Monthly Archives: June 2015

Another Stripe for the Tiger / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 17 May 2015 — The latest report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, confirmed the permanence of Cuba and Venezuela in the “black list” because of violations of those rights “has not changed”.

This violation situation has remained in Cuba for decades without any particular interest shown in resolving it, because to do so would mean respect for freedom, a matter that goes in the opposite direction to its totalitarian process, therefore they will continue to ignore the “blacklist “and as many penalties of that nature as are issued.

Instead, the regime does not want to stay on the US government list of terrorist countries or countries that support terrorism, and in this particular case, Raul Castro struggles and shows a remarkable interest in Cuba being removed from that category. But such aspiration it is not because of a sudden shame, but because it was indispensable to ensure his permanence and that of his heirs in power, as only by Cuba being removed from the list, and through trading with the United States in order to get the hard currency needed for the ailing national economy and thus ensure that continuity.

Murdered Cuban Dissident 

Both sanctions, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and the US State Department, are as serious as they can be for what they represent, but it is only the first one, because it does not carries penalties, it is bearable by the level of the Cuban government shamelessness; the second one, however, it has led to unbearable practical consequences today.

It should be added that the dictatorship was resentful in its core with the common position of the European Union, which together with the United States Department of State position, brought to its knees the challenging attitude, pride and arrogance of the Castro brothers after that extreme (human rights) violation such as the “Black Spring”, that sent to prison 75 dissidents with the malevolent idea — in the future — of exchanging them for five spies who were serving sentences in The United States, which the whole world rejected generally and categorically.

The strongest blows dealt to the Cuban dictatorship were, among others, the repudiation of the downing of the “Brothers to the Rescue” plane and the execution of innocent young people who attempted to reach Miami in a hijacked tugboat.

My question is: What has changed within the Castros’ dictatorship to no longer be considered a violator of human rights, nor a country that supports terrorism; we all know that if is not an (active) sponsor as it would want to be, it is precisely because of the economic sanctions.

As the proverb says in Cuba, “It would be a horse of another color” if the economy improved. It would re-awaken the hegemonic dreams that have never been forgotten but postponed until better times — in their precise, focused and not so foolish quest to legitimize their “anti-imperialist” front, and overtake the United States — their most powerful enemy ideologically — as the number one economy worldwide, if they have support from Russia, China and Venezuelan oil.

I am confident that President Obama and his team of advisers know it very well, and also that they know how to play the political “chess match” where the freedom of Cuba and its fate are decided and, why not, the fate of the United States by either sustaining or eradicating a “cancer” from its geographical hemisphere.

17 May, 2015

Border Control Prison.

Havana, Cuba

 Translated by Rafael

Without Freedom, Without Justice, Without Law / Amir Valle and Elisa Tabakman

New Violations of Ángel Santiesteban’s Rights

Amir Valle and Elisa Tabakman, 28 June, 2015 — Today, June 28, 2015, Angel Santiesteban Prats should have been released on parole after having served exactly half of his unjust sentence. In fact, if they had not already violated his rights, he should have been free as of April 28, because as provided by law, for each year served in prison one month is credited against the total sentence.

When they violated his right to the two-month reduction, we denounced it here, and correctly explained that they did it to avoid granting him freedom. And we assumed, incorrectly, that they would release him on June 28; if they did not, it would be a public and obvious violation of their own laws.

On that occasion, we also reiterated the complaint about another blatant breach of the law: the silence they have maintained about his appeal for revision of judgment, filed on July 4, 2013, and approved in the final months of last year when, under pressure from international agencies, they had to stop postponing it.

But because the dictatorship does not act if it will not benefit, even though the appeal was approved, to date they have not undertaken the review. If the regime had any proof about the guilt of Angel Santiesteban, would they fear having to review the trial with all of the guarantees violated the first time?

Ángel was charged and convicted of a common crime for which they never provided a shred of evidence. They convicted him only on the basis of graphoanalysis—the height and angle of his handwriting. Ever since he entered prison he has been treated as a political prisoner.

They have subjected him to physical and psychological torture by officers of the political police, who constantly tried to intimidate him; they located violent prisoners next to him to provoke him; and they placed other inmates to spy on him in exchange for certain benefits. They have violated all of his prisoner rights (family passes, visits), they have threatened him . . . In short, he has had to suffer these and all the other atrocities that, as we well know, he and all political prisoners are victims of.

Three weeks ago, as we also reported, he was transferred twice to the barracks at Villa Marista in the span of four days. These “rides” as we learned later, had no purpose other than intimidating him and making him listen, ad nauseum, to threats from two Interior Ministry officers.

They told him: “Why should we free you if you’re going to meet some Sunday with the Ladies in White and then we’ll bring you right back to prison.” At this point, we believe that they prefer to save themselves a ride in a patrol car to take him back to prison.

Angel remains the only “common criminal” who, on repeated occasions, the political police officers have offered freedom in exchange for renouncing his political position, demanding that he give that renunciation in videotaped testimony.

He is also the only “common criminal” they have threatened to return to jail if he attended the marches of the Ladies in White. He is also the only “common criminal” that a known government official (while pointing a gun at his head) predicted would be sentenced to five years, one month before the Tribunal delivered the sentence.

Knowing these circumstances, and believing that all the facts clearly indicate that Angel is a political prisoner, we have received messages of concern and astonishment from hundreds of readers of this blog, who ask us one question:

If Ángel is one of the most internationally recognized Cuban prisoners, is one of the “100 Heroes of Communication” of the Reporters Without Borders, and is supported by intellectual institutions around the world, including parliamentarians from the European Union, why is it that the relevant organizations of the Cuban opposition, charged with making such allegations internationally, have never included him in their lists of political prisoners?

Many of these messages have been referred directly to the monthly reports on political prisoners sent from the island by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, headed by Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz-Pacheco.

Their concern is logical: although the circumstances of Ángel’s imprisonment are well known internationally, with across-the-board recognition that he was convicted for his political position, he is not included in those lists because the opposition’s lists rely on the version of Raul Castro’s dictatorship (which pretends to consider Ángel a common prisoner).

But at the same time this prevents Ángel from benefiting from any amnesty, as promoted in the talks between Cuba and the United States since December 17, 2014, and as already rumored may be possible before the visit of Pope Francis.

As we cannot give an answer, we hereby officially put that question to Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz-Pacheco and the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Amir Valle
Literary representative of Ángel Santiesteban

Elisa Tabakman
Editor ofÁngel’s blog, The Children Nobody Wanted

Repressors salaries have been doubled / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 6 June 2015 — In essence, the President of a country should not serve another function but, first of all, manage the assets of people with ethics, fairness and the highest honesty, and never, ever should he believe that the state treasury can be used in his own benefit, directly or indirectly.

And I think that here lies, as we all know, the lousy management of the Castro brothers, especially Fidel, who once he “left” power, handed — in terminal phase and in countdown, even though with an “IV serum in vein” from Venezuela — to his brother Raul, the current dictator.

Recently I learned that in the Interior Ministry (do not know if in the Armed Forces as well), an effort has begun to double the salaries of the soldiers who have the merits that apply to such a reward, called Order 19th. It strikes me that, specifically, the repressive forces are being rewarded, and makes me think they are buying the “loyalty” of their members.

According to what guards who work directly with me told me, I knew they were prioritized among their units. Surely, the vast majority of readers will agree with me that those working in public health, education, agriculture, food and industry ministries or culture ministry, deserve more such benefit; but above all, pregnant women, elderly and low-income families deserve it.

However, agents of the repressive power — those thugs running the chain of injustice and abuse — are indispensable(for the regime, and therefore, the ones rewarded on top of their already high salary, compared with the average wage, and the ongoing perks such as affordable homes, most of which being built nowadays are given to them. They are also given appliances, furniture, clothes and food at low prices, not to mention vacations with their families, in areas only reserved for tourists, and so on.

Ultimately, after rewarding the aforementioned fields, which are directly in charge of the welfare of the people, I would agree that a raise for the police force around the country was needed if it was a force that responded in strict compliance with the law, always in favor the people, specially fighting against the proliferation of drugs, crime and rigor every society needs.

It is way different, rewarding those who, taking orders from a Dictatorship, abuse women as Ladies in White, who every Sunday are beaten, humiliated and imprisoned.

It is curious that this directive comes in the wake of talks between Cuba and the United States, and the European Union. I always say that the only thing these talks will achieve is to strengthen the dictatorship, and will give more economic resources to the regime to hold on to power and harden the totalitarian control, and they are already showing that.

Once they killed us with the money of the socialist era; then, they have continued doing so, thanks to Venezuelan oil. But soon it will be the economy sustained and supported by North America and the European Union financing these crimes.

Every time the people of Cuba are left more alone. Is it true or is just one of my bad impression?

Border Prison Unit, Havana

Translated by: Rafael

Different Methods, Same Objective: To Annihilate the Opposition / Angel Santiesteban

Guillermo Fariñas, targeted by State Security

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, June 3, 2015 — No “disinterested” person would say that the encounter by José Alberto Botell, the aggressor, with Guillermo Fariñas and his companions was casual, of a personal nature, or even an ordinary attempted mugging.

On the contrary, we know that the government is committed to eliminating its opponents. It is obvious that the attack was thought out, planned, and strategically arranged.

The perpetrator must have been extorted, as State Security commonly does, to induce him to commit such a crime. They must have promised him that they would forget some other crime that he had committed, maybe a worse one, if he carried out the order to kill Fariñas, and even then maybe he didn’t fully comply out of fear of being sacrificed later.

Guillermo Fariñas in center of photo with crutch.

The attacker’s life is now in as much danger as Fariñas’s, because they don’t leave loose ends, witnesses who could some day be their own accusers. But they sent the “convict” to a camp or settlement, and he will not serve even half of his sentence; they maintain him with privileges and facilities far different than those of real prisoners.

Meanwhile, State Security will continue studying another strategy for killing Fariñas. Remember that they committed other assassination attempts against Oswaldo Payá before the “accident” that killed him.

There are pictures taken a week before the fateful day showing the condition of his minivan after a State truck hit it, purposely dragging him along an avenue, but without managing to accomplish the task of eliminating the opposition leader, and without concern that his family was inside the vehicle.

Despite the tremendous media fiasco resulting from the failed attempt to assassinate Guillermo Fariñas, the government has shown that it is resolved to get rid of its political opponents.

The Castro Regime Misogyny

On Sunday May 31, they again violently repressed the Ladies in White. Every day the dictatorship is busy letting the opposition know that it is willing to continue governing the country as if it were its private property, even if to accomplish this it has to murder, savagely beat, arrest, and falsely accuse those who try to prevent it.

Lady-in-White Yaqueline Bonne—who recently claimed that State Security proposed that she become an undercover agent in exchange for relaxed prison conditions for her son Yasser—has been physically punished, as if it were not enough that they sent her son from a settlement to a camp with harsher conditions.

The Cuban governors joke with increasing cynicism about talks with the United States and the European Union. Wishful thinking of improvements in human rights will die of heartbreak.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, June 3, 2015

Border Prison Unit, Havana

The Church That Is Oblivious to Reality / Angel Santiesteban

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Photo courtesy Radio Onu

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 23 May 2015 — The beatification of Father Arnulfo Romero is the mirror where, for El Salvador, Latin America, and the world, the pastors of God should look and reflect, in order to attend the spiritual and material needs of their flock, which simply means remaining alongside the aspirations and suffering of their people, as an intrinsic part of the Church.

The churches, especially the Catholic Church, perhaps the least swayed by dictatorial government—should accept pain as Christ showed us. I also feel it is the duty and obligation of intellectuals through their works to examine, discuss, and make suggestions regarding the disputes that concern the populace. If the Church, the intellectuals, and the opposition politicians join forces, the totalitarian power would not abuse nor run over the most basic rights of Cubans.

You cannot count on the pastors of the Christian and Protestant churches; most have acquired wealth like the new rich in these times of crisis, or they are silent out of fear of losing their property and being removed from their congregations.

The Catholic Church—beginning with the most glaring examples, Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the national curia—has turned its back on its people, humbling themselves before, and agreeing with every scheme of, the military that misgoverns the nation.

Fidel Castro with Catholic hierarchy (taken from Internet)

What image does the Church present when it defends the dictatorship and covers up its misdeeds, to the point of becoming an accomplice? When has the top Church hierarchy called on the tyrants (or presidents, as they prefer to call them) to defend the people from their injustices?

What credibility does the Church have if it is unable to raise its voice to protect the brave and peaceful Ladies in White, who—Sunday after Sunday—are harassed, beaten, and jailed right under their noses, just opposite the church of Santa Rita, where they punctually attend mass?

What good are the words of the Bible if the actions of the Church nullify the noble deeds they profess and advocate?

Raul Castro with Cardinal Jaime Ortega

We do not want a bishop to be assassinated, as in the case of the Blessed Romero; but we do need a bishop who is as close to God as to his oppressed people, and who will confront injustice—barefoot, sweaty, with patched, faded clothes, and above all, with that light in his eyes that covers and guides his flock like a protective mantle.

Hopefully the day is coming when we will feel that the Church is an extension of the people, and vice versa, and that its temples are our houses, and we no longer encounter the feeling of alienation and distance that has invaded us for some time, seeing them with their expensive, spotless vestments, their rosy skin shielded from the sun’s rays with creams, in their air-conditioned offices, or observing their people from behind the windows of their automobiles.

At times, we’ve confused their speeches with the Party line, because they never utter even a faintly critical word or suggestion to seek a necessary and urgent change in Cuban society.

I don’t know who the candidates are to replace the current Cardinal, who is already past retirement age. Hopefully it will be one of the righteous, who is rooted in the people and does not fear the tyrant.

I can never forget Bishop Siro (from Pinar del Rio, now retired) who always accompanied his flock, his people, without fear of consequences, adding noble pages to the history that we who barely live in freedom will one day collect, and which for now we keep in our affections.

I understand that in some way Father Conrado is a disciple of Bishop Siro, or of the Blessed Romero, who in their own times and in their own ways were not afraid of attacks by the hitmen of the dictators and of the Church itself, which squelches any rebellion by its ministers.

We dream that the Church wins and regains its place in society—especially among young people, who so badly need its ancient wisdom, its fellowship, light, and love—and that some intellectuals accompany us.

 Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 23, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana

Open Letter to El Sexto / Angel Santiesteban

“This too shall pass.” Photo courtesy of Lia Vallares

Havana, May 28, 2015

Dear brother in the arts and in the fight, Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto):

I received with joy the news that you were honored for your creative dissent by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) with the important 2015 Vaclav Havel Prize.

I was excited for three reasons: first, you’re a Cuban artist; second, you maintain a dissenting attitude, both in your artwork and your social activism; and third, you find yourself serving an unjust imprisonment.

Photo courtesy of Lia Villares

After several attempts to arrest you, in that stubborn resolve of the dictatorship to silence those of us who express ourselves freely, they did it while you were traveling in a taxi carrying two live pigs, each painted green, on which you had written in red letters two names too important for the repressors: “Fidel” on the body of one and “Raul” on the other.

Like you I could not foresee the maneuver that they would finally get me with, after several tries and four years of cooking up the alleged crime of gender-based violence that they hung on me. They had also tried that with you because they know the general rejection that sex abuse produces and by that method they seek to torpedo international solidarity toward those who think differently on this island. International public opinion is their main objective, knowing that they won’t have problems with native artists: most will abide by the ruling order. In the end, two pigs were the excuse to lock you up.

I guess the dictator should take pleasure knowing you are now behind bars. But the same thing will happen as in my case: never before has our creative work been so free and fruitful and profound.

I also recently learned that when the award was received on your behalf by the artist and dissident Lia Villares, she announced your decision to dedicate the award to our worthy Ladies in White and to me, a gesture for which I humbly thank you.

Your solidarity, at a time when you suffer unjust imprisonment as much as I do, doubly fills me with pride because, besides in dedicating it to me you have placed my name beside those worthy women who seek justice relentlessly, despite the beatings and arrests they suffer Sunday after Sunday, without which their forces would fade and their demands, through repetition, would lose a bit of humanism and justice.

The totalitarian regime does not worry that the world checks on its injustices, nor care that it appears ridiculous before international human rights organizations, because they are dictators, unfortunately. Understanding their dictatorial and inhuman essence helps us explain and then project into our works art all their aberrations.

I know your human worth and your courage in facing the black bird that has perched over your life seeking to trample your rights. I pray for you every day, that your heart will not wilt as you experience firsthand the abuse and humiliation that men who suffer captivity are subjected to in this country, and I hope that, on the contrary, you will be filled with hope and your work will be nourished with justice and humanity. May God protect you.

Take care of yourself and receive the brotherly embrace of Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 28, 2015

Border Unit Prison, Havana

The Indomitable Opposition / Angel Santiesteban

Raul Castro and the Five Spies

I am startled at the idea that the Cuban spies captured in the United States were at one time kept isolated, and that odes are written about this, as if it were an unheard of injustice.

Ariel Sigler, political prisoner released from Cuba, on arrival in Miami

I don’t want to make comparisons, but the five spies were sentenced with proof for crimes of espionage, while Cubans opposing the totalitarian regime are innocent, because exercising the right to a political opinion, a meeting, free association and demonstrating are rights recognized under the Magna Carta of the UN as being fundamental.

Cuban opposition prisoners are incarcerated in dark and dirty dungeons, witnesses to their suffering. They are exposed to constant torture, in some cases while sick – with tuberculosis or dengue fever – from the humidity, the lack of hygiene and the precarious nourishment.

I even remember the five spies complaining because they were served chicken more than once a week in the U.S. prison, while in a Cuban prison that repetition would be a motive for a party. Here in the prisons of the dictatorship, some Fridays, like a holiday, they deliver a quarter of a quarter of a chicken, if you can call it that.

All you had to do was look at the photos of the five spies when they returned to Cuba to understand how they had been treated compared to the penal population on the Island.

In my case, and if I mention it it’s only with the goal of denouncing the dictatorship, they have confined me for nine months in a few square meters, after one and a half years of violating my right — according to the penalty that they unjustly imposed on me — to the same regulation pass they award to assassins, rapists, international drug traffickers and pederasts, among other dangerous criminals. As the opposition independent journalist, Lilianne Ruiz, told me recently, my captors couldn’t tolerate the fact that I had resisted without bowing down to them.

I don’t believe that the nations making up the UN today refuse to support a referendum demanding that Cuba “respect the freedom of the opposition.” Presented like that, very few presidents of the leftist Latin American mafia and others in the rest of the world who second their dictatorships would dare to deny us that right

I repeat — history will show I am right — that President Obama is committing a grave error in strengthening the totalitarian regime, and this will be a stain on his record in the matter of international politics that he will carry with him.

But we are victims of the powers that be, and there is nothing we can do but continue to hope for that democracy, which we will never renounce.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 3, 2015

Border Prison Unit, Havana

Translated by Regina Anavy


Venezuela, the Same Fate as Cuba / Angel Santiesteban

Venezuelan president and former bus driver Nicolas Maduro showing off his driving skills

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 14 April 2015 — Venezuela’s “Chavista” government with its dictator Nicolas Maduro at the head, continues haranguing people with the same populist momentum as if it were the first day, when in fact it has been in power for over a decade.

Venezuela risks the same fate as Cuba, where — almost sixty years later — they are still asking for the same sacrifice from three generations of victims who — forced or from fear — have pretended to be Revolutionaries and support the Government.

It’s a shame that a country with vast natural resources, today is a battered and devastated economy. Maduro, at the head of the disaster, destroys the country as a likeness of himself, lacking personality, intelligence and common sense.

If he thought driving a country was like steering a bus, he should have understood that they are very different things.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Border Prison Unit, Havana

Homage to Oswaldo Paya / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 17 May 2015 — Any good Cuban should visit the tomb of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, one of the greatest defenders of liberty and justice in the history of Cuba. His name is inscribed, in its own right, in the pantheon of Cuban heroes. I even heard the national intellectuals mention his name with respect, sometimes with fear. They always accepted, even though they were “official,” his intelligence, valor and honesty in his political demands for Cuban citizens.

Even today my hands can feel the clapping when they received his remains in the little church in Cerro, which Payá used to attend. The injustice of his assassination and that of Harold Cepero summoned all the dissident factions. The grief was generalized. I spoke with men and women, citizens of the people, who had no contact with the dissident movement, nor with officialdom, and who in some way felt the need to express their repulsion at the government, and their solidarity with his family.

We all remember that we were monitored and persecuted in those ill-fated hours, as well as beaten and captured at the exit of the burial. We traveled to the cemetery together with the great poet and exalted Cuban, Rafael Alcides.

I will not forget the pain of his widow, his daughter and sons. We shall never be able to explain to them how that vile assassination could happen. But the people who crowded against the walls of the church joined the family in their sorrow.

Although the dictatorship took his body away from us, it returned him larger, with the ability to remain in our minds and hearts eternally. His death made us stronger and, above all, deepened our need for freedom.

May my voice and moral support accompany his family.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 17, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana

Translated by Regina Anavy

Family Wounds / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 14 May 2015 –– There are sorrows that always are remembered, that seem to have happened yesterday. At the beginning of the century, my younger sister and her husband were already involved in the dissident movement, receiving blows left and right. Every weekend they were thrown into prison. There was a time when to invite them to a meeting meant that everyone there would be beaten up. Sometimes they were used to mislead the political police to go in the opposite direction of where the meeting would really be held. The dissident movement itself suggested that they leave the country; they were liable to be sanctioned for years, and that would harm their three young daughters.

Fridays, after school, they left the girls with me and left for the Struggle. Sunday night, when they didn’t return, that was proof that they had been detained. They would appear Monday or Tuesday, weighing several pounds less, and with the dirt and the typical odor that adheres to someone in prison. They picked up the girls and barely talked about what happened, although they didn’t need to.

The sadness, humiliation and resignation to the fact that this would not be the last time escaped from the children’s eyes like a pack of rabid dogs. The saddest was the youngest girl, named Maria. She was about four, skinny as a stick, and barely saw a patrol car or a uniformed police officer that she didn’t start trembling and ask that they not prey on her or her parents.

The day they went to the interview in the United States Interest Section, they had to talk with her several times before she would enter the building. Now that she is in the United States, she still has that fear of patrol cars and police officers. Her sisters, older by a few years, threaten her with “calling the police” if she doesn’t pick up her toys, so that Maria will cooperate and immediately do what they ask.

Thank God, Maria is today a free girl, away from the wrath of the Castro dictators.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 14, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana

Translated by Regina Anavy