Author Archives: Auto Post

More "Counterrevolutionary" Artists Speak Out For Their Freedom (Part 3) / Angel Santiesteban

Screen capture — A Cuban filmmaker with the black tape of censorship literally covering his mouth.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 21 December 2015 — In order to complete my personal impression about the G-20* assembly in the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Film Center this past November 28, I must recognize the solidarity and support of the filmmakers for their colleague, Juan Carlos Cremata, who, through writing, like Enrique Colina among others, showed their disgust and rejection of the assault dealt by the State against the artist, restricting his thinking and his work.

The abuses and injustices committed by the officers and political police have been the last straw for the patience of the unionized filmmakers who — with new verve — have come together with their claims showing that they have matured as people, a society and artists.

The wolf, who for more than half a century has sunk his teeth into the sheep that don’t abide by the rules of the fold, has paused now to wonder why, for the first time, the job of making them submit has been made difficult, and he waits, hoping that they will show some weakness or divide themselves in order to make his job of the bogeyman scaring the children easy.

The dictatorship prefers us to be alone.

I was amazed at the existing cohesion among the constituents of the G-20*, the clarity of their demands, like the Film Law that is indispensable to them in order to continue creating, but, above all, how well disposed they are to continue struggling until they achieve what they demand.

They are not naive, they know that in the eyes of the dictatorship they have been converted into rebels who should be drowned, and if a crack exists, it would be inside one of the columns that integrate the group; and then, beginning with secret conversations with State Security, it would cede before the pressure and would begin to distort, scare, divide and misconstrue the objectives presented from the outset.

Let’s hope that intelligence reigns over fear and serves to save this force that conveys their demands as artists, converts itself into a national necessity and triggers a new pattern in the country’s history.

Their laudable, noble and courageous abilities are the preamble of a new era in which artists recover the dignity that has been lost for more than five decades, letting them be devoured and beaten by the totalitarian Regime for not receiving their punishment.

It is new times, and democracy is the only system possible for any government; now there’s no space for authoritarian regimes (totalitarian) as, for example, Argentina and Venezuela, countries in which the opposition has just won the elections.

Later will come those that are missing, and of course the Castro clan’s dictatorship will have no other option but to cede. With the arrival of freedom, Juan Carlos Cremata and all Cuban artists will recover the cultural spaces that they should not have lost through censorship and prohibitions. Juan Carlos Cremata deserves that space for his talent, strength and commitment.

Let’s hope that without more delay, the Film Law gets approved for the benefit of the seventh art.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, November 2015, under conditional “liberty.”

*Translator’s note: A group of Cuban filmmakers who demand the approval of a Film Law in Cuba. They defend independent production companies. At this meeting they debated censorship and analyzed the case of Juan Carlos Cremata, whose play “The King is Dying” was censored. Cremata was denied the right to stage another play in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

How to Lose Friends / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, Havana, 23 December 2015 — These days I’m immersed in the culmination of my next novel, which I should deliver in February for its possible publication; for this reason, I have dedicated the last two months, in a tireless way, to improving the prose, born from the heat and emotion of the most recent creation. I’ve barely taken time for cultural recreation, repressing — now that it’s possible — going to the theater, movies, ballet, among other spaces of my personal consumption, after having yearned for it for two and a half years, because the dictatorship that considers thinking differently to be dangerous, especially if it involves an artist, decided to send me to prison.

It’s indisputable — and the reason for this post — that I haven’t been able to visit and comply with the demands of some friends, brother masons and political activists, who would like to see me more frequently.

The rigor with which I apply myself to writing totally absorbs me, to the point that sometimes I lose track of the time that I take up dreaming which I should be using for this final revision; however, some of those important friends are insulted by my absence, thinking I’m distancing myself from their devotion.

Likewise, I’ve received by email complaints from other friends, asking for more warmth from me, which I consider as personal pride; but I’m not lying if I confess to them and explain that when I write short stories, in general, they’re created by a breath, a hit of a chisel that sculpts them with a minimum of blows.

It’s not like that with novels: Then this breath is converted into a persistent state while its realization lasts. I’m possessed for months; an ecstasy keeps me transported to the actual time of the plot in question. It’s the most effective way, particularly for me, to advance and master the characters and their conflicts.

Of course at this rate I’m afraid of being alone and without a social life, and I question whether I work well or badly by remaining isolated, like being expelled from the real world, delivered to the profession of writing.

But what other quality of life could I assume if it’s the only way I know of feeling useful, to breathe in peace, to bring to my dear friends themselves, brother masons and brothers in the struggle, through my texts, that reflection on justice and nobility for the society where we come together? I write for my time, and my spaces of struggle and longings converge: friendship, fraternity and unity in political activism.

Although I appear to be absent, I am, through literature, very close to each one of you and to the national problems that I try to reflect in my books. And very soon — between this writing and the next — I will appear to receive your hugs with the same zeal with which I profess to you that I hold your friendship, in order to then celebrate together a new birth of that literary son that I bring into the world, that I humbly bring to the national culture, our struggle and our shared dreams.

But God makes me lower my head and return every day to ask all of you: If I didn’t have you, then why am I creating literature? For whom would I write?

I wish you a Merry Christmas, although we are aware that it won’t be as we would like while the dictatorship exists.

Big hugs.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, December 2015, under conditional “liberty.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

Padura and the Face of Cultural Context / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 18 November 2015 — On October 31, in the Museo Napoleónico de La Habana, the book, “The Faces of Padura: Work and Life of a Writer, ” a compilation of texts about Leonardo Padura, was presented. Padura was recently awarded the Princesa de Asturias de las Letras Prize.

At the event, Padura shared the thank-you speech that was read in Oviedo before Spain’s royal family; words that should have been published by the Cuban press. But not only did they not publish them, but also in the official media it was completely ignored that for the first time a Cuban writer was given credit for such a prestigious award.

This attitude of the Castro press is one more mockery of the Cuban people’s intellect, caused by that “cult of secrecy” so many were talking about in the last Congress of the Union of Journalists of Cuba (UPEC), where it was treated as something from the past, blaming the journalists themselves for unnecessary self-censorship, now that politics is not interfering in the news and its opinions.

Which is to say that suddenly we had overcome the dictatorship and that we found ourselves in a State where there is free thought.

But returning to the question at hand: the book about Padura could have been one more release for the world of the many that the distinguished Cuban writer completed; only this one was special because it happened on his terrain, surrounded by family, friends and his natural readers, and it was delightful because it was presented by colleagues from his generation, among them the writer Francisco López Sacha.

But they couldn’t stop mentioning some irregularities around this event, like the rejection of eight cultural institutions which didn’t celebrate Padura, which is very alarming; of course, behind that was the sinister hairy hand of the Government, which has exhausted without success all its misleading strategies, praising him moderately in order to buy his silence and stop him from telling his truths and offering his critical evaluations about the reality of the Cuban people.

That Leonardo Padura — actually the most distinguished Cuban writer on the international scene — shares his books with readers at home is a deference that makes us grateful; however, that the Regime tries to make him pay the price for not being a writer who kneels before the manipulations of those who direct the cultural politics on the archipelago is an immense immorality, a brutal insensitivity, characteristics that are endemic to Caribbean totalitarianism.

That his books, awards and presentations aren’t promoted as they should be with a National Prize of Literature shows a lack of delicacy and transparency of the cultural politics and the Government, which discredits itself even more (if that’s possible, given the shameful and repeated practice of this and other dirty tricks), ignoring and trying to “invisiblize” a writer who, in spite of not coming out directly against the system, still doesn’t accept gifts or pampering, as do most of the intellectuals and artists on the island.

They at first tried to manipulate him with an open cynicism, through publications, national fairs, a homage in the Casa del las Américas, or with that final power of cultural officials, accepting that a jury award him the National Literature Prize, the greatest award for the work of a Cuban writer residing on the island. But, since Padura didn’t react before such “magnanimous” tokens — because here it’s only important that you have won, not that they decide whether or not you win — now the same cultural officials, who once called themselves his friends, are cold and distant in response.

I also know that the filming of the movies based on his detective novels that have his character Mario Conde as the protagonist, has received negative responses to official requests from foreign filmmakers to use some sets, the same that are used daily to film short police programs for national television.

The dictatorship thus holds a grudge against those who don’t bow their heads, against those who don’t permit the humiliation of being treated like objects, against those who refuse to be manipulated in order to abide by the designs of government power; all because they still try to ignore an irrefutable truth: art expands, endures and always wins against political power.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, November 16, under conditional “liberty” [on parole]

Note from Angel’s editor: The compilation, in the charge of Agustín García, includes his texts, those of Francisco López Sacha, María del Carmen Muzio, Dulce María Sotolongo, Lorenzo Lunar, Rafael Grillo, Michel Encinosa, Enrique Saínz, Rafael Acosta, Rebeca Murga, Elizabeth Mirabal and Gustavo Vega, the filmmaker Lucía López, Leonardo’s wife and one from Padura himself.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Pope, So as Not to Say Anything, Said Nothing / Angel Santiesteban

The Inverted Pyramid

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 17 September 2015 — It always irritates me that it is accepted, ironically, for the Cuban dictatorship to ply its totalitarian propaganda and be visible in foreign countries, via the media and its “solidarity”committees, when not even Cubans themselves in their own country are not allowed to claim freedom of thought, association, and all  the rights contained in the magna carta of the United Nations. Is it just that a country that violates these rights by denying them to its own citizens be allowed the spaces to cover up, manipulate, and lie to international public opinion?

A front-page article in Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, reports “anti-blockade [embargo] tour begins in Washington,” which will include stops in other North American cities and various countries. It also announces a confirmed total of 44 visits to the Congress, 37 to congressional offices, and 7 visits to senators’ offices.

However, it is soon coming on six months since the Ladies in White, supported by members of the Forum for Rights and Liberties, as well as activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and other political groups who answer to the hashtag #todosmarchamos [“We all march”] have been subject every Sunday (22, to be exact), to brutal beatings and arrests. Just last Sunday it happened again, in the presence of members of the foreign press, who could see for themselves the peaceful way in which the opposition members carry out their demonstration–and in turn, the violent way they are treated, and the humiliation they suffer, upon being arrested.

The world seems to be turned on its head. President Barack Obama ignores the pleas of the dissidence clamoring for an end to the dictatorship’s violations of basic human rights. Pope Francis serves as mediator between the regime and the United States, and encourages the European Union to engage in and continue the steps taken by the United States, and so the first contacts and studies have begun to realize them in the near future.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Cuba’s top ecclesiastical representative, is more attached to the dictatorship than to his people, and so he publicly says that “in Cuba there are no political prisoners,” when he himself has met with some of them, and he has been given a list of who they are, and the details of the disgraceful legal proceedings to which they have been subjected.

To top it off, during a televised interview, he didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge the courageous Ladies in White and their current struggle–or for that matter, the abuses they suffer every weekend very near to his Santa Rita church–and he refers to them in past tense, without calling them by name, but merely as “those women who dressed in white.”

The Pope, just hours before his arrival in Havana, for the first time had the opportunity to address the Cuban people, but so as not to say anything, he said nothing. Those of us who awaited a message of salvation for a long suffering nation–one where his children launch themselves desperately on the sea without the least guarantee of survival, who need the encouragement of hope, the least glimmer of light to assure us that off in the distance an oasis awaits us–we were not granted it. He did not mention the families of this dispersed, and therefore divided, people, nor did he even speak of the pain that for more than half a century of dictatorship, we have suffered in our deepest flesh.

Hopefully once the Pope has visited our nation we may say with certainty that His Holiness visited with us, and not that he passed through this land like one more tourist.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, 17 September, “free” on parole

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Lives Of Opposition Leaders Have Their Names On The Government’s Blacklist / Angel Santiesteban

José Alberto Botell, Guillermo Fariñas’ assailant

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 3 June 2015If the Cuban dictatorship has an enemy, it is themselves, as an institution of evil. After committing their outrages, the injustices and atrocities carried out by their henchmen who commit the atrocities they are ordered to commit — at any cost — in exchange for benefits awarded them by the governing officials who believe they are the owners of the nation. They cannot hide who they are.

The government has just exposed that there are two penal codes, one for dissidents, and another one for the acolytes who commit crimes on behalf of its totalitarian regime.

Recently they have “sentenced” José Alberto Botell, who was charged with the crime of “injuries,” after wounding five dissidents with a knife, one of them, Maria Arango Percibal, a member of the worthy Ladies in White.

Mary was in intensive care because of the severity of the injuries she received she when stood in front of the assailant to protect the leader of the United Antitotalitarian Front (FANTU), Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, for whom the attack was intended. The attacker also severely injured another glorious Lady in White, Isabel Fernandez Llanes, and three other regime opponents.

It is laughable that for such a criminal specimen, the prosecution would ask for a five-year sentence and the Criminal Court itself would reduce it by one year to leave it at four years maximum. Needless to say Botell was sent by the political police to get Fariñas out of the way because he openly opposes the negotiations between the United States and Cuba, unless the Castro brothers put an end to the systematic violations of human rights in advance.

If Fariñas had gone alone, or his companions had not reacted as they did, we would be grieving the loss of another opposition leader today. The type of violence shown by the attacker — who turned the scene into a carnage — even against women, shows that his intentions, meaning “orders,” were to assassinate Fariñas.

Had their plan gone well, we would now add another dead to our cause, just like they did with Laura Pollan, the leader of the Ladies in White, whose health condition deteriorated rapidly — strangely in and odd circumstances — in a hospital room commanded, supervised, ruled and surrounded by State Security agents.

Or as they did to Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, who died after an alleged “traffic accident”, in which there is evidence showing the hand of the political police behind it, as a result of which his family and one of his companions in the car raise their voices at international bodies to demand justice.

The lives of opposition leaders, especially those who oppose the Cuba-US negotiations, have their names on the government’s blacklist and, in advance, they have been labeled already: Berta Soler and the Ladies in White, Angel Moya, Guillermo Fariñas and Antonio Rodiles, are today the “targets under the sniper’s scope with a finger on the trigger”.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 3 June 2015

Border Patrol Prison, Havana, Cuba

Translated by: Rafael

The Dictatorship Doesn’t Stop: Angel Santiesteban Transferred to Villa Marista

Posted by the editor of Angel’s blog

For the second time in four days, Ánge Santiesteban-Prats has been moved in the morning to the sinister facilities known as Villa Marista, the central prison of State Security in Cuba. So far, his family members still have no information on the reasons for this and why he has not been returned to Guardafronteras Prison where, as has been demonstrated, he is serving five years in prison after a rigged trial by the political police.

Saturday June 6 he was also taken to Villa Marista and also for unknown reasons.

We fear that it is in retaliation for the recent publication of a post where Angel denounced, along with other sensitive issues, the slavery imposed on some prisoners in the Castro penitentiaries.

We remember that Angel should have been paroled on April 28, but they again violated his rights, stripping him of days he had been credited with for a year in order to keep him locked up.

We also recall that the dictatorship still does not know how to handle the appeal he filed of the July 4, 2013 trial.

Once again we hold Raul Castro responsible for the life and safety of Ángel Santiesteban.

The Editor

9 June 2015

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

Two Types of Dissidence, Two Policies / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 25 March 2015 — For the first time in the history of the violations against the Cuban dissidence by the political police of the totalitarian Regime, there are two lines of thought: one subdued and the other more severe.

Those in the opposition who have publicly supported the intention of the governments of the United States and Cuba to reconstruct diplomatic relations have had their rights respected to travel abroad, reunite, publish, etc.

But those who openly oppose the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, unless the Cuban Government respects human rights and frees the political prisoners, have been detained and had their passports take away, like the plastic artist Tania Bruguera, who was visiting the country, so that she now finds herself held hostage, and the activists Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzales.

The Ladies in White, together with their leader, Berta Soler, and one of the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring, Angel Moya, Antonio Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez, Claudio Fuentes and Tania Bruguera, among others, were captured, some for several days, and, coincidentally, have all opposed the reestablishment of relations.

It’s painful that this distance exists between both factions, which, when united, have suffered so much abuse from the dictatorship. Some who accept relations keep quiet about the abuses committed toward those who think differently.

In a certain way, they have to recognize that silence converts them into accomplices of the Regime. We can’t forget that in different ways, thinking from parallel paths, is precisely what transforms us in dissidence, because we came fleeing from belonging to that mob that accedes to the call of the Dictator, which sometimes, even in an indirect way, can manipulate us in its favor.

Although we think that others are wrong, we should defend their right to be so. There is no one dissidence that is bland and another that is extreme, only degrees that are necessary and that strive for the same thing.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Unidad de Guardafronteras Prison, Havana. March 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy


Freedom? / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Border Control Prison, February 2015 — If I had any desire to be set free, it wouldn’t be with a great desire to accompany my children in their human, academic and social growth and to cooperate in this dream of liberation for my country.

When I think that I will have to return to that huge prison that is Cuba for Cubans who cannot express their opinions about the reality that surrounds them, or the artists who, through their art, bring another aesthetic that  doesn’t make the leaders happy, the emotion fades like that light they try to turn off, to hide.

I makes no sense to say that freedom is outside my imprisonment when I fell that I am more free than those who say they are free and speak softly to hide their thoughts, or prefer to lie to others with the intention of not being identified by the officials — somehow the police — persecutors of those who dare to be honest, although they silently envy them.

To be punished by a dictatorship is one of the best experiences I’ve received in my life and I am very proud of it.

Knowing that history will record me as against the tyranny that has ruled the archipelago for more than half a century, fills me with joy and is, in itself, the greatest payment for the suffering that I have received, for the punishment they deal like a decoration impossible to match.

Today, Wednesday, February 25, I called the headquarters of the Ladies in White and thanked them for their shouts of freedom for the political prisoners; their boundless courage, and for bearing up under the beatings and humiliations they receive, as one Sunday 22 February, when they were physically abused, humiliated and imprisoned, as well as Human Rights activists who support the Ladies in White, among others Ailer Gonzalez and Antonio Rodiles.

The government has to stop its constant violation of these rights, and accept that once the opposition is a tangible reality it is impossible to annul them no matter how many outrages are committed against them.

In addition, the countries who converse with the dictators must demand respect and not allow them to be used and underestimated in this game that the tyranny smears in search of the oxygenation that guarantees their remaining in power.

Down with the dictatorship! Nation and Liberty!

Published: 13 March 2015

Angel Santiesteban Included in the Defending Freedoms Project

1425271734_tom-lantos-human-rights-commission24 February 2015 — In December 2012, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, together with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Amnesty International, U.S., created the Defending Freedoms Project, with the objective of supporting human rights and religious freedom worldwide, with a particular focus on prisoners of conscience.

Specifically, the members of Congress who “adopt” prisoners of conscience, in solidarity with those brave men and women throughout the world, pledge to plead publicly for their freedom.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats and the journalist José Antonio Torres, both Cuban political prisoners, have recently been included on the list.

1425271734_ai-usaThis new recognition of Ángel Santiesteban-Prats is added to what he recently received on behalf of the German Eurodeputy, Dr. Christian Ehlerquien, who assumed the political sponsorship of the imprisoned Cuban writer.

Translated by Regina Anavy