Monthly Archives: September 2014

The "Hero" Who Couldn’t Find the Entrance / Angel Santiesteban

A great truth was revealed at the VIII Conference of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC, by its Spanish initials).

We have to admit when our detractors speak the truth.  There’s no other option than –for the sake of honesty– to accept how right they’ve been.  Therefore, I have to admit that, yes, “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”*.  It’s impossible to state it any clearer, for we know well the political, human, logistic, and leadership failures that the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 symbolized, when the immature and terribly suspicious Fidel Castro stationed a select group to practice their aim in Santiago de Cuba.  With neither suitable arms  nor adequate preparations to confront the army, he sent them to a certain death.

How can intellectuals pretend not to recognize Fidel Castro’s cowardice, who — in spite of having gone to school in that city and having planned the attack — couldn’t find the entrance to the barracks, when those who had never been there were able to get behind its walls?

It is infuriating to watch that documentary where Fidel Castro, leaning on a car of that era, explains how he was unable to find the entrance, yet the cars traveling ahead and behind him managed to penetrate the garrison, whose entrance is of such a size that a blind man could find it!  But we already know that there’s nothing worse than one who doesn’t want to see what’s in front of him.

That wasn’t his only mistake.  We know that, throughout the entire struggle of the Rebel Army, he never participated in a single battle; and he advised Raul Castro to do likewise: while leading his comrades in the midst of combat, the latter would abandon the fight only to appear days later when the town square had been taken.  Fidel Castro not only couldn’t find the entrance, he was unable to follow the sounds of gunfire on that fateful morning, nor could he redirect himself towards other posts during the shootout.  On the contrary, he remained huddled, waiting for the end, and when he learned his soldiers were dead or captured, he sought shelter in a hole in order to finally turn himself in to the Catholic Church (which he never thanked for saving him), and reemerge as the hero.

Certainly, seen as a failure (the only way to comprehend this event), without a doubt, as the president of the UNEAC, Miguel Barnet, put it: “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”.  He’s never been more right.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Compound.  April, 2014

* Santiesteban is referring to the speech by Miguel Barnet at the opening of the VIII UNEAC Conference.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

Sign the petition so that Amnesty International will declare the Cuban dissident Ángel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

23 May 2014
Advertisements

Let’s Join "The Death of The Cat" in Denouncing the Castro Dictatorship at FIBABC

For my soul brother Angel Santiesteban, prisoner of Cuba for thinking differently.

For my second father, Raul Guerra, who died intoxicated with disappointment.

The Death of the Cat

Writer:  Lilo Vilaplana  Genre:  Fiction  Category:  Fiction

The Death of the Cat is much more than an exceptionally accomplished work of art by Lilo Vilaplana.  It is an unambiguous argument against the Castro dictatorship that has plagued Cuba for fifty-six years.

It deeply impacts Cubans who have lived that period, those who even if they have not lived it suffer even today the same painful reality, and the non-Cubans who are moved seeing how the Castro propaganda has fooled them also while all Cubans are prisoners of the big island jail.

Dedicated to Angel Santiesteban and Raul Guerra, it deals with a work of fiction inspired by real events, contextualized in the day after the shooting of General Ochoa but that takes great care with even the smallest details managing to recreate on a Bogota lot the miseries of one Havanan.

Details as “trifling” as to have covered the floor with a paper that mimics the tiles that populate Cuba.  And even the wretched roll that Cubans eat, many preliminary experiments were needed until obtaining what appears in the short film, seeking not to exceed the weight and to be true to what the impoverished people eat.

It is not easy to create intentionally so much destruction, poverty and neglect as the Castros have caused in over five decades.  Painstaking craftsmanship by Lilo’s team has managed to “destroy” the setting, making it so true to life that more than one person will believe that it really was filmed in Havana.

The director’s merit, and it is great, is not only artistic.  The art, it is true, has brought the short film to first level international festivals.  But it has not only shown the world Cuban talent, which is infinite and in Cuba has no possibility of being developed unless one wants to end up censored, marginalized or in prison.  The short itself, filmed in Colombia, is true testimony that in order to exist, it must have been born on another horizon where liberty reigns.  And just for this reason, the performances by Jorge Perugorria and Coralita Veloz, both residents on the island, are doubly meritorious.  You have to have a lot of guts to participate in such a film and continue living in Cuba.

The fact that The Death of the Cat is shown in the CANNES or GOYA festival, among others (KRALJEVSKI FILMSKI FESTIVAL, Serbia; FESTIVAL IBEROAMERICANO DE CORTOMETRAJES ABC.ES, Spain; FESTIVAL LATINOAMERICANO DE VIDEO ROSARIO, Argentina; PORTOBELLO FILM FESTIVAL, United Kingdom; FESTIVAL PIRIAPOLIS DE PELICULA, Uruguay; TRINIDAD + TOBAGO FILM FESTIVAL, Trinidad and Tobago), means that hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world can learn the reality of Cuba, which tries to hide it at all costs, and I refer not only to the misery, but to the most terrible thing:  a people subjugated to a brutal dictatorship, for the violation of human rights is its denomination of origin.

Seeing The Death of the Cat and voting for it at FIBABC means, besides recognizing Lilo Vilaplana’s talent, an act of patriotism, because his participation in the Goya Festival will help open eyes to the reality of Cuba for a great number of people in the world who have no possibility of seeing it with their own eyes.

Certain that Angel Santiesteban would ask you to support Lilo Vilaplana by voting for The Death of the Cat if they did not have him isolated as they do, I ask it in his name.

The Editor

To see and vote for The Death of the Cat, follow the next link:

Magic Filmmaking

by Angel Santiesteban

Finally, through my son’s cell phone, on the visit he made me in recent days where they have me incarcerated, I was able to see the short film “The Death of the Cat,” by Cuban director Lilo Vilaplana, living in Colombia for more than a decade, a place where he took — besides his talent, craft, some friends and his family — the bitterness that he suffered first hand, totalitarian logic processes, and that now, as a mature creator, he feels the duty to expose, first as literature and now in film.

The traumas lived by Lilo, which he carried in his soul like a mother who travels pregnant, began to flower in that second country — Colombia — which opened its arms to his stroke of talent and effort in the productions.

After a decade of successes, now he can afford to produce these short films; the script of this particular one is based on one of the stories from the collection “A Cuban Story,” which saw light, also, after he emigrated.

Many viewers will confuse its geography and think that it was filmed in its totality in Havana, because at the beginning the character Armando is seen walking through its streets, in the great performance by Albertico Pujol, who was filmed by another colleague, at Lilo’s request, because of the impossibility of his entering Cuba.

Then the brilliant edition would be harmoniously connected with the rest filmed in Colombia, thanks to the plausible set design by excellent professionals who thought of even the most minute detail, and which helped to color the Cuban reality at the end of the eighties decade of the past century — on the eve of the officially named “Special Period” that would uncover the worst penuries ever lived by the Cuban people and that, in a snap, changed the perspectives of a nation deceived and repressed for decades.

To lend context to the story, it is worth remembering that Lilo chose the day after the execution of the Hero of the Republic of Cuba, Brigadier General Arnaldo Ochoa, a circus spectacle by the Castro brothers to entertain the people, to make them forget their hardships and resist taking to the streets in protest.

It was also a lesson for the high military command — on the other hand no less important — to remove the danger of those who had feathered their leadership, and who imitated the habits of the Castro brothers, their mentors, for those “that life was for enjoying at any cost.”

Finally, once the officers “diverted from the principles that the Revolution pursues” were punished, it was said in the official press that the complaints by the government of the United States had to be put to an end at once, complaints which accused Fidel Castro of being part of international narco-trafficking that introduced drugs into its country.

Destroying those men who could testify about the regime’s consent to the participation — and with the most notorious drug lords, like Pablo Escobar himself — they sealed an opprobrious chapter, and — as if it were little — they exterminated those who could create a seditious plan against their government and compete with brother Raul Castro for military power.

Amid this national morass, the artist that grows within Lilo is preoccupied with the little things, apparently inconsequential in the eyes of most, in order to reflect them in the art, like hunger, the need for a political transition, the loss of societal values, the separation of family, and the painful scars, exposed, in this case, in the character of Armando, who has no news of his son who launched himself to sea on a raft, a long time ago; not knowing his whereabouts, he supposes that he did not reach the Miami coast and lost his life.

The story walks the tightrope between social criticism and artistry, between melodrama and sensitivity, managing, happily, to emerge unscathed avoiding the pitfalls of trying to tell the deep suffering of each actress, actor and production team, except the young actor Camilo Vilaplana, who thanks to his parents, managed to grow up far from that social catastrophe.  In the end it manages to ward off, although it always suggests, the conviction of those responsible for the desperate reality; that judgment it leaves in the hands of the public, particularly the Cuban public.

Also without making it obvious, it awakens that unavoidable fine humor in Cubans although the worst occurs.  The cat is the trophy for their real salvation and objectives; adding meat to their food source is vital for them and, in this case, the black pussycat becomes a symbol of the worst, because it is also vengeance for the oppression that they feel because of its owner, the neighborhood snitch.

The masterful performances by Jorge Prugorria as Raul, Alberto Pujol as Armando, Barbaro Marin and Coralita Veloz, as Camilo and Delfina, respectively, ride the scene, in a brilliant team, to a worthy height, artistically speaking, which leaves a taste of pain instead of pleasure.

We are grateful for the effort of the Vilaplana family and the artist friends that joined the project because in the death of the character Armando, we kill part of the shadow that still pursues us from those hardships, and in the suffering and tears of Raul and Camilo, our own tears flowed, in the full exercise of personal exorcisms.

These days, the short film has been invited to participate in the Cannes Festival; in spite of the pain of our lives reflected on the screen, knowing that the guilty dictatorship still maintains power for more than half a century, each time the Cubans wandering the world in search of freedom and opportunity overcome the fear of being pursued in whatever corner of the planet where they try to hide, they triumph, above all with the weapon of art, the most effective of all.

Receive my embrace and thanks for the unmerited dedication, from your brother Angel from the Lawton settlement.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement.  May 2014.

Translated by mlk

21 September 2014

Angel Santiesteban’s New Dossier

The mechanism of annulment is cleanly bureaucratic: You can’t hire an attorney without having completed the dossier. The prosecution prepares its case in the dungeons.

Lilianne Ruiz

Havana, Cuba.  In the doorways of Avenue Acosta, in the neighborhood of La Vibora, some faded beings sell aluminum scouring pads, Band-Aids and little boxes of matches. A few meters away, crossing Calzada de Diez de Octubre – formerly Jesus del Monte – is the former police station of Acosta and Diez de Octubre, which now advertises itself, by a lighted sign, as a Territorial Unit of Criminal Investigation and Operations of the Ministry of the Interior. The latest news about the writer, Angel Santiesteban, places him in the cells of that sinister place.

Another writer, the Czech Milan Kundera, victim in his time of the same procedures, pointed out that our only immortality exists in the archives of the political police. In this city of changed names, where poetry is a military choir, where the violation of human rights is called anti-imperialism and there is thoughtless defense of socialism, and where some nameless beings without a voice sell scouring pads in order to eat, I think about my friend who is experiencing the same awful misfortune.

Except for Daniela Santiesteban, his 18-year-old daughter, sufficiently bewildered and frightened to not want to speak with the independent press or the dissident friends of her father, no one else has seen him nor can corroborate that he hasn’t been maltreated, or that he really tried to escape from prison, as the authorities say.

The Territorial Unit building has checkpoint surveillance. It seems to be the entrance where the detainees are taken to the dungeons, which are in the basement. Those who have left that prison say that below there are around 70 cells. And that’s where they look for confessions in all the cases. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know the first thing about the crimes that the official presents to them. The dossier can be false. It takes time to complete, so that in order to obtain the auto-inculpation, the false confession, no attorney can be present.

This is the beginning of total domination: The detainees can’t count on having the right to an attorney from the beginning of the charging process. The mechanism of annulment is simply bureaucratic; you can’t hire a lawyer without having a dossier and the case number. The trial is prepared underground.

It’s in these cells where you can be interrogated at any time, where no family member can have access unless he’s also a prisoner and where even your diet has been thoroughly studied with the goal of crushing your feeling of having rights. It’s there that your dossier would be assembled and the charge against you enumerated in the most total incommunication. Hannah Arendt already said it, when in 1961 she formulated the expression “banality of evil” as a phenomenon that is characteristic of every dictatorship: The first essential step on the path that leads to total domination consists of suppressing the juridical person in Man.

There’s another front entrance to the building. Going up the stairs you arrive at a reception area that is garishly green, with a sepulchral silence. Ornamental plants, always the same: miserable malanga vines. Portraits of Castro and other allegorical figures of July 26 provide ambience, so you don’t have any doubt that you’re in Hell. In this mournful place, the guard refuses to answer my questions about the situation of the detainee. He says that only his family can see him, and that he is accused of “detainee evasion”. “I’m not giving you any more information”, he concludes. The expression “detainee evasion” appears to be nonsense. It’s not clear what the accusation is. Neither does he answer when I ask his name and military rank, in spite of the fact that I told him, before he asked me for my identity card, who I am and what I do.

I know Angel. Before being taken to prison he had time to leave the island, but that’s not his intention. His awareness of not being guilty of the crime that the political police fabricated in collusion with his ex-wife, Kenia Diley Rodriguez, who had already made threats that she was going to destroy him, made him believe until the last moment that it wasn’t possible that the authorities would go so far in the consummation of evil.

On one of those afternoons when we talked about this, he told me how at the beginning of the whole process, neither he nor the people who would serve as witnesses, making him believe that they would stand by him when his accuser, Diley Rodriguez, told her story, thought it possible that a case would be opened against him. But he armed himself with a dossier with the case number. Later, his lawyers told him that it was impossible that a trial would take place, because that would not be logical. And there was a trial. And the sentence? It was announced to him previously during a detention, by a minion of the political police named Camilo – famous for his sadism – with the exact number of years to which he was condemned. Five.

So that this isn’t the first dossier prepared against Angel Santiesteban.

Interview with Marti News

The Lawton military settlement, which presents itself as the Ministry of Interior Housing Construction Company, was the last place Santiesteban was seen. So I went there to follow up. The prisoners, through a fence, repeated to me the authorities’ version, but no one could tell me that they really saw him being transferred from the prison. They only affirmed what the authorities said.

A friend of the writer named Reinaldo Gantes Hidalgo was “visited” by State Security, in a move that can be part of the new judicial fabrication, to ask him if he knew where Santiesteban was. Another person, who asked me not to reveal his identity for fear of reprisals, was detained for a week, accused of complicity without any evidence, but he hadn’t seen Santiesteban either. And it’s clear that State Security wouldn’t spare itself some arbitrary detention with which it could propagate the version that matches their perverted goals.

Gantes Hidalgo told me that after the visit of the son of Colome Ibarra, the present Minister of the Interior, to the military settlement of the regime prison, in his position as the head of the MININT Housing Construction Company, and after the escape of a boatman, an inmate who managed to get to Miami, three guards kept watch on Santiesteban at all times, even when he went to the bathroom. All of which was again inconsistent with the official version.

If there’s a relationship between this visit and the increase in vigilance, we can only deduce this from the question that Colome Jr. asked him. With much sarcasm he questioned him about the woman who called the Directorate-General of Jails and Prisons to denounce Santiesteban for the possession of a laptop and a cell phone hidden inside the prison, and about a supposed plan to escape. From there they also started the records. With these notices it’s not very probable that Santiesteban would have improvised an escape from an island where there are police guarding almost every corner, and boats patrolling 24 hours a day thanks to Venezuelan oil.

All this points to a set-up. After which his son, Eduardo Santiesteban, 17 years old, conceded an interview to Karen Caballero, a journalist from Marti News, where he denounced the manipulation of State Security in the trial against his father. And so he began to demolish the first dossier. Let’s remember that during the trial, they used, as pretend proof, his declaration that Angel didn’t accompany him home in order to claim, in a rare sophisticated use of ubiquity, that he found him at home with his mother, Kenia Diley. As if by being absent from one place he would be fatefully in another.

So that the prosecutor’s maliciousness, added to the fact that trials aren’t independent, had the result of an unjust sentence based on ridiculous reasoning, twists and lack of proof.

Until Angel Santesteban commnicates his version, we can’t believe the authorities, who are dependent on a government of which it can be said that not only do they lie, but they also hardly ever tell the truth.

Published by Cubanet.

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

 Translated by Regina Anavy

18 August 2014

Liberty Costs Dearly, and Angel Santiesteban Decided to Buy It for Its Price

In the world there has to be a certain quantity of decency, just as there has to be a certainly quantity of light. Where there are many men without decency, there are always others who have in themselves the decency of many men. Those are the ones who rebel with terrible force against those who steal from the people their freedoms, which is to steal decency from men. In those men are thousands of men, an entire people, human dignity. Those men are sacred.”  Jose Marti.

Today, August 28, 2014, it has been a year and a half, 18 months, 72 weeks, 548 days or 13,152 hours since Angel was unjustly incarcerated.

In this time, not a single response from the dictatorship in answer to the requests for a Review of his rigged trial after the false complaints by a resentful woman manipulated by State Security.

In this time, his son grew enough to distance himself from his mother, the complainant, and to tell that he was manipulated to lie and testify against his father for the purpose of hurting him.

Cuban writer Amir Valle presenting Angel’s book

In this time, Angel has continued writing, publishing, and reaping awards.

In this time, Angel has continued denouncing the brutalities of the most pampered dynastic dictatorship in the world where hypocrisy reigns.

But, in this same time, thanks to the same dictatorship that keeps him incarcerated, he has been able to denounce the horrors from the very heart of hell, the Castro penitentiary system.

After the simple words of his son — which dismantled the State Security’s crudely concocted plot against him — they have only increased his isolation in punishment because of them, and that’s why we continue not knowing his own version of the events that had him in an unknown location for a week.Right now, his own reality came to occupy the place of the complaints that he cannot send us.

The silence to which they condemn him, the blind, deaf and mute justice, the illegal transfers and his solo confinement, are the most tangible proof that his complaints are true, that Cuba lives in submission to a ruthless dictatorship, where there exists no separation of powers and that to assume the universal right of free expression one pays very dearly.

Incarcerating him and silencing him, the regime says through Angel much more than he himself; it only corroborates with events what it denies in speeches, that yes, always decorated with supposed reforms and feigned openings that are nothing more than the other such farces to which we have become accustomed.

Angel continues a prisoner but freer than ever. The truth is that they will never be able to silence him. The Jaimanitas cell where there is an officer posted at the door 24 hours a day is the most patent and pathetic proof that Cuba is steeped in terror.

“A just principle, from the depths of a cave, can do more than an army.”  Jose Marti.

The Editor

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

 Translated by mlk.

27 August 2014