Category Archives: Translator: Regina Anavy

It is Better to Run a Risk than to Shut Up / Angel Santiesteban

Correspondence between Toine Heijmans and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

The renown Dutch writer and journalist, Toine Heijmans, a regular columnist for the national Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, and who sponsored Ángel Santiesteban during his political imprisonment, published the correspondence they maintained during those two and a half years. He has dedicated four pages to it in the prestigious medium.

We reproduce here the photos of the printed version.

Angel’s Editor, 10 January 2015

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

Angel Santiesteban: Most of our people pretend

 

Disoriented in time like all ex-prisoners, Ángel Santiesteban brings with him a thousand prison demons.

Interview with Ángel Santiesteban after his conditional release – Cuba 2015.

Havana, Cuba, Augusto César San Martín —  The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats suffers with every word he writes. “I classify my work as social,” he declares in an interview given to Cubanet. “It’s always about the environment that surrounds the Cuban,” he adds.

And “suffering” is the best word to describe a people numb with fear, according to the writer who won the Short Story Prize from the National Union of Artists and Writers in Cuba (UNEAC).

“Most of our people pretend; they hope that this will pass and that they don’t encounter that wall. They don’t brave any consesquences they might receive for confronting the dictatorship,” he expressed.

Named by Reporters Without Borders as one of the 100 Information Heroes in 2014, Santiesteban was released from prison under a cautionary measure that can reverse his current limited freedom.

The author of several books of short stories, he received the Franz Kafka Novels of the Drawer Prize for his novel, “The Summer When God Was Sleeping,” where he recounts highlights that mark Cuban society: the participation of Cubans in the war in Africa, prison and the rafters.

Perhaps this last is a reckoning with his past for the 14 months he remained a prisoner at the age of 17, accused of conspiracy for saying goodbye, on the coast, to the family that failed as rafters.

He confessed to Cubanet that he carries fears with him in order to defend his ideas. They are in his blog, The Children That Nobody Wanted, and in the fear of dragging his family along when he’s repressed by the police.

He states that the two and one-half years in prison made him grow as a writer, a human being, and revealed to him the courage of Cuban freemasonry, to which he belongs.

His memory for the offenses he received has the same power as his disposition to reconcile with his adversaries. He suggested that I invite them to a rapprochement, even though conciliation appears difficult.

Disoriented in time like every ex-prisoner, he brings with him a thousand prison demons that will sleep with him for the rest of his days. Perhaps he doesn’t know that they’ll be persistent companions, but he is convinced that they are there, watching over his spiritual damage on the orders of those who imprisoned him.

The writer describes death threats by the police, arrests, insults, psychological damage to his family and imprisonment – a scenario that could well accommodate negative feelings. But in the hour that we share in one of the offices of the Great Masonic Temple, Ángel Santiesteban Prats doesn’t show the least hint of rancor.

Published in Cubanet.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Latest news: They are freeing Ángel Santiesteban

17 July 2015 — Ángel Santiesteban’s family just called me from Havana to report that a few minutes ago he was in contact by telephone and told them that his freedom is imminent. I don’t have more information at the moment.

When there is more news it will be communicated through this blog.

The Editor

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

 

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

 

Evo Morales, The Dissident Who Was Abused / Angel Santiesteban

evo-morales-en-los-primeros-tiemposAngel Santiesteban, 12 May 2015 — At the Summit of the Americas, the Bolivian president told journalists about the arrests, humiliations and violations of human rights he suffered when he opposed the officialdom of his country, from the beginning of his union movement activism back in 1988.

So it’s outrageous that this same human being, statesman and politician, who tells of the suffering inflicted upon him by the extremist regimes of his time, is today the one who defends the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, which commits the same human rights violations against the Cuban opposition. It might be assumed that he would show solidarity with the abused of today. But, like they say, “with fame comes memory loss.”

Although perhaps it’s not forgetfulness so much as the price he pays, because in reality he was chosen by Fidel Castro for his country’s presidency, and provided with economic and strategic support, personal protection and intelligence.

Fidel did the same with the others who today make up that Latin American mafia of “leftist” presidents: Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro, Lula da Silva; or even Ollanta Humala in Peru, who has had to pay for the favor quietly, because in his country it has been impossible to imitate Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Nor is it possible to deny that, since his rise to power, Morales has achieved a better situation for the lower classes, developed the economy and created better opportunities and conditions in general for his people, while the most notable is having restored the rights of indigenous citizens, forgotten and out of favor for centuries.

So far, President Morales would have made history as the best chief of the national tribe, and I write this with respect. But that commitment to work for the development of the country still isn’t enough for Evo Morales, nor is it for those other leftist leaders on the continent, those that I call “mafia,” in which I include Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and, to a lesser extent, because of their more independent paths from the dictates of Cuba, Uruguay and some small Caribbean islands.

Continuing in the fashion of popular dictators, Morales manipulated the law to gain indefinite re-election and eternalize his power. In doing so, he betrayed himself, but he did the greatest damage to his nation, sticking a dagger in the back of democracy, since it ensures for him, and for those who can replace him when he decides to leave power, the opportunity to maintain a dictatorship with support from the Parliament.            

Evo Morales, who had the responsibility of ensuring those democratic terms, violated the meaning of his own name — morals — by defiling and hijacking democracy. But, as luck would have it, a light is possibly dawning in the person of Soledad Chapetón Tancara, a young Aymaran woman and educator, who has become mayor of El Alto, Bolivia’s second most important city.

To play at being a dictator is a slow process of degradation, as one falls into the abyss and tries to grab onto some branches. But in the end it is still a fall. When surveys and advisers suggested to Evo Morales the possibility that the Bolivian Socialist Movement (MAS) might lose some of the country’s most important towns, he threatened to “withdraw financial support” from those municipalities. And that was just the beginning of his descent.

It’s undeniable that he opened doors for himself and others with absolutist intentions, and therein lies the danger: he committed the stupidity of letting go of a child’s hand in the roadGenerally, this stupidity ends with a lot of suffering and blood. Morales’ mistake will erase whatever was best of the noblest and altruistic actions he took in his mandate as the first president in favor of his people, who have already begun to withdraw their confidence. It shows, once again, that overcoming a decade in power entails a wear and tear of image, which usually ends, inevitably, in the general ill will of one’s own citizens.         

Losing the municipality of El Alto is the first notice. Now it’s the turn of the mayor, Soledad Chapeton Tancara, who shows she knows what she wants and where she wants to lead her people, who are grateful to her.

Evo Morales is trying to show that what occurred isn’t very important and that everything is going well. Hopefully he will rise above his partisan pains and cooperate with the young Aymara, who asks for “less ideology and more transparency” and offers new proposals for the development of her nation.

Let’s remember that the vote against Morales was partly due to corruption of the authorities in those municipalities, resulting from the lack of control of the president in his obstinate commitment to manufacture a war against the United States.

Soledad Chapeton will remain as mayor of El Alto until 2021, and later, according to how her management goes, will be a possible candidate for the National Unity party together with its leader, the businessman Samuel Doria Medina, who will have the challenge of healing that wound in the Constitution of his own country, a wound which leaves open a clear path for autocrats to install themselves and put forth their ideologies as cloaks for their appetites and personal ambitions. Of course, before healing the wound the knife needs to be removed.     

When Evo Morales finished recounting his stories of abuse in one of the arranged rooms during the Panama Summit, the journalists started questioning him, showing impatience, since in those few words the Bolivian president had never touched on those delicate subjects that bother him so much.

He found himself in front of a group of professionals, among whom were some of those he himself censured in the official spaces, where those who are invited and the questions they can ask are chosen.

When a journalist asked him how it was possible that, with his experience as a victim of abuse from political leaders, he could support Castro’s totalitarian regime, which committed the same outrageous acts that other governments committed against him, Morales threw himself onto a heap of trash, spewing garbage, and tried, shamefully imitating Cantinflas*, to justify himself by saying that when someone badmouths the Cuban people he takes it as a personal attack.

But here’s a curious observation: in Raul Castro’s appearance at the Summit (those twelve minutes that multiplied, since it’s impossible not to violate the time limit rule), he didn’t refer to the most publicized demand of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s exit to the sea, in spite of mentioning other important demands of that mafioso group of acolytes: the condemnation of Obama’s decree against Venezuela, Argentina’s right to the Malvinas, putting the brake on the transnationals who “contaminate” the soil of Ecuador, the “decolonization” of Puerto Rico, poverty in Haiti, peace in Colombia. But Evo Morales’ demand wasn’t mentioned, perhaps so Bachelet wouldn’t be annoyed. I wouldn’t be surprised if some juicy agreement is signed in Chile for financial aid to Cuba.

Morales was obviously nervous when they asked him the question. He looked at the journalist like a weirdo, surely wanting to throw the microphone at him rather than answer; and, searching perhaps for a way out, it occurred to Morales to ask him if he were a journalist, perhaps in case he wasn’t, to negate his words. But his interlocutor said “yes”, leaving the president no other decent option than to respond, or at least to try to, as he finally did.

The leader knew before starting that he was plunging into the ridiculous and he extracted forced words, produced ready-made phrases and readings, learned in the best moment of the educative rigor that Cuba offered to that mafioso alliance, conscious of the quota of impudence assimilated by obligation as part of being affiliated with the mafia of “leftist” Latin America.

A dangerous double-edged knife, that this time injured its carrier, removing him, if some time he was close, from that vociferous leftist longing to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, when in reality every one of his steps showed that he was preparing for a war and, even worse, for a war against his own people and his Aymara brothers.

The Bolivian sovereign, while trying to guarantee that the garbage wouldn’t smother him, cited the words of Fidel Castro: “We have to share what we have, not that which is left over.” But Castro didn’t talk about the price that the Cuban people have paid for decades, for more than a half century, for his narcissistic obsession of reaching a preponderant level on an international scale.

It didn’t matter to Castro that he has made his people sacrifice and suffer, crushing generations of Cubans, one after the other, and worse, converting them into lost generations socially, like throwing away offerings in empty sacks, discarding victims; finally, considering them dispensable human beings, those whom he always saw as mere numbers.

What Fidel Castro lacked was the spirit of a benefactor, and the facts prove it. Or perhaps you can call someone a benefactor who collects hundreds of millions from Venezuela in petroleum, in exchange for the Cuban collaborators placed in that country, which has almost been taken over by Cuba?

Does a benefactor charge Brazil an undreamt amount of money for the doctors it rents to them, paying them a poor salary and pocketing the major part of what it pays for every doctor sent to the Carioca nation? This only mentions two countries of those where this slavery business of the 21st century imposed by Fidel Castro proliferates. It’s known that professionals who refuse to go can forget about receiving income in their specialty or material rewards for their work. The impoverished economic situation confronting their families obligates them to accept.

Perhaps one day there will be a study on the marital cost of this separation, this distance between couples, the lack of protection for family and children who remain. Divorces from that physical separation on average are very high. What make this more deplorable and shameful is that in the end those “internationalists” receive a tiny part of the payment that the government charges, a miserable payment that evaporates over months, because some decide to loan themselves again to slavery and so perform two or more collaborations in other countries.

I knew someone who spent six years in Venezuela, while they kept his wife, two kids and old parents in Cuba. And he did that, planned it, to resolve the family calamities and be able to celebrate his daughter’s “quince**” with a little decorum.

Evo Morales knows, but perhaps doesn’t want to see out of pure convenience, that all the foreign graduates in Cuba, thousands, today professionals in their countries, are converted in the great majority into agents, ideological stone-masons, silent allies of the Cuban government, who in many cases have ascended to important posts in their governments, with all the intention of influencing these nations, once the era of guerrillas has passed. Solidarity, it’s not.

Castro thought out very well his plans for global power. He gave the stairways to power to Chavez, Maduro, Lula da Silva, Evo Morales, among others, but on credit, and charging them means destroying that staircase, snatching away from them that initial impulse and launching them into the worst of the history of their countries.

In summary, Evo Morales, more than being a satellite, like the one recently launched into space, needs a shaman to enlighten him and show him the reality of today and the future, and one who, moreover, will make him think about the question of office that the journalist at the Panama Summit asked him: “And you, Evo, are you the president?”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
April 16, 2015 , Border Prison Unit, Havana.

Translator’s notes:
*Cantinflas was a Mexican comic actor who often portrayed impoverished peasants.
**The “Quince” is the tradition of celebrating a young girl’s coming of age on her 15th birthday.

Translated by: Nathan Clarke and Regina Anavy

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