Monthly Archives: April 2015

Cardinal Ortega: You Are a Prisoner of Conscience

The Editor, 4 April 2015 — But you are not one of those worthy men who serve a prison sentence in Cuba for raising his voice against the abuses of the dictator. You are a prisoner of conscience, because your conscience is not free; it is a slave to the designs that Raúl Castro has imposed with shady negotiations, even on institutions such as the Church, which should be watching over Her sheep, as Jesus did, and not being an accomplice to a dictatorship that works against everything established by that God Whom you claim to represent in Cuba. Your soul was kidnapped by your cowardice before the pressures of the dictatorship, and since then you live as a prisoner of that double morality wielded every day by those who live off the pain of the Cuban people, and the economic, social and ethical destruction of a nation like Cuba.

You, who were a victim of the sinister UMAP*, can you admit for once what secret about you the dictatorship keeps so well, the one that makes you tremble and obliges you to maintain that complicit silence and to cover up the truth with pious and patriotic arguments of a shameful falsity?

How can you pretend to represent a God upon whose commandments you spit every time you don your sacred vestments to speak in the name of a flock — the Cuban people — whose pain is clearly alien to you?

You shall love God above all things. Does he love God who in His name has betrayed his compatriots by endorsing tyrants who continue to misgovern for almost 60 years, all because he lacks the courage to rebel, as did worthy representatives of God in Cuba in the past – whom, certainly, you censured, pressured, and “relieved” of their clerical duties for fear of the dictatorship, and to preserve that position of privilege that allows you to live as only the Castro regime nomenklatura live?

You shall not take the name of God in vain. Is not using your priestly investiture to position yourself against millions of compatriots taking the name of God in vain? Delivering pious speeches in the name of God while the prisoners during the Black Spring of 2003 were being deceived, lying to them about the true conditions under which their exile in Spain would occur? Maintaining a shameful silence about the real reasons that provoke hundreds of Cubans fleeing Cuba to be devoured by sharks in the ocean, while dirty deals are made with the dictator, begging for the spaces which the Catholic Church never had to beg for in the history of Cuba? This, Cardinal Ortega, is taking the Name of God in vain.

You shall keep the holy days. Maneuvering the sacred festivals to serve as a legitimate discourse for your masters, the Castro dynasty, and using these festivals to give deceitful sermons, designed to calm the evermore rebellious and nonconformist spirits of Cuban Christians, is a sacrilege  for which you should answer before your God and before the people who today witness your outrageous servility.

You shall honor your father and your mother. Your parents, who surely bred in you (or tried to) the sacred principles of the Christian faith, must be turning in their graves with shame, horrified, as they contemplate how their son, in the name of those values, behaves like a puppet at the mercy of the assassins and torturers of our native land.

You shall not kill. You have stained your hands with blood when you are complicit with the rhetoric with which Raúl Castro’s government hides from the world the constant repression that imprisons those who dissent; beats those who resist the outrages of repressive forces; executes those who have rebelled; eliminates via “accidents” the most popular leaders; and casts Cubans to a certain death in that sea that shelters the remains of more than 20,000 Cubans who drowned or were devoured by sharks during these last 60 years of dictatorship.

You shall not commit impure acts. The impure acts, those that you say you committed and that were the cause of your incarceration in the UMAP, are as dirty and perverse in the eyes of God as betraying those opponents who sought and continue to seek shelter in your church from the thugs who, because of your cowardice, manage to beat and jail them. Dirty and perverse acts are also keeping silent and remaining obedient before the brutal beatings of the noble Ladies in White, and before targeted killings, such as of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá, among so many others. It is impure to feed oneself as the people cannot, to travel as they cannot, to live as they cannot.

You shall not steal. Do not forget, Cardinal Ortega, that making a living from the robbery and theft that the dictatorship has perpetrated against 11 million Cubans, and trying to disguise with soft words the hard reality lived by the people, who continue to be looted to this day in the name of changes that only seek to perpetuate power in the very robbers’ hands: that, too, is stealing.

You shall not bear false witness. Although the most recent lie is saying that there no longer are political prisoners in Cuba, enumerating your many lies throughout so many years of your ministry would produce a book as long as the very Bible.

You shall not allow impure thoughts or desires. Leaving aside the rumors that have always existed about your carnal immorality, have you at any time tried to explain to the dictators and their paid assassins that physically and sexually abusing the defenseless Ladies in White violates this commandment of God? Have you raised your voice to denounce the sexual abuses that are committed against the opponents of the Regime in Cuban prisons? Have you told your masters, the Castro dynasty, that because of the economic, social and moral impoverishment caused by the dictatorship’s appalling management they are the only ones responsible for the thousands of rapes and suicides that happen every year in Cuba?

You shall not covet others’ goods. You and your spiritual colleagues have been delighted, euphoric, applauding like trained seals, when the Regime announced that it would start to return the Church’s property. And that brings up a question: How many times did you ask your Commander-in-Chief, or his brother Raúl, to restore the property stolen from the people? How many times did you ask that they return the property of those Cubans who were despoiled simply because they emigrated? How is it possible to celebrate that they are returning some property to the Catholic Church, in exchange for its domestication, while hundreds of thousands of Cubans who are Christian live in crowded and unhealthy conditions, barely surviving in a country literally in ruins?

Cardinal Ortega, have you lost what few traces of shame remaining in you, to be capable of sustaining the lie that there are no political prisoners in Cuba, when institutions and opposition groups that you know well have denounced to the world the existence of political prisoners and, even worse, that every month new names are added to those lists?

I remind you, because I know that you know very well, that even the world leader of the Church you represent in Cuba, Pope Francis, knows about the case of Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, a prisoner in Cuba for having raised his voice against the Regime in his blog, “The Children Nobody Wanted.” His Holiness has received by multiple channels the documentation that shows that Ángel Santiesteban-Prats is a political prisoner, that he has been thrown in prison under a judicial farce for common crimes, as the dictatorship is doing recently with the opposition. Although the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation has for two years left off the list, inexplicably, the name of this prize-winning writer, Ángel’s proven innocence makes it clear that his case is also political. His Holiness Pope Francis, furthermore, knows perfectly that the list of political prisoners in Cuba duplicates the list that the Vatican prepared for the exchange of the convicted assassins in the United States.

We are aware that neither you nor your two bosses (that of the Cuban government and that of the Vatican) have the least interest in restoring freedom to the more than 50 political prisoners who rot in the Cuban concentration camps, but, at least, now that nothing will be done for anyone, have the decency to keep your mouth shut.

The Editor

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and Regina Anavy

*Translators’ Note: UMAP – “Military Units to Aid Production” — was a network of concentration camps for “counterrevolutionary elements,” including homosexuals, religious believers and others.

4 April 2015

The Magicians of Empty Text / Angel Santiesteban

1429880622_magos-del-texto-vacc3adoEvery 21st of the month, my family — in their visits to my penitentiary —  supply me with the national newspapers. Many times they accuse me of masochism, but I find it necessary because it helps me understand where the Government’s nonsense is going.

Sometimes — after much practice — I can infer, almost guess, the political, cultural and populist strategies that they outline. I invest around twelve hours reading, and I can’t hide the fact that, once I complete the aberrant task, the journalists’ cowardice stays with me, their “robotic” writing that translates the boss’s order of editing to cover specified news, after those bosses have received it in a chain that begins in the ideological office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

As a Cuban, a writer, a citizen immersed in the daily social problems of Cubans on the ground, I am ashamed of those who — unfortunately — have access to those spaces, because they, unfortunately, stick to the subject matter ordered by the Government.

In the last Congress of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), there was talk and boasting of an “opening” that would do away with “secretism.” That speech was a joke. They were talking about another country, another system, with different leaders. Immediately there was an echo from some “journalists,” very good at repeating the government line, magicians of the empty text.  Now, one year later, probably no one remembers that bland, misleading propaganda, which simply impressed a collective that displays sheepishness like no other sector in the country.

I finish reading the pile of newspapers and am left with a sensation of betrayal from the names I recognize. They are incapable, at the least, of being honest with themselves, those who say that the projects in the Cuban nation are in full swing, although it’s not important to them where the old Castros and their fawning followers are taking them. Twenty-one days of articles and feature stories, which assure us that Cuba is Paradise (although there are things that need to be changed), and that outside its borders you live in Hell.

The press has no other intention than to deceive and terrorize people, who should continue with their heads bowed, because a rebellious attitude is too agonizing.

Someone once told me that as a psychological defense, in order to stay sane, you laugh at the economic and other news, and about how much deceit you’re already saturated with. As much as I try, I can’t even crack a smile. What I feel is pain for those common intellectuals who – after being kicked and humiliated in the decade of the ’70s – today pretend they have forgotten. They write for a press that is as worn-down as they are, and are incapable of expressing their own opinion, one that is different, authentic. They conform to being that way, filling a harmless space without being straight, with the dictators’ vision.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison. Havana. April 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Deputies of the European Union Request Freedom for Angel Santiesteban

“What new trap will the dictatorship lay for April 28, the date when Angel Santiesteban-Prats should be released on parole?”


Justice continues to impose itself. In Cuba, behind the bars with which they have tried to imprison his body, without being able to capture his spirit and his ideas, Angel Santiesteban-Prats is today a little freer.

The world, Europe in particular, is making a new gesture, showing that dignity still is not lost in the world of high politics, in the world that prefers to make economic, commercial and political concessions to the Castro brothers’ dictatorship, ignoring the enormous violations of human rights that the Regime perpetrates on the Island.

Two Eurodeputies fly the flag of dignity: Fernando Maura and Pavel Telicka. They ask the head of European diplomacy, Frederica Mogherini, who mediates with the Regime of Havana, to obtain immediate freedom for the artists Angel Santiesteban-Prats and Danilo Maldonado, as well as the cessation of the extreme cruelty that confines the renown artist, Tania Bruguera, in Cuba.

Even more important is the letter that Fernando Maura and Pavel Telicka, vice  presidents of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party of the European Parliament, sent to Frederica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, signed by some 30 Eurodeputies from different parties.

Bravo for the dignity that these Eurodeputies represent by putting themselves on the side of freedom!

It’s a very clear message to Raul Castro: Every time more people in the world, from all ideological tendencies, verify the crime that Cuba’s cultural and military policemen have committed against the writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats, the truth is revealed.

The Editor

See related article here.

Translated by Regina Anavy

24 April 2015

The Bullies That Castro Sent to Panama / Angel Santiesteban

For a few seconds you could see the video on Telesur of the blows given by the official Cuban delegates in Panama. I managed to see, and it’s the gesture I remember the most, a man who, above the rest, attacked with his fist, exercising brutal force, and I remembered that on November 8, 2012, when I was in front of the Acosta police station, members of Cuban State Security beat me for demanding freedom for Antonio Rodiles, who was detained in jail there.

Beating Cuban dissidents is a daily practice. They can’t avoid doing what they always do. It’s their instinct, their Castrista education.

Mysteriously, those seconds of the image of the altercation that Telesur showed were not repeated. A call from their politicians censured them. For its part, Cuba, through its media of communication, affirmed that the disturbance was started by the opposition, but it’s not what the cameras picked up.

When the Cuban Book Fair took place in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2002, the same thing happened. The Cuban envoys packed the room for the presentation of “Free Writing” and attacked the exhibitors.

We know it’s the way the rulers and their stooges think. They operate without any political conscience, only for the gifts they receive from those in power.

And what is happening in the media reports of the Obama-Castro conversations doesn’t make me suspect the Cuban side, because they are who they are, and nobody can change them. I distrust the North American side; I ask myself what they really are looking for, because I haven’t seen an iota of progress nor interest from the Dictator, except that of hanging onto power with the money he thinks he will earn once the embargo is lifted.

If it’s a matter of consistency, I don’t see a positive path for these erroneous negotiations because they were conceived, from their birth, as a deformed and retarded creature. While Washington and Havana lose time in delayed conversations, Cuban dissidents continue to resist unjust incarceration and the constant beatings.

I don’t know if Obama will abandon us or not, but I’m convinced that God remains on our side.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison, Havana. April 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Important Global Event Supports Freedom for Angel Santiesteban

With the organization “Creative Time,” on Friday, April 13, there was a performance of Tania Bruguera’s “Tatlin’s Whisper #6,” in solidarity with her, Angel Santiesteban-Prats, Danilo Maldonado “El Sexto,” and all other artists in the world who face criminal charges and violence for exercising their basic human right to free expression.

The solidarity event invoked Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that states: “Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium and regardless of frontiers.”

The participants urged governments to respect the rights of citizens and non-citizens equally to share their voices, ideas, values, beliefs and dreams without fear of persecution or violence.

“As citizens of the world, with a shared humanity, we urge the Government of Cuba to drop charges against Tania Bruguera, Angel Santiesteban and Danilo Maldonado ’El Sexto,’ all of whom are in prison or facing prison for having done what every person on the planet ought to be able to do: express oneself.”

An action for artists Tania Bruguera, Angel Santiesteban, and Danilo Maldonado “El Sexto”

By re-staging Tania Bruguera’s participatory art work, Tatlin’s Whisper 6, the Hammer Museum stands in solidarity with her, Angel Santiesteban, and Danilo Maldonado “El Sexto”, and all other artists around the world who face criminal charges and violence for exercising their basic human right to free expression. As article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states, Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

On Monday, April 13, from 12:30-2PM, all were invited to step up and speak freely for one minute about freedom of speech as part of the performance. The event was streamed live online.

For more information about the event: CLICK HERE.

Translated by Regina Anavy

11 April 2015

Killing Time (2) / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 30March 2015 — The common prisoner who sleeps near me told me about his “good” uncle, the mentally ill one who took him to the beach on Sundays, or every day during school vacation.

My cellmate told me the worst part, according to his point of view, since he had another “bad” uncle; that one took him nowhere, except on certain occasions when he made him wear his backpack and ordered him to keep a distance and pretend he didn’t know him.

On the way, he told him the details so he would know how to return alone.

One time they went to a certain place, and his bad uncle went into a house and met a group of men. They always started a discussion about a payment that wasn’t made, or vice-versa. Another man confronted him with a deadline for paying a debt. A fight broke out, and the bad uncle took advantage of the hidden minor to put his hand into his backpack and extract a pistol. The bad uncle fired several shots, and he saw, like in the movies, the opponent fall, covered in blood.

After this, his bad uncle deposited the pistol in his backpack and ordered him to go home, which he did, unaccompanied. Once he entered the house, his grandmother asked about her son, and he lied, telling her that he had left him on the corner. Then he hid the pistol in a shoe box as agreed and covered it with notebooks, pencils and books, because in the morning he would have to go to school.

His bad uncle came back in the early morning, when his nephew was expecting him, pretending to sleep. His bad uncle put five pesos in the pocket of his backpack.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison. Havana. February 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

Obama Tries to Put a New Collar on the Same Dog / Angel Santiesteban

“Act of Repudiation” (organized by the Cuban government) against Cuban activists at the Hotel Panama during the Summit of the Americas.


Angel Satiesteban,16 April 2015 — The biggest problem confronting the Castro brothers’ government is to accept the new challenges posed by the 21st century.

They thought they would arrive at the Summit in Panama and turn it into their show, but the times taught them the truth: the world, the venues, words, belong to everyone. So of course the entourage of sycophants that had been sent obeyed the order to retreat, left the forum, and hid, because really they had no defense in the face of the nonsense that characterizes the dictatorship. They can no longer fool the world, though they continue to practice extortion, and hire acolytes who, as a matter of survival, accept and pretend to support the totalitarian regime.

Many of those I saw on television participating in the carnival, the circus of the Communists outside Panama Hotel, I know very well and I still can listen to their words of rejection and fear of the system in Cuba. But such a fear does not allow them to tell the truth of their sad souls; many others are afraid to be ignored by the institutions controlled and manipulated by the government, knowing it is the only way to live as artists because their poor creations would not survive in the real world.

I managed  to see many of those who said they were not interested in politics and would not serve in the chorus in favor or against because it “wasn’t their way” — they used to repeat to me — and they were really far away from the first line of the confrontation.

If they accepted it is because I don’t know of any intellectuals or professionals who would refuse the chance to travel. Sometimes they don’t even ask about the destination, in order to travel outside the island they would accept to visit to hell. Even more so, when it comes to being a part of an official delegation, which receives an allowance before leaving for their daily expenses, plus the hotel and food. Something like this is not dismissed no matter how humiliating it could be, according to the cynicism with which it is accepted.

Of course, they will try to fashion a victory out of defeat, and will begin, like a soap opera, to fabricate the episodes.

Obama is trying to put a new collar on the same dog.

Angel Santiesteban -Prats

Border Guard Prison, Havana. April 2015

Video taken by Yoani Sanchez

 Translated by AnonyGY

Angel Santiesteban in the RSF/AFP album that honors 100 heroes of freedom

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, who was recognized last year as one of the 100 Information Heroes of Reporters Without Borders, has been included in the photo album.

Reporters Without Borders and France-Press Agency have published a new photo album of the “100 heroes who defend liberty,” including Martin Luther King, Mandela, Edward Snowden and the Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez.

The album went on sale on Thursday, April 2, 2015. It costs 9.90 euros, and all the profits will be donated to Reporters Without Borders.

In the name of Angel Santiesteban-Prats, we are grateful to Reporters Without Borders for their solid support.

The Editor

Translated by Regina Anavy

2 April 2015

Dialogue between the color blind and the cynics / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 20 April 2015 — If it’s said that a dialogue occurred between two governments that have been opposed for more than a half-century, that they came to the negotiation table, one should first expect that both sides accepted the “errors” in their respective diplomacies, as occurred last March in Washington with the talks about human rights. But thinking this, knowing that the representatives of Cuba’s totalitarian government sat in one of the chairs at that table, is an enormous ingenuity or, simply, stupidity.

When the Cuban delegation returned to the Island, they appeared on television, supposedly to inform the population about what was discussed. They showed once again that you shouldn’t expect either democratic progress or human rights. They used their media time to criminalize the attitude of President Obama’s government, talking about U.S. spying and drones, and mentioning the resolutions presented in rejection of the U.S. action.

For his part, Chancelor Bruno Rodriguez, according to the presented medium, spoke of “the calamities on the world level, like hunger, preventable illness and illiteracy,” furthermore reaffirming the words of his “president,” Raul Castro, that “Cuba is not ready to falter nor cede its ideological points of view.”

At the height of cynicism he affirmed that “Cuba complies with the Declaration of Human Rights” and that it has signed the “most important conventions in this matter.” He also affirmed “Cuba’s prestige in sitting on the United Nations Human Rights Council.” And as if this were a public display of someone demented, demonstrating his total incoherence, he continued, “Proof of Cuba’s goodwill was its acceptance of 80 percent of the suggestions in the Human Rights Assembly in Geneva.”

How can a country that admits that it violates 80 percent of the Human Rights Convention assert that it enjoys “prestige on an international level?” I imagine it’s the opposite, that it “enjoys” in a negative way. But if neither they themselves understand, how could I?

In the end, according to what they demonstrated in Washington, both delegations squandered the contributors’ money, something that Cubans are used to doing, without even having the right to criticize officially in this regard.

Since December 17, when they made the secret conversations public between Obama and Castro, we raised our voices to affirm that they failed, and that they won’t achieve what Cuban civil society needs.

Castro is trying to gain time so Cuba will be taken off the list of terrorist nations, so that later the North American Congress will withdraw the embargo, although inevitably, already, there are reports of increased tourism, which Obama announced. It’s now reported that some million more tourists will help the asphyxiating and wasted Cuban economy, money that the dictatorship will know how to use later to repress those who oppose the social, economic and political model of the Castro clan.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison. Havana. April 2015

Translated by Regina Anavy

Prostitution in Cuba (I) / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 31 March 2015 — In the Alamar police station in Havana, the stepfather of a 14-year old minor has been accused by his ex-wife after discovering that the man who helped her raise her daughter was having sexual relations with the child.

Years after the visits of this “stepfather” to the home, where he felt he had the rights of a father over the girl, she discovered the love the child had for him. The police interrogated the parties, proving then what was certain, only that the minor child declared herself profoundly enamored of her “Papi,” that he never approached her, nor even hinted at anything ever.

But the wife began to observe the way the girl dressed — because she had family abroad — and above all she noticed the latest-generation cellphone, which the girl dreamed of getting.

Already at 14 the girl was giving away her recent-woman’s body, and she unlocked her virginity to that man who was 26 years older. It was barely noticeable when she showed her phone or the brand-name tennis shoes that none of the young boys of her generation could offer.

Finally, the police determined that if they were to lock up every man who let himself be seduced by a minor, the prisons wouldn’t be big enough. Today they’re already full, and since rape wasn’t involved, it was permissible. And they freed him.

“It’s normal,” said the official who led the investigation. “I’ve had worse cases of girls up to 12 years old who have relations with mature men.”

The stepfather sighed, relieved.

“Every night we detain girls practicing prostitution with the consent of their parents,” continued the official, who shook the stepfather’s hand before saying goodbye to him.

“It’s no wonder,” he said, looking at the cellphone in the stepfather’s hand. “With such a weapon you can make anyone fall into bed with you.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Guard Prison Unit. Havana. February 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy