the masses. The same as the Nazi ideologues, who achieved the manipulation of the minds of million of followers, totalitarian governments like the Cuban one use the method to destroy the figures who oppose them.

Ángel Santiesteban, winner of various Casa de las Américas prizes and winner of such prestigious competitions as Juan Rulfo and Alejo Carpentier, is recognized as one of the strongest voices in contemporary Cuban literature. However, his decision to dissent and to dare to question the repressive methods of the regime and open up through his blog on the Internet, which he considers “a space for constructing free thought,” implicated him in a judicial trial, after which he ended up being condemned for a common crime.

After a rigged trial, the prosecutor came forward with an order of 15 years of privation of liberty against the intellectual, who was accused of rape, robbery and attempted murder against his ex-spouse, the mother of one of his two sons, and they also prohibited him from approaching her for two years.

In these moments, the writer is in the Lawton Prison Settlement, in the Cuban capital. From one of his cells, thanks to the collaboration of activists inside and outside Cuba who support the dissident, the photos of Santiesteban behind bars accompany as graphic testimony the interview he granted to Diario Las Americas.

The five years of prison he is serving, according to the figureheads of power, are intended to make him desist from his interest in writing about the truth, but the same declaration of principles published by Santiesteban while he awaits sentencing define exactly what he has chosen as his lifeline.

“Since I undertook my journey with the blog, I felt the energy of a liberty that I didn’t know. And once it’s tried on, now it can’t be missed. It’s as essential as oxygen itself.”

Published in Diario las Americas

Translated by Regina Anavy

24 January 2014

Letter to His Holiness Francisco to Mark the CELAC Summit in Havana

Your Holiness Francisco,

I write to you, once more, to ask you, if it is possible, to make an appeal to the leaders and delegations of the member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States which will hold its Summit in Havana on the 28-29 January, and which the Castro dictatorship, as has been its custom for 55 years, will use, having chosen as the most important topics the region’s hunger and poverty, to add to its false fame as humanists concerned with social dramas, while doing nothing more than consolidating the repression and the violation of human rights on the island against those who dare to speak out against it.

This 2nd Summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to be held in Cuban will be another opportunity for the brutal dynastic dictatorship of the Castros, so that, along with its recent designation as “guarantor of Human Rights” on the United Nations Human Rights Council, continues tormenting its people, preying especially on the most humble, including women and children.

Ángel Santiesteban Prats is one of the hundred political prisoners who dared confront the tyranny. And only his national and international recognition as a writer, makes him a visible prisoner. And nor has the expenditure of resources on hiding the harassment from the repressive agents of which he is a victim for more than a month and which has its objective punishing him so to avoid his leaving prison on a pass during the days leading up to the Summit. It is easy to imagine how much greater is the cruelty and brutality against the “invisible” prisoners.

The world turns its back on the Cuban people. Commercial interests are more powerful than human reasons. And meanwhile the dictatorship has undermined every effort of union to achieve the only end everyone yearns for: Freedom and Democracy.

The Cuban people are alone and isolated. Only you, Holy Father, in your infinite love, mercy and wisdom, could appeal to the leaders of the governments that, once again, legitimate with their presence in Havana, the longest and bloodiest dictatorship on the continent, to demand that the dictator put an end to his crimes against his own people.

With all my affection and gratitude,

(The Editor)

Note: This letter was sent to His Holiness Francisco via fax on the morning of 14 January 2014.

The Dictatorship Mathematically Speaking / Angel Santiesteban

If we calculate the victims and the economic losses caused by the creation of  guerrillas in the world, starting with the coming to power of Fidel Castro, particularly in Latin American, how many deaths would they be guilty of over the more than half century that some conflicts have endured like the one in Columbia, which still continues? How much have the economies lost in those countries? However, you have to hear the Cuban government presenting itself as victims to understand the shamelessness of the State that has always been their flag.

That our people have lost their children is entirely the fault of Fidel Castro. That the Cuban economy is a zero, is the fault of his inefficiency. Starting from 1959 in the last century we are one of the people with the highest emigration per capita, it’s the fault of the dictator, sinking us into misery and despair.

In recent years they have make an inventory of what has been lost because of the U.S. economic embargo (with the intention of justifying their own inefficiency), which according to them is more than a billion dollars. With this we couldn’t even begin to pay all the damage that has been caused to other countries, with regards to liquidity, because on the moral and human site it’s priceless; without quantifying the damage to Cuban society, its families and the economic side, which will have to be suffered for many years to recover, at least what was achieved in 1959.

The Cuban people have learned to listen to the “complaints and apologies” of the government while remaining silent. They know they have to choice, that things could get worse it they thought, calculated, and not match those numbers and causes of totalitarianism that has a particular mathematics and logic. At least it can’t be denied that they have learned if not which side lives better, at least which side doesn’t live worse.

The infamy is that we don’t know whether to laugh or cry when we see the commissioners cynically defending the debacle of a government that has systematically drowned us for half a century. On the TV screen I see them speaking at the UN or in Geneva, and try to guess if they’ve convinced themselves of what they are saying. In any event, they exaggerate so much in order to hide the visible, that it’s impossible to believe them.

we can’t forget that even Nazism had its defenders, and the dictators in the Americas do as well. There will always be the satrap interested in the power on offer. And of course, there will always be the dignity of those who risk their lives to confront them.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. January 2014

21 January 2014

State of Siege in Havana / Angel Santiesteban

State Security has been charged with coercing the opposition on the Island, prohibiting their entry to the capital, which these days, to paraphrase the slogan, “It will not be for all Cubans*” as long as it’s being visited by the leaders belonging to CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

The political police have warned them that on this date, starting as of 20 January, if they move around Havana they will be detained in jails until the meeting of the presidents is over.

For the dictatorship, it’s common to impose its totalitarian laws, but it leaves much to be desired for those heads of state, serving as a pretext for the Castro brothers, because once again they commit their abuses and impose their regime of terror on the people of Cuba, especially against those who raise their voices demanding democracy.

As always, the opposition will fulfill its role and occupy the cells offered; also they will bear the beatings and humiliations to demand the right of all Cubans to decide the fate of our country. The rest of Cubans, also as always, bear in silence the prohibition on their rights to decide, question, demand, identify themselves as a thinking part of our society, and the violation of the rights of those who protest being denied participation and the right to have opinions on the political, economic and social management of Cuba.

Hopefully, the awareness of their rights will continue to grow among Cubans, and we will have what we need to do that and to change the system in any way possible.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison settlement in Lawton. January 2014.

*Translator’s note: The regime calls Havana “the capital of all Cubans.”

22 January 2014

SOS: Angel Santiesteban Again Accosted by the Regime, a Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council

In the early hours of Sunday, 12 January, at 6:30 AM, Angel Santiesteban-Prats was the victim of a surprise search by Officer Joaquin, deputy chief of prisons in Havana province. We do not know what they were looking for, but clearly they weren’t satisfied with what they found although they took everything: the Declaration of Human Rights  — hopefully they took the trouble to read it — statutes of Amnesty International, an Encuentro magazine, a Cuban Hispanic magazine and a story.

The harassment of Angel is constant and constantly growing. The regime continues violating his rights and those of all the prisoners — political and common — under the complacent gaze of the concert of free nations of the world, and now shamelessly before the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has rewarded it for “safeguarding” the human rights of the entire world.

Angel is still imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit and that they have never been able to prove precisely because he did not commit them. The judicial farce that the political police mounted should have been denounced by the same Human Rights Council that now “honors” the regime.

On 28 February Angel will have been unjustly imprisoned for a year, without the Prosecutor having responded to the “Motion for Review” presented by his attorney, Amelia Rodriguez Cala on 4 July last year.

We already denounced last 18 December that Angel had begun to be harassed and provoked by his jailers, in what we consider a clear strategy to push him to commit some disciplinary infraction that would justify a new transfer to a severe-regime prison or that would allow his accusers to demonstrate his supposed violent character in the review of the trial which, if the Cuban legal system worked, they are obliged to hold.

Nor has Angel’s right to a pass every sixty days been respected; he and his companions were deprived of this right at the end of November. But on 3 January, his nineteen companions in the prison left for their six-day pass, which was compensation for the pass they’d taken from them. Angel continues not to receive this benefit and only receives harassment and provocations.

Dictator Raul Castro continues to demonstrate to the world how in the Island Prison you violate all the rights and freedoms with his archaic but deadly mortal reign of terror, who also continues his efforts to bringing it to the rest of the continent with the complicity of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

You and the whole army of minions at your service are absolutely responsible for the life and safety of Angel Santiesteban-Prats. And remember that while the world is watching in horror as you send paramilitary mobs to beat peaceful Ladies in White carrying gladioli as the only weapon; as you arrest stops mothers with their children; as you use children as shields in acts of repudiation against those who think differently and also serve as witnesses for horrific scenes of physical violence. And this same world is recognizing the talent of Angel, rewarding him, as happened in September when he was awarded the Franz Kafka International Novel from the Drawer Prize, and the tribute he received in November in Montreal.

Raul Castro, with the world as a witness, we hold you directly responsible for whatever happens to Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.

Justice always comes.

Enough of the dictatorship.

Freedom NOW for Cuba.

The Editor

13 January 2014

The Courage of a Few Covers the Shamelessness of Many in UNEAC

With infinite pleasure I received the text of the intellectual Francis Sanchez “Smoke Signal for freedom.” With concern, because we are not naive, we are aware that this text of his, with his point of view, will be considered by the culture officials and the political police, as another sign of his incorrigible rebellion, “another stripe for the Tiger”  as our beloved, and physically gone, writer Guillermo Vidal said.

Bravely, Francis has exposed his reasons for distrusting my prosecution and trial and the entire campaign undertaken against me. Hardly aware of what happened, Francis has come to the logical conclusions from the most biased knowledge of the events, except that Francis has displayed his boldness and put his finger on the sore spot.

He begins the text with a Hemingway-like sentence: “Today is Angel Santiesteban.” That they have violated my due process, my most elemental legal rights, in an arbitrary and insolent way, before the eyes of the rest of the artists, accepting their silence, is the worst thing that could do against themselves. Tomorrow there will be others, perhaps some of those who signed the letter “against violence” to climb the ladder, ingratiating themselves with power, cowards, and so many other negative reasons, and then they will see their lives consumed under the silence of many and the opposition of few, where I will find myself, of course, defending their rights. And I will do it for them and for myself.

I will repeat once again that no conclusive evidence was offered against me, except my handwritten copy of a government newspaper and according to the graphologist, as shown by “the height and tilt of my letter: I am guilty.” And a friend of my ex-wife — whom I’d been separated from emotionally and physically for more than two and a half years — as was reported at the trial, what he knew with respect to what he’d heard from her, which makes him an ear witness, which is the same as nothing. However, for my part I presented five authentic compelling witnesses, who were rejected after the hearing. All of the investigative file, the appeal, the review, plus the video of the false witness, are found on the Internet so that everyone can draw their own conclusions.

However, many chose not to look, because anyway what are they going to do? Not to support the government but to put themselves in a good position and to continue to receive the gifts of power, and on the other hand, not to exacerbate their fears of the fury of the regime and the hardships involved.

I greatly appreciate that another writer raises his voice for Justice, regardless of whether it is in my favor, we are gaining in civic conscience and that is what’s important. I will wait for others to be honest and lose their fear, that’s the reason, the real demand for which I am imprisoned, because I lost the fear of suffering. There is an intangible quote that grips us when we say what we feel, and that is much greater and more gratifying that the suffering, when it is overcome.

Surely, the times of freedom are coming. The sleeping elephants wake up and discover their memory, are ashamed of their past and present, begin to live for the future and their honesty.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. January 2014.

17 January 2014