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

 

Prostitution in Cuba Sustains the Domestic Economy / Angel Santiesteban

There is no country in the world, except the Vatican I guess, in which there is no prostitution. But when a social process has taken place for over half a century, and has proclaimed its eradication, then it is warranted to address the issue, hidden for decades from international public opinion—like drugs, gambling and other issues taken into account to support the dictatorship—because it was most appropriate for the welfare of the people and the nation.

Today, prostitution is an issue treated simply as social conflict. In every city in the country there are areas of tolerance, but the state does not recognize or accept them.

Also it is now normal that in households they talk about “jockeys,” “female wrestlers,” if not “Fairy Godmothers” when speaking of the women of the family who sustain the household economy, and who were previously referred to as “black sheep.”

Cuban journalists, paying homage to a “secrecy” that is not longer required, continue to be silent about what everybody knows. When the topic has been addressed, it has been through the arts, literature, theater, cinema, and music.

In short, another pending issue that Cuban society needs to debate sometime, freely and without taboos.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

February 24, 2015

Guardafronteras Prison Uni

Havana

8 June 2015

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

The Cuban Telenovela Presents?

In the end, the public emergence of Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, the pretender to the throne, was swift. First he was seen at the foot of the aircraft steps receiving the three remaining spies on December 17. Now he is seen accompanying Daddy at the great meeting and, most importantly, presenting himself—in some form—to President Obama, when the person who should have been there was Vice-President Diaz Canel, who was supposed to assume the presidency in 2018, at the end of Raul Castro’s  second term, and the sixtieth year of his family’s.

We had predicted by elementary deduction the simple theorem of Castro shamelessness: don’t trust puppets. All that remained was how and when they would publicly unveil the prince.

“Another Castro ahoy!” warns the boy from the crow’s nest, but in this case the ship ran aground on the coast six decades ago and we found no suitable maneuver for the development and freedom of the Cuban people.

Alejandro Casro Espín seems to me to most resemble the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin: they share a similar military and espionage trajectory.

Cuban life seems like a TV melodrama that continues episode after episode, season after season, never reaching a final resolution.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

April 12, 2015

Border Prison Unit, Havana

 

The Second Conviction of Ángel Santiesteban

Note: This post was written by Angel’s editor, who supports his blogging.

Today, April 29, 2015, we begin a new phase in which the Raul Castro dictatorship has decided to take another pass at bullfighter justice with Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.

Yesterday, the 28th, he completed serving half of his unjust sentence, the product of a trumped-up charge and a rigged trial full of irregularities.

Any Cuban prisoner has the right to “enjoy” probation upon serving half of his sentence in prison. But Ángel is NOT a common criminal but a political prisoner who was sentenced for a common crime that he did not commit, in order to hide the political motivation and at the same time portray him as a despised “criminal,” who could not “enjoy” that right, as none of them should, including the availability of residential passes, which, as I have reported, was only granted to him once, in September 2013. Since then, not only have they not let him out again, but they have been confining him in increasingly isolated places so that he has no communication with the outside. Since August 2014, he has been confined in a cage with a minimal yard and a lattice roof.

His UNEAC (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists) colleagues had engaged in a campaign to discredit him as if he were a violent offender. Now they remain silent about Ángel, knowing and understanding the evidence of his innocence. And worse, blessing the entry of the five murderous spies to the institution as “honorary members.” This is Castro justice and the way their ideological curators work to ensure that the violation of human and civil rights of Cubans who do not lick the boots of the dictator brothers (and soon those of the heir “prince”) are trampled with impunity .

On March 14 of this year I warned that State Security was preparing a new judicial trap for Ángel to justify keeping him locked up. And unfortunately, ithas.

After a year-and-a-half delay, Castro “justice” approved Ángel’s request for a review of the trial. And by waiting to accept it until half of his sentence had been completed, he now has an open court proceeding, and he is not entitled to parole until it is resolved. And so, unfortunately, the fear we announced has come to pass.

Yesterday, April 28, Angel had served 26 months in prison, half of his sentence, and as of yesterday we begin to count the days for him to complete his new sentence: continuing to be a prisoner when he should, at a minimum, be on probation.

The regime in Havana still doesn’t know how to show that Ángel Santiesteban-Prats is a political prisoner, despite his recognition by the Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, it refuses to include him on their lists.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats is the only “common criminal” who has been repeatedly offered his freedom in exchange for giving up his political position and leaving the island. Angel is a “common criminal” who has been kept isolated in an attempt to prevent the publication of his views about the Castro dictatorship in his blog “The Children Nobody Wanted.”

Ángel has begun serving the second sentence, continuing his confinement in prison, without passes home, with one visit every three weeks, when he should already have been acquitted in a trial with all the guarantees that were denied in the first.

Just as we have done for the past two and a half years, we will not remain silent nor quiet watching them violate Ángel‘s human and prisoner rights.

We will continue to denounce, with increasing strength, each and every violation of Ángel‘s rights. And we continue to call for his immediate release,and that of ALL political prisoners.

The dictatorship also knows that thirty members of the European Parliament recently joined the clamor for freedom. It is hard to understand how they do not feel the slightest embarrassment when sitting down to negotiate with the free world while in Cuba they continue repressing and violating peaceful dissent.

Once again, we hold the dictator Raul Castro responsible for the life and safety of Ángel SantiestebanPrats. And rest assured that history will not absolve him.

The Editor

Political Prisoner Dies / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Border Prison Unit, Havana, 13 April 2015 — Máximo Pradera Valdés has died without completing his lengthy (30 years) sentence. According to the account I heard, he unexpectedly suffered a massive heart attack while visiting with his family, enjoying their pass granted by the prison authorities.

A few months ago Máximo sent me a message: “Tell him that I’m his friend.” I responded, “Vice versa and take care.”

I know that he smoked too much. At least Máximo is now free. It’s a shame that he couldn’t see his country free from the hands of the Castros, whom he hated with all the strength of his soul.

Rest in peace, dear Máximo.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

April 13, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana

The Order To Kill a Serial Killer / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Prison Border Unit, Havana, 13 April 2015 –– I declare myself the enemy of any act that generates violence, above all those where lives are snuffed out. In the recently concluded Summit of the Americas in Panama, the gang sent by Cuba to violently destabilize the forums that they could not once again manipulate, inflicted beatings.

One of the justifications was the presence of Felix Rodriguez, who was in charge of the capture of Ernesto Guevara (as the Cuban writer Felix Luis Viera says: I say his name and not his nickname because he was not your friend, let alone mine), and who also gave the order to execute the guerrilla commander, who like the phrase “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” received the same formula that he sometimes used, as when he arrived at La Cabaña in 1959, where he caused rivers of blood to flow in the trenches of that fortress, built during colonial times to protect from the attacks of privateers and pirates, without giving the condemned the opportunity to receive a defense by lawyers representing them in a fair trial.

It is also true (without intending to defend anyone, because one life is worth as much as thousands), that in ten lifetimes Felix Rodriguez could not match the number of dead that the Argentine commander dispatched by the firing squad.

Every time I see a person wearing the guerrilla’s image, I wonder if they are naive or if they know the rap sheet of cold-blooded murders that he authorized and committed, as recounted in the book by commander Benigno.

The official delegation of the Castro regime shamelessly displayed the flag, making it a shame for all Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

April 13, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana

Reporters Without Borders to Hollande: “Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.”

Note: This post was written by the editor of Angel’s blog.

Once again, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demonstrates its commitment to the serious situation in Cuba and writes an open letter to French President Francois Hollande.

On the occasion of the upcoming visit of Hollande to Cuba, they asked him to live up to the pledge he made in 2003 in a column in Le Nouvel Observateur, “Tell the Truth”, and asked him:

“Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. France can do no less than urge the Cuban authorities to stop the repression and censorship of purveyors of independent information.”

Thank you from here on behalf of Angel Santiesteban-Prats for the relentless support provided by RSF for all those in Cuba who suffer the consequences of exercising the right to freedom of expression and information inside a dictatorship.

Eternal gratitude,

The Editor of Angel’s blog

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Cuba: “The silence of the friends of Cuba would be a form of complicity.” (Francois Hollande, 2003)

Published Thursday, May 7, 2015

On Monday, May 11, 2015, French President Francois Hollande will be the first French head of state to visit Cuba since 1959, and the first Western leader to do so since the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced last December 17. A historic visit, and a historic responsibility: to “tell the truth,” as in the title of the column about Cuba written by François Hollande (attached here) published in Le Nouvel Observateur in 2003. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) sent an open letter to the President requesting him to urge his counterpart Raul Castro to improve the situation—which is dire—of the freedom of information on the island.

François Hollande
President of the Republic
Elysée Palace
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint‐Honoré
75008 París

May 7, 2015

Mr. President,

Before you make your trip to Cuba, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an organization that defends freedom of information, would like to call your attention to the situation—which remains very critical—of professional and amateur journalists in Cuba. This country, which every year ranks last in the Americas in the 2015 Worldwide Classification of Freedom of the Press by Reporters Without Borders, ranked 169th out of 180 countries. This position reflects the apparent lack of pluralism and the difficult and dangerous situation in which journalists and independent bloggers operate in order to evade censorship and to publish independent information.

With a historic visit comes a historic responsibility: in the column you wrote and which was published in Le Nouvel Observateur on February 27, 2003, entitled “Telling the Truth,” you stated bluntly: “Silence by the friends of Cuba would be a form of complicity facing a system that we condemn elsewhere,” and you urged “supporting the Cuban people to the end and telling the truth about the inhumanity, both of the embargo and of the Cuban regime. Both are unjustifiable.”

You had no doubt about the role of France: “We demand the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of censorship.” In the name of these principles, France cannot remain silent.

Mr. President, despite the desire for openness that the Cuban government now displays in the diplomatic arena, it retains an almost complete monopoly on information and does not tolerate the existence of any independent media on the island. The traditional press and online media remain censored; the internet remains under close surveillance.

An exception to this lead cloak: the website of the independent news agency Hablemos Press. Since 2011 Hablemos Press was inaccessible on the island, but last March 12th, as part of an anti-cybercensorship operation, Reporters Without Borders unlocked its website. The Cuban government did nothing, an exception that should be the rule. Mr. President, France cannot forget that an opening can only be real and beneficial to the population if the island is also open to plural and independent information.

Independent journalists and bloggers continue to exercise their profession in the midst of a difficult and dangerous situation: their computers are confiscated and their mobile phones are disconnected; they are cited by the State Security Department and ordered to change their editorial slant. Also, they continue to suffer intimidation, smear campaigns, death threats, assaults, arrests and arbitrary detentions.

Even the World Day of Press Freedom on May 3rd served as a pretext for repression. Three independent journalists covering the march of the Ladies in White were arrested in Havana. They had distributed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. President, France cannot continue to be silent about the arbitrary imprisonment of journalists.

Cuban authorities seem to increasingly prefer arbitrary detentions of short duration to prevent purveyors of information from doing their jobs and to keep them quiet. Yoeni de Jesús Guerra García (a blogger from Yayabo Press sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014), Jose Antonio Torres (a journalist from the official newspaper Granma, who was sentenced in July 2012 to 14 years in prison) and the blogger Ángel Santiesteban-Prats (author of the informative blog The Children Nobody Wanted, sentenced to five years in prison in 2013), are all currently serving long prison sentences.

Their crimes? Having spread information considered “anti-revolutionary” or “slanderous.” Ángel Santiesteban-Prats was sentenced to five years in prison for “domestic violence with injuries;” he was charged with a common criminal offense to reduce the political impact of his imprisonment. Since entering prison he has suffered ill-treatment and torture. A lack of legal clarity clouds his situation. Mr. President, France should seek the immediate and unconditional release of Yoennis de Jesús Guerra García, Juan Antonio Torres, and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats.

France can do no less than urge the Cuban authorities to stop the repression and censorship of purveyors of independent information. France should also intervene with the Cuban authorities and ask them to allow access to Cuba by international organizations defending human rights and freedom of expression and information, such as Reporters Without Borders. This, keeping in mind your desired objective: “to tell the truth.”

Thanking you for your attention to this request, Mr. President, I send my warmest greetings.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire

Secretary General

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Published in Reporters without Borders