Dialogue between the color blind and the cynics / Angel Santiesteban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison. Havana. April 2015

Translated by Regina Anavy

Prostitution in Cuba (I) / Angel Santiesteban

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stepfather sighed, relieved.

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

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

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Guard Prison Unit. Havana. February 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Raúl Castro, what are you plotting?

Abel Prieto, Raul Castro advisor leading the pro-Castro demonstrations in Panama

Abel Prieto, Raul Castro advisor leading the pro-Castro demonstrations in Panama

Today, April 9, 2015, we are just 19 days away from the date in which the dictatorship of the Castro clan should have granted probation to Angel Santiesteban-Prats, a prisoner wrongfully for crimes he did not commit as has been widely attested.

So within days of him being about to be released, we have learned that they have planned to move him again. We don’t know where or why.

We have also found out that on the last visit he received, he was monitored by cameras set up for this occasion.

Barnet, also leading pro-Castro mob

Barnet, also leading pro-Castro mob in Panama

This Friday, April 10, he should again receive a visit, and this visit coincides with the Americas Summit in Panama City, where Raúl Castro will be with his entourage. There will also participate members of civil society, a fact that – after having done the impossible – he has not managed to avoid, and for days, their henchmen have not stopped trying to disqualify and detract them.

The Panamanian state collaborated with the dictatorship of Castro, harassing and arresting dissidents just as they were arriving in the country, and in the last hours there have been acts of condemnation and beating of Cubans, organized by the embassy and Panamanian groups of solidarity with Cuba, against opponents who have been invited to Civil Society Forum of the summit, a thing really embarrassing, although it was predictable.

Pro-Castro mob in Panama

Pro-Castro mob in Panama

We hope that this new transfer of Angel Santiesteban-Prats, and the recent cameras that violate the privacy of his visits, have nothing to do with the Summit and is not an attempt to silence his voice on this issue.

Pro Castro mob attacking independent civil society members in Panama

Pro Castro mob attacking independent civil society members in Panama

Whether or not Angel gets to send his opinion pieces on the subject — and especially on the dictatorship — we know what he thinks, and know better still that he is imprisoned just for thinking thus.

We warn again that all eyes are on Angel and we will not wait a second to denounce new abuses that can be prepared for him.

The editor

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Translated by: Hombre de Paz

The Enslavement of Cuban Professionals / Angel Santiesteban

What value is there in loudly bragging about Cuba as a “medical world power” and that it “disinterestedly” sends thousands of doctors around the planet, when in reality the Cuban archipelago, for many years, has been far from this false image as an island paradise, from the moment when the Castro brothers calculated the numbers and dividends from the hugely lucrative business represented by selling the cheap slave labor of these professionals.

Thanks to these medical brigades, the government adds millions to its coffers, which wouldn’t be bad if they paid these doctors, nurses and health technicians a large percentage of the revenue they generate and not the paltry share they currently receive of the contracts signed between States.

What happens to doctors, also happens to athletes, artists, university professors and any professional that serves their interests; but this post is dedicated to the exploited of medicine.

The Castro brothers, once they took power — secured with populist and social laws — the concerned themselves more with foreign policy, interested in regional influence with the aim of extending their communist ideology, than with domestic issues.

They started exporting the Revolution with the seeding of guerrillas in several continents. One example is the conflict that persists today in Colombia, half a century after that attempt of insurrectional social war, that installed them in power. But that dream — or nightmare — was cut short. It mutated from the original ideals, and — passing through various stages such as the military support in Africa — to an attempt to win elections with popular leftist movements.

The guerrillas were ordered to shift tactics: exchanging their weapons and camouflage, they dressed them in brand name suits and ties to take the floor to manipulate the society’s most economically disadvantaged. Cuban military advisors hang stethoscopes around their necks and dress in white coats.

In short, a great part of this new hidden force is in the nobility of the medical professional, continuing the work of the prior military advisors, in order to influence and support the choice of the Castros for the presidency of this country. Meanwhile, whether or not they achieve that, the Cuban government receives the salaries of its 21st Century slaves.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
Border Control Prison Unit, Havana, March 2015

6 April 2015

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

My Second Anniversary in Captivity / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Border Guard Prison, Havana, 8 March 2015 — The dictatorship has tried to hide my voice for two consecutive years. I think it has failed.

On February 28 I completed 24 months in prison, and I can assure you it has accomplished nothing, that the punishment has not served the purposes of the totalitarian regime.

They’ve put me through horrors, and I like to think that each one has left me unscathed. If I remember correctly, I could see the fear in their eyes for what they’ve done and the admiration for my vertical posture and not wanting to live in silence under their boots.

I have never asked them when they will release me, because I believe that other political prisoners have that right before me. Of course, I have not received “time off for good behavior” where the years are calculated as ten months if the prisoner behaves well.

Last year I asked my family for a cake to celebrate the first anniversary. This year, as is their wont, the regime has intensified my isolation in their constant failed attempt to achieve it.

I want to share with all those who love freedom of expression, as an inviolable principle of every intellectual and the society in general, this second year in prison, an honor that the despots in power have given me as a gift.

Thank you and hugs to those who understand and support me.

 

Only One Question / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, Border Patrol Prison Unit, Havana. February, 2015 — I do not have access to the news online nor the articles by specialists and political scientists in the daily papers with respect to the recent dialogues between President Obama and the president of Cuba. And, as the days pass and we are ever farther from that 17 of December of last year — when their secret contacts and accords became known — there is a question that continues to grow in my mind, and it is: why did the initial list of prisoners to be exchanged not include those who have been jailed in Cuba for almost 30 years?

How is it possible that these prisoners were left out of that list of 53 Cuban political prisoners? I am not saying that they should have been substituted for any of those on the list, simply that they should have been included. And the more I ponder this, my puzzlement grows like a snowball.

It simply seems to me a sign of disrespect to play politics and forget those men, those brothers, those human beings who have been suffering in the worst of captivities for decades. Would that, in a second “round,” as always happens in these political maneuverings, these men are taken into account. This I pray.

Remember that those imprisoned Cubans are serving sentences that are double those that were being completed by Castro’s spies.

Perhaps, as the song says, “they have it all figured out,” and in fact they were left for another future spy exchange — such as for Ana Belén Montes, their spy in the Pentagon — or to soften up the North American Congress so that they will lift the embargo.

I suspect that the script is already written: Obama and the Castros have a common enemy, which is the Republican Party. They are the ones who need to be convinced, because, were it up to the Democrats, they would already, in the blink of an eye, have set up a satellite of China or Russia in the Caribbean — which is what they’re doing, of course, the only difference being that it is official, made legal by the American government itself.

I already foresee that this hand will be bitten, and will catch rabies.

Border Patrol Prison Unit, Havana. February, 2015.

* Editor’s Note: There are 9 political prisoners who have been incarcerated more than 20 years. Their names (and years imprisoned so far) are: Pedro de la Caridad Álvarez (23), Daniel Candelario Santovenia (23), Elías Pérez (23), Erik Salmerón (23), Raúl Manuel Cornel (22), José David Herman (22), Miguel Díaz (21), Armando Sosa (21) and  Humberto Eladio Real Suárez (21). Fifteen other prisoners have been detained for periods between 12 and 19 years. (Source: Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) and see also Human Rights Watch Report based on CCDHRN reporting.)

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

6 March 2015

Francis Sanchez, Another of the Writers Tired of Mediocrity? / Angel Santiesteban

Writers tired of mediocrity

Angel Santiesteban, 9 March 2015 — I recognize that at times I don’t mention writers living in Cuba for fear of harming them, although I know how most Cuba intellectuals think, I know, I’m aware of it, because of what they do, the game continues and what will they get in return for faked docile behavior in support of totalitarianism.

Among those I don’t mention is Francis Sánchez, a writer from Ciego de Ávila, whom I have accompanied for years in his intellectual development, and then, that call to his conscience to express his political feelings. To this end, he has faced fierce government criticism, harsher in the province than in the capital, being more isolated from the international media and with fewer Human Rights activists. Thus, he has had to swim upstream and against the current most of the time.

I know his family, whom I don’t name so as not to cause them to be hurt; I have visited his house, I have crouched in that space of creative lineage, I have accompanied his sons and bought them fish food (they are already teenagers), and they consider me a family friend, to my personal pride. I also thank them that through them I met Laurita in Mexico who helped me, against their will, to create this blog “The Children Nobody Wanted,” and I will always be grateful.

It has been gratifying to know that — despite the pressures of State Security, the Provincial Party and the cultural marginality of the functionaries who direct this organization — Francis has answered his call to conscience, resisting the tension of knowing himself to be walking a tightrope, on the razor’s edge, and he has exhibited his work “Cicatrices” (Scars), in the gallery of the artists and human rights defenders Luis Trápaga and Lía Villares.

Take care brother, they are lurking, and fabricating a case against you and it will be like an absurd journey into hell, that you won’t believe until you see the total darkness. In any event, there at the point of no return, my voice will be with you, my cry joined with that of your family. I send you a huge hug and my pride in our friendship, and the mutual need to express ourselves honestly in our time, feeling the light that crosses our body, in that full transparency brought to us by the true artists, and first of all by our José Martí.

I ask the international community to keep Francis Sánchez and his family in sight, preventing another institutional abuse to silence his voice, his art, which is so painful to the dictatorship.

Breaking the Censorship / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban Prats,Jaimanitas Border Patrol Prison, Havana, 12 February 2015 — Today February 12, 2015, precisely the day of opening of the Havana International Book Fair, various officials have come to me noting one of the recent complaints concerning the slavery of the prisoners in Cuba, their cheap labor, and the inhumane conditions with which they work twelve to fourteen hours a day, including the weekends or public holidays or non-working days.

To make matters worse, they work with boots and torn and patched clothes, which they cannot even buy with their minimal, token salary — which sometimes doesn’t arrive on time — and they have to wait until the following month to cash it. Prisoners, like almost always, are fearful for reprisals when the inspection officers depart, since they hinted to them of the deprived circumstances in which they survive their sentence.

I am pleased that, somehow, the blog fulfills the role for which it was created, which is nothing more than make justice prevail for the destitute, the fearful, or those who are unaware of the way in which their voices influence society.

My generation, the vast majority, got tired of receiving the topics about which we should write, when the repressive government sends them through cultural officials.

The truth is that somehow they will give you new boots and adequate clothing. They will not send them to work sick or beaten. Nor, or at least I suppose, while I am nearby, will they allow them to work well beyond the established hours. And they noted down in their agendas the type of job they perform and the fair payment that should receive, since the officials confirmed that prisoners are being swindled by their employers.

We know that, unfortunately, a large part of Cubans do not have access to the Internet, but apparently the government is paying attention to a part of my complaints. I’m happy for them, but they do it only to conceal them, we hope they will be eradicating them.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

4 March 2015