Monthly Archives: May 2014

Answer To Those Who Don’t Accept the Embargo / Angel Santiesteban

A public letter addressed to President Obama with the intention of lifting the embargo or, at least, lessening it, has been signed by figures who demonstrate that Human Rights on the Island do not matter to them at all.

For some, shame means a check with several zeros. I cannot hide that it fills me with consternation that there exist people in this world who defend the dictatorship although I suspect that those who do it do not think of anything more than economic gain, perks or future payments for political “lobbying” services. One way or another, it means the same thing for ethics and humanity. Their shameless acts rival each other for the championship of the most cynical.

No one with honor can raise his voice to strengthen the tyranny of the Castro brothers, which — for more than a half a century — has sunk our country into misery. They cannot hide behind the apparent good intention of “helping the Cuban people” when we know that absolutely nothing will improve in our reality; to the contrary, as the totalitarian regime is strengthened, the same will occur with the iron yoke that they exert over the people, repression and assassinations of dissident leaders will increase. That is the only thing that they will achieve if they raise or lessen the embargo on the Castro family.

To those to whom it does not matter then, sign and protect the Cuban dictatorship.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  May 2014

Follow the link to sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by: Michaela Klicnikova and mlk.

29 May 2014

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New Prize for Angel Santiesteban

Miami: Presentation of Ángel Santiesteban’s novel also includes a tribute to him

Bacardi House, Rosa Blanca Institute, Chef Paella, Connect Cuba, Neo Club Editiones, Green Designs and Alexandria Library welcome to the presentation held on Tuesday, 3 June at 6 pm, of the book by Ángel Santiesteban-Prats called The Summer God Slept awarded the 2013 Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize.

The novel will be presented by the writers Carlos Alberto Montaner and Antonio Correa Iglesias in the Bacardi House in 1531 Brescia Avenue, Coral Gables (Miami Fl 33124). At the event, the journalist and presenter Karen Caballero will deliver a monetary prize, provided by the second edition of the culture project JOVENAJE, to Ángel Santiesteban’s sister María de los Ángeles Santiesteban who will receive the prize on behalf of her brother.

Between 6 pm and 7 pm the organizers will offer refreshments and tapas. Following this, at 7 pm, the presentation of the novel and activities of JOVENAJE will take place.

JOVENAJE is an independent itinerant event dedicated to paying homage to working writers, cultural promoters and artists. Ángel Santiesteban, dissident writer whose work has been acknowledged for its significance at the national as well as international level, was imprisoned a year ago in Cuba and has been sentenced to five years in a rigged trial. Reporters without Borders included him to the list of 100 Information Heroes.

In Cuba, where the separation of public powers doesn’t exist, judicial structures are only a mere appendix of the political power. In the last years, the Cuban government has resorted to creating false but well-known cases in order to increase the number of political prisoners on the Island without the risk of facing international campaigns for amnesty or unfavorable states of opinions. Santiesteban-Prats is one of the major victims of this new kind of repression.

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Please sign to ask Amnesty International to declare Ángel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy, Michaela Klicnikova

21 May 2014

A Light on My Path / Angel Santiesteban

I Raise My Glass to Freedom Day

I must confess that when they seized Raul Rivero in the Black Spring, and he was part of “The Group of 75” that was seeking political change in Cuba, at that time I had no political conscience, or maybe I did not want to have one.  My thinking protected me and I needed to believe my literary teachers who insisted that the work was primary and that from writing we should fight for change, that books were our rifles and words our bullets.

I do not doubt that is true, but there was a moment in which it was not enough for me, and so I have recognized on many occasions, and when I ripped off the mask that covered my face — stuck there since my birth, weathered and clinging to my skin throughout the time of my education — then I felt for the first time the cool, clean air caressing my skin.

My shame obliged me to start the blog. I felt that I had a double debt:  to all the national readership — where I perceived the need for the fight — and to my contemporaries, in particular and especially to the great Cuban poet Raul Rivero, who abandoned the life of a passive writer with which he collected great achievements in order to become one of the fiercest critics of totalitarianism. There was an instant where it all began, and his face, poetry and attitude towards life were made present, and I wanted to continue in his footsteps.  The bar is very high, like his poetry.

Maybe you will not believe it, but at this moment, while I write this post, I was interrupted by Officer Abat — one of the many bosses of this prison — and he tried to assert his authority over me, he wanted me to notice that he was prohibiting my family from coming to see me.

When I ignored him, he asserted that he was going to win — I suppose he was referring to a dose of suffering for me — then I assured him that he would never beat me because for me a cell was a badge of honor, but that I recognized that he could do it as a henchman, abuser, weak in manhood, and several other things that — in the heat of the moment — occurred to me.

He screamed at me to shut up, and I told him that they would never achieve it, certainly not on a day like today.  Finally, he left threatening, surely looking for help in the headquarters to make me pay for my rebelliousness.

Today is Free Press Day, and this is the best way I have to honor it.  And it is also the best day to express my gratitude to the great Raul Rivero, who lights the free path with his lantern of poetry, who in his turn inherited from the master of all, Jose Marti.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  May 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow this link.

Translated by mlk.

15 May 2014

Cuban Talent Bound for the Cannes International Film Festival / Angel Santiesteban

Movie Magic

Finally, by means of my son’s cell phone, in his visit to me in past days where they keep me locked up, I could appreciate the short film, “Death of the cat,” from the Cuban director Lilo Vilaplana, living for more than a decade in Colombia, the place where he took — in addition to his talent, profession, some friends and his family — the resentment he suffered in his own body, consistent with totalitarian processes, and that now, as a mature creator, he feels the duty to expose, first as literature, and now in film.

The traumas Lilo lived, which he carried in his soul like a pregnant mother who travels, started to emerge in that second homeland — Colombia — which opened its arms to him before his blast of talent and work in movie production.

After a decade of successes, now he can give himself the luxury of producing these shorts; this one in particular. He based the screenplay on one of the tales from the compendium, “A Cuban account,” that would see light, also, after he emigrated.

Many viewers would be confused about its geography and would think that he shot the whole film in Havana, since at the beginning you see the character Armando walking through its streets, in the brilliant interpretation of Albertico Pujol, who was filmed by another colleague, at Lilo’s request, because of his impossibility of entering Cuba.

Later the brilliant editing would splice harmonically with the rest of what was filmed in Colombia, thanks to the plausible scenery of the excellent professionals who thought about the most minute detail, and who helped give the coloring of Cuban reality at the end of the decade of the ’80s of the past century — on the eve of announcing officially the so-called “Special Period,” which would uncover the worst hardships ever experienced by the Cuban people, and which, with one sudden pull, changed the perspective of a nation deceived and repressed for decades.

In the interest of putting the story in context, it’s worth remembering that Lilo chose the day after the execution of the Hero of the Republic of Cuba, Brigade General Arnaldo Ochoa, a circus spectacle of the Castro brothers to distract the people, make them forget their hardships and so they wouldn’t take to the streets in protest. It was also a lesson for the military high command – a message, no less important – to remove the danger of those who had feathered their nests, and who imitated the habits of the Castro brothers, their mentors, for whom “life was to enjoy as it would produce.”

Ultimately, once the officials were punished for “deviating from the ethical principles that the Revolution pursues,” as the official press said, that had to stop once with the denunciations of the U.S. government, which accused Fidel Castro of being part of the international narco-trafficking that introduced drugs in his country.

Those men who could testify about the Regime’s consent to participation — and with the most distinguished “capos” like Pablo Escobar himself — sealed an ignominious chapter, and, as if it were no small matter, exterminated those who could create a seditious plan against its government, and compete with his brother, Raul Castro, for military power.

In the middle of this national paralysis, the artist that grows inside Lilo takes care of little things, apparently unimportant to most people, in order to reflect on art, as on hunger, the need for a political transition, the loss of values in society, family separation and painful scars, exposed in this case, in the character of Armando, who doesn’t have news about the son who launched himself into the sea on a raft. Much time has gone by not knowing his whereabouts, and Armando supposes that he didn’t manage to reach the coast of Miami and lost his life.

The story crosses the thin line between social denunciation and artistic setting, between melodrama and sensitivity, achieving, happily, a graceful outcome that avoids the trap of trying to tell about suffering through each actress, actor and production team, excepting the young actor, Camilo Vilaplana, who, thanks to his parents, managed to grow up far from that social catastrophe. Finally he manages to banish, although he always suggests, the conviction of those guilty of the desperate reality; that indictment is left in the hands of the public, in particular the Cuban public.

Without making it obvious, either, he arouses that fine humor inevitable in Cubans although the worst happens. The cat is the trophy for their real salvation and their goal: to incorporate meat into their source of food proves vital, and, in this case, the black pussycat is converted into a symbol of evil, because, in addition, it’s a retaliation against the oppression he feels from his owner, the neighborhood informer.

The masterful performances of Jorge Parugorria as Raul, Alberto Pujol as Armando, Barbaro Marin and Coralita Veloz, as Camilo and Delfina, respectively, raise the setting, in a joint brilliance, to a dignified height, artistically speaking, which leaves a taste of sadness and at the same time of pleasure.

We appreciate the effort of the Vilaplana family and the artist friends who joined the project, because in the death of the Armando character, we kill part of the shadow that still follows us from those hardships, and we feel the suffering and tears of Raul and Camilo, in a full exercise of personal exorcism.

During these days, the short film has been invited to participate in the Cannes Festival, in spite of the pain of seeing our lives reflected on the screen, and knowing that the dictatorship that is guilty is still in power after more than half a century. Each time that Cubans wander through the world in search of freedom and opportunities, they overcome the fear of being oppressed. In any corner of the planet where Cubans try to hide, they triumph, above all with the weapon of art, the most powerful of all.

May they receive my hug and my gratitude for the unmerited dedication, from their brother Angel, from the prison settlement of Lawton.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. May 2014.

Editor’s note: Trailer of “The Death of the Cat”

This masterful short, that I had the immense privilege to see in a sneak preview and which I predict will have an absolute success, will be released in a few days at the International Film Festival in Cannes, France, which will take place between the 14th and the 25th of May. Its presentation will be in the Short Film Festival. Before being released, it has already received excellent critiques, like this one from the prize-winning writer and journalist, exiled in Berlin, Amir Valle:

The death of the cat is one of the most demolishing and most Cuban shorts in the history of Cuban cinematography. I can’t believe that it can say so much about the national drama of the island in such little space, since beyond the anecdote itself (which I’m not going to give away since the film hasn’t even been released), the psychological representation of each one of the characters is simply the essence of that human animal into which we Cubans were converted in the middle of that crisis, which now is becoming eternal. If you add to that the fact that the trauma occurs in 1989, just hours after the execution of General Ochoa, the keys to unraveling the story increase exponentially.

“The death of the cat is the first story of the book A Cuban tale, by Lilo Vilaplana, a book that Lilo himself knows to be imperfect: “I see it more as small screenplays, like stories for screenplays,” he told me upon giving me a copy. And although he’s right, it’s necessary to say that for any writer who is already a success (and Lilo should feel satisfied on this account) in this book of nine stories there exist three pieces that are first-rate on a literary level, like “The empty house,” “Gumara,” and “Cuban soap opera,” stories of effective forcefulness, well-narrated dramatically and with messages of a profound Cubanness.

“The atmosphere of marginal asphyxia created by Lilo in the short, The death of the cat, is reinforced by the excellent performances of four respected Cuban actors: Albertico Pujol, Jorge Perugorria, Barbaro Marin and Caralita Veloz. The tragi-comedy that hides under the skin of the characters they embody will make you believe the powerful message of that which, only in appearance, is one more of the human and heartbreaking stories that can happen in a tenement in Cuba.

“Lilo, I know fearfully, showed me a work still unfinished: ’I have to work on the colors, the light, set up the sound track,’ he told me, and although from the first moment I knew that I was seeing the skeleton of what The death of the cat would be, I felt profoundly impacted by the quality of the acting (with a thunderous applause for Albertico Pujol in the final scenes), by the accurate insight of the screenplay into the psychology of the characters, enjoying the counterpoint of the tragic and the comic of each one, but above all by the multiplicity of messages that are transmitted in so little time: something that, with apologies to other Cuban filmmakers, seems to be missing a lot in our cinema and our television, where every time (barring very rare exceptions) they impose more nonsense, sexuality for sexuality’s sake, as a hook, the censored Communist media, or simulation and deceit. The death of the cat is a short that is overwhelming by its criticism, funny but reflective. It makes you think. And we Cubans need to think to understand the causes of our misfortune.”

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban, Angel Santiesteban, a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

10 May 2014

Open Letter to Leopoldo Lopez / Angel Santiesteban

Dear Leopoldo, my brother in struggle,

I write to you from another prison, in Havana, in the claws of the brother dictators Fidel and Raúl Castro.

First of all, I want to send you my moral support. Right now, you need it more than I do, since your country is hanging on by a thread to becoming a totalitarian state like ours, from which we have been suffering for more than half a century.

I admire your upright position in defense of your ideals and dreams for a free country where democracy governs and justice and the rule of law reign supreme.

I have your wife and children in my prayers so that God protects them and maintains the courage with which they support you unconditionally, and so that He returns you soon to your home, next to them, from whom they never should have separated you.

I am filled with emotion at the solidarity of the deputy, Maria Corina Machado, meanly stripped of the office that the people assigned to her, and of the governor Henrique Capriles, who together with millions of his compatriots has not forgotten you, nor left you alone. This support — that you certainly deserve, for your ideals and the way in which you defend them — perhaps tomorrow can be intended for them, because the government of the puppet Nicolas Maduro, like that of Cuba, doesn’t pardon or forget those who raise their voices against his regime and its abuses.

Many Cubans, by the corresponding share of responsibility that touches us, feel ashamed of the Cuban government that, without hiding in the wings, orders and manipulates Venezuela’s plans, because their interest — it’s no secret — is born from their thirst for oil, their need to count on Venezuelan oil to stay in power.

As on our island, they already have devastated everything, from the economy up to human values. Now – by the death of your people – they have thrown their sharp fangs over your country. They are vampires of fuel, opportunistic parasites who act like those terrible mutant viruses that risk everything up to the end, hanging on to the body of the chosen victim.

In the same way that they harm your country –and it is part of your demands and claims — they continue oppressing us. Clearly, if you can’t contain and avoid the permanence of the Chavistas in power, your nation will be submiited to the biggest misery that you could ever imagine, and will suffocate itself more each day, submitting to an empire of injustices and constant repression.

I pray to God that you stay healthy so that your social light doesn’t go out, and you continue setting an example for those millions of compatriots who today are already struggling for their future, an example also for those of us who observe, expectantly, from the rest of the world, the struggle of the worthy Venezuelan people for their freedom.

Hopefully we can soon raise a glass for the freedom of our people. The dreams that we share today are the seeds of what we will later call reality.

Receive my hug and admiration for surrendering your freedom in the urgent demand we all have.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. May 2014.

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

To sign the petition follow the link.

 Translated by Anonymous and Regina Anavy.

9 May 2014

Prostitution: Made in Cuba? / Angel Santiesteban

Mariela Castro. Photo: EFE

The news spread through the international media, except for Cubans, of course, because it pertained to the “secret,” a word that in the last days, after the congress of journalists, has been fashionable. To top it off, they were the same political leaders who tried to blame the communicators for informing without their consent, and even more, without their will.

What’s certain is that in Ecuador they have discovered a network of trafficking of Cuban women, who — deceived by the dream of getting to Miami — were taken off the island and later obligated to sell their bodies in a chain of brothels.

Fate again mocks these women, who prostitute themselves in Cuba in exchange for almost nothing. The majority are cheap, who work on the dark corners of the barrios. A few make it to the big leagues, which is access to tourism.

Always victims — be it in Havana or in Quito — the Cuban government should influence their legal situations, and shouldn’t make expatriation mandatory for them. In particular, it’s Mariela Castro, from Cenesex, who should take care of the fate of these young women, those who suffer and pay for the social whims imposed, first by her uncle, Fidel, and now by her father, Raul. To be saddled with their last name is a stigma that would take several generations to clean.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban, Angel Santiesteban, a prisoner of conscience. Sign here.

Translated by Regina Anavy

13 May 2014

A Hero and a Villain / Angel Santiesteban

The citation document sent to Angel Lazaro Santiesteban Prats to put him in prison.

To be a Cuban dissident in prison — who doesn’t tremble at denouncing the Castro dictatorship — and to be designated by Reporters without Borders as one of the “100 Heroes of Information,” is not only an immense honor but also makes Angel Santiesteban-Prats worthy of some “benefits” that only Raul Castro’s state security knows about and can grant.

And yes, Angel Santiesteban — before knowing that he was one of the 100 Heroes — suspected that something had happened. Mysteriously, that day Officer Abat came to the settlement to order the guards to have more control and security over him. Later, when he knew about this, he understood that it was apprehension and fear that made them send the officer to order such measures.

Not being satisfied with increasing the harassment of Angel, they decided to “honor” him. Nor were they original in this; they repeated a “detail”: The next Friday again all the prisoners would leave on pass, and Angel would remain alone with all those jailers, which the poor Cuban people are obliged to pay. He must be a very important prisoner to make them pay so much for the salaries of his many “guards,” a privilege that he shares with Raul Castro himself.

But before State Security knew that they held a hero in prison, already they strove to transcend the brilliant Kafka, speculating on new chapters of “The Trial” against Angel.

Not even Franz himself would have been able to imagine that the review of the judgment, delivered on July 4, 2013, to which they never responded, was archived because one paper was missing. They would respond when the state investigated. Then they went back to start the proceedings. This time the Court answered the Minister of Justice, who was the one who accepted the request for review, that the number 444/2012 didn’t correspond with the name of Angel Santiesteban.

They said that from the First Chamber of State Security, which was where it materialized. They are blatantly delaying the delivery of the file; they are hiding it because they know that they don’t have any proof that sustains the claim. This coming week, the attorney, Lourdes Arzua, who replaced the disabled Amelia Rodriguez Cala, returned to present herself in the Department of Revision of the Ministry of Justice, in order to point out and insist on the petition of the file from the Tribunal. Now we will see what they come out with this time. The capacity they have to manipulate and violate the law is infinite.

These days they have also confiscated a legal construction that Angel had in Vedado, Plaza Municipality. Part of the money he earned from his books went into that construction. Before going to prison, they had already seized an apartment, also in Vedado; it went to State Security. He didn’t want to denounce it because he felt ashamed to raise his voice for material goods when his country has lost things that are needed more: liberty and spirituality.

Raul Castro, you have not taken me seriously when I told you so many times that the free world has its eyes on Angel Santiesteban. There can only be heroes if there are villains. You yourself already have recognized that he is a political prisoner when you offered him “freedom” in exchange for renouncing his political position. You never imagined that an intellectual would not cede to blackmail and violence to make him desist from his convictions.

All that arbitrariness and violations of his rights do nothing but increase his strength and demonstrate that all those denunciations are true. Only a dictatorship imprisons those who oppose it; only a dictatorship uses Justice as a weapon to impart vengeance.

If you were a democratic president in a country where rights prevailed, Angel or anyone could call you a dictator or whatever occurs to them, and they wouldn’t go to jail for that. A democratic president can be upset or angry about what is said about him, but just by being the leader of a democratic state, he knows that this is the price he pays for having power in a system where freedom and rights prevail.

Only some days ago, you yourself said at the closing of the Eighth Congress of UNEAC, that “it’s very good that everyone has said what they think, although I do not agree; but I respect those who disagree, because I am an absolute enemy of unanimity.” Pretty words, certainly. Now comes the moment to put them into practice.

Grant Angel Santiesteban a fair trial with all the procedural guarantees; return to him the goods that were confiscated without a reason; free him until this new trial is held, when he will be absolved, because there is no proof against him and he DIDN’T commit any of the crimes that they impute to him. Show that your regime is not a dictatorship; free all the political prisoners and stop the harassment and the use of violence against the dignified Ladies in White; call for free and multiparty elections; stop the harassment of the independent press and all its journalists.

It’s up to you to show that you don’t erase with your elbow what you sign with your fist.

The Editor

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

To sign the petition, follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

3 May 2014

Are the Castros Using Civil Crimes to Imprison Their Opponents? / Angel Santiesteban

The Cuban writer and blogger, Angel Santiesteban-Prats, imprisoned since 2013 by the Castro brothers’ regime, spoke from prison in an exclusive interview with “Zoom to the News” of NTN24.

The dissident, who is serving a sentence of five years for supposed charges of inter-family violence, criticized the Castro regime and said “I don’t believe in the alleged intention of political opening.”

He even claimed that “as in my case, the Castros are using civil crimes to imprison their opponents.”

“In no moment will there be an opening for a national consensus”: Santiesteban.

[site manager: Our apologies, this video is not translated.]

Translated by Regina Anavy

6 May 2014

Behind the Scenes of the First of May / Angel Santiesteban

The May Day parade in Cuba

“I have little to lose by going,” I heard him say to a civil worker in the military enterprise where they keep me stowed away. “And I say little because if I lose that, I’ll be up in the air.”

Those who were listening shook their heads in agreement; it was a general fact. “My son studies at the university,” said another. “He has to fake it until he graduates. He even has to be a militant in the Young Communists in order to open doors and be trusted, and when they give him the first opportunity to travel, he will stay.”

There was a poignant silence. “We have to do what we can,” said the first guy. “The little we have is a pittance; we have to care for it more than if we had a lot. I can’t give myself the luxury of losing even a hair.”

“The parade, I’m going to the parade,” said the single man. “I will repudiate…I’m going to scream and kill if it’s necessary. I have to survive.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

To sign the petition, follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

7 May 2014

I Am Not Afraid / Angel Santiesteban

Even though more than half a decade has transpired since that confession:  “I know that I am afraid, very afraid,” that the great writer Virgilio Piñera — one of the greatest artists born in the archipelago — pronounced in the National Library, in the same place and at the same time that Fidel Castro prattled his “Words to Intellectuals,” I could never stop imagining the inner mockery that the young comandante must have hidden on hearing the sentence; and then, the abundant and grotesque laughter of the rest of the bearded men. . . and the times that they would have repeated “fucking fag,” without any of them imagining — unhappy souls — that the poet would outlive them in dignity and would come to form part of the history of the country as one of its great men, thanks to his literary legacy, while Fidel Castro and the rest of his unworthy “revolutionary” team just leave us an immense wake of blood and pain.

Virgilio Piñera

The bravest and most honest among those present at that meeting was Piñera, who with his declarations got ahead of what would fall over the country, in particular over the cultural sector.  Thanks to those premonitory words, worthy of an enlightened one, today we know the cost of what has been ignored by the rest of the intellectuals.

Maybe — if in that moment they had united — then they would have been respected, so preventing all the suffering that Virgilio, Reinaldo Arenas and Heberto Padilla suffered so much; possibly also they would have avoided all that abusive theater that surrounded us during the fatal period of the 1970’s decade, when because of their critical, human work, because of their ideology and their sexuality, they were persecuted, marginalized, expelled from their jobs and study centers and brought to bleed their original sin of being artists.

Fidel Castro always knew that he had to watch them closely and keep them under his boot, given that in spite the fact that he was dealing with “the soft sector of society,” they were dangerous, harmful to his ideals about keeping himself in power.

Now, since my incarceration due to the opening of my blog “The Children Nobody Wanted,” I can attest, paraphrasing the brilliant Virgilio, that “I am not afraid, not at all,” and paraphrasing the dictator, “Within art, everything; against art, nothing.”

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  April 2014.

Translated by mlk.

5 May 2014