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Literature and Justice
The award-winning writer Angel Santiesteban is imprisoned unjustly for his confrontational attitude to the Castro regime.
On Wednesday, February 27, at the headquarters of the Estado de Sats project there was a farewell to Angel Santiesteban Prats, the award-winning writer. The next morning, he will present himself to serve the prison sentence imposed on him.
That same day, on asking my opinion as a lawyer, I began to know the details of his case. When I started to read the documentation, the conviction that I was in the presence of a crude judicial hoax took hold of me.
The center of Santiesteban’s misfortunes is his ex-wife Kenia Rodriguez Guzman. She wants to emigrate, but as a loving mother she wants to do so together with Eduardo, the son of her union with Angel. For this she needed his authorization; but he does not want to leave Cuba nor be separated from his offspring, so he refused permission and expressed his willingness to assume custody of and care for the boy when she left.
It was then that the former wife, who on top of everything suffers from psychiatric disorders, offered to make accusations that involved him in criminal proceedings. On a first occasion, the complaint for an offense of threats failed, as the prominent writer was acquitted.
In July 2009, Kenya accused her former husband of trespassing into her home and beating her in the face. With the passage of time, she “enriched” her statement, saying he had stolen her family jewels and, almost a month later, that he had raped her and tried to murder her by suffocating her with a pillow. There was also talk about an alleged attempt to burn down Kenia’s house.
In short, the authorities discarded the additional complaints of the woman as unfounded. Naturally, the question arises: If we reach the conclusion that she lied about the alleged theft, murder and rape, then why not admit the probable falsity of the other complaints that she made!
This would follow not only from the contradictory testimony of the complainant, but also other elements of the case. Eduardo‘s teacher testified to a conversation with him: At first, the child accused his father to her, but then began to cry and on the teacher asking why he was crying, the boy told her that his mother told him to lie against Angel.
Alexis Quintana deserves special mention. This individual, in his alleged status as the only eyewitness, was the star of the havoc that Santiesteban, according to what Quintana said, tried to wreak in Kenia’s home. However, in a video presented to the Court, Quintana acknowledged that he had seen nothing, and that his statement was lies, made at the insistence of the woman, and that he received gifts in payment for it.
These two statements are very important, not for their relationship with the facts of the case (with which they have no direct link), but for what they bring to the lack of credibility of the complainant. If she does not hesitate to influence others — including her own son!– to formulate false statements against the object of her hatred, why wouldn’t she herself lie!
Three witnesses testified to having been with the defendant in another place at the time of the alleged incidents. The Court, in rejecting these witnesses, invokes the statement of the minor child Eduardo. However, he said later he spent the afternoon only in his father’s house, so that his statement did not in any way contradict the other three witnesses, who were ignored in a Olympian manner.
Given the absence of incriminating evidence, the courtroom, to back up the version of the complainant, called a handwriting expert. Like the charlatans that follow Lombroso to “demonstrate the responsibility” of an accused person, studying the shape of his ears or the prominence of his chin, so the supposed expert dared to swear before the Court that Santiesteban was guilty… based on his handwriting!
After forcing Angel to copy by hand an entire page of the garbage published by the official newspaper Granma, a lieutenant colonel in the Interior Ministry rose to assert nothing more and nothing less than… The size, form and slant of his handwriting constituted irrefutable proof the he was guilty of the charges.
In short, the Court, based on the statements of an enemy of the accused (who is also a mental patient), and the “handwriting expert,” declared Santiesteban guilt of the crimes of housebreaking and serious injury.
Article 287.1 of the Penal Code, which establishes penalties of three months to one year, or a simple fine, was used to describe the first of two violations; however for this crime the court set the illegal sentence of two years in prison, double the maximum allowed! For the serious injuries, which call for a sentence of between two and five years, the court imposed the upper limit. Suspicious supreme severity for an intellectual lacking a criminal record!
With respect to those bodily injuries, their seriousness was established based on the supposed perforation of an eardrum, causing hearing loss. But in the medical certificate not a single word is said about it. Thus, even if one considers some aggression on Angel’s part, there was reasonable doubt that this event cause the injury suffered by Kenya, who was even hit by a vehicle.
Another curious fact: Although this was supposedly a common — not a political — case, the appeal was heard by the Court for Crimes against State Security. The delay of years undergone in the conduct of this case and the whole set of circumstances already mentioned, lead us to assume that Angel Santiesteban is being pursued for the rebellious stance he took against the regime.
National and international public opinion must interest itself in this case.
Rene Gomez Manzano
Attorney and Freelance Journalist
Havana, March 4, 2013
21 May 2013
The Julio Trigo and The Dependent Hospitals don’t offer full service. Doctors choose to give basic treatment to avoid complications due to lack of hygiene and the poor condition of patient rooms.
An unnamed doctor “Julio Trigo” says that he has been forced to send patients for home treatment. “I should not be so, but the hospital is horrifying conditions, cockroaches walking through walls, this is a disaster!” Says the doctor.
Julio Trigo Hospital is the main one for the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo and The Dependent Hospital is one of the main hospitals for the municipality of Cerro. They have lost the confidence of the residents of the two areas, according to the comments of delegates (one delegate from Cerro and one from Arroyo Naranjo) from each municipality, who did not want to be identified.
An unnamed doctor at “Julio Trigo” says that he has been forced to send patients home for treatment. “I should not be so, but the hospital conditions are horrifying, cockroaches walking along walls, this is a disaster!” Says the doctor.
Marielena Garcia, 45, accompanying a patient explains she was waiting for her mom to get better to take her from the hospital to finish the treatment at home. “I was sitting on the side of the bed and a cockroach dropped on my face. The beds are dirty, you even get the smell of urine, you have to bring several sheets to avoid complications of infection,” says Garcia.
An unnamed doctor at The Dependent Hospital says that all the patients who come to the hospital complain about dirt. “It’s a risk to send the patient home, but better than the complications with bacteria,” said the doctor.
Alfredo Gonzalez, 32, says that in the middle of 2012 he went to The Dependent Hospital with a deep machete wound and almost lost his leg to an infection acquired from instruments that weren’t disinfected.
Maria Rodriguez, 48, says she’s complained about the management, but never had the chance to see the hospital director in person.
The country has refurbished hospitals in the capital, but after a year many are back to the previous bad condition. The chairs, the beds and the drinking fountains reflect the care of the people and the workers.
20 May 2013
Commentary by Miguel Coyula starts at about 5 minutes into the video.
The following text is taken from Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site that is supporting Blue Heart. Miguel lives in and works from Cuba.
Miguel Coyula was born in Havana, Cuba in 1977. His work is focused on blending different genres and formats into new ways of storytelling by exploring digital technology. Always working outside the film industry made his first feature Red Cockroaches (2003), for less than $2,000. The film was described by Variety as “a triumph of technology in the hands of a visionary with know-how…” and went on to gather several awards in the international film festival circuit. In 2009 Coyula was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to develop his next film, Memories of Overdevelopment, a follow-up to the Cuban classic Memorias del Subdesarrollo (1968). The film premiered on Sundance in 2010 and went on to gather 20 awards during its festival tour. The International Film Guide chose it as the best Cuban Film of the year.
Blue Heart is a film about the individual’s inability to escape its environment, as well a discussion about the violent nature of a revolution and its consequences. It is also an exploration of the boundaries of human behavior in a dysfunctional family. This is a foray into a dark future from an uncertain present. Continue reading
Havana, Cuba. For years Mariela Castro Espín Has tried to take credit for numerous efforts on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) community in Cuba. Forgetting that this community has its Own Voice.
These uncertain efforts have won her international awards and recognition, before she has even achieved what is now her most ambitious project. Which is to declare to those who do not know the Cuban issue, that the project authored by Mariela had been initiated by her late mother Vilma Espin.
The constant appearance of Castro Espín before the national and international media are not showing, much less is giving voice to, the (LGBT) Cuban community. On the contrary, they are only providing an opportunity for the voice of the daughter of current Cuban President, Raul Castro Ruz, enthroned in an ill-fated Revolution that has only managed to put the community that she pretends to lead at a disadvantage. Continue reading
Cuban television is not characterized by the quality of its domestic programming so I review the movie schedule to see if anything interests me. The only ones I follow are the pirated ones: Grey’s Anatomy, Suits, and Dirty Sexy Money; this latter despite its late night schedule.
But sometimes, by chance, by pure chance, I stumble on programs produced by Cuban TV, which produces little, bad and late, and luckily fills in with the canned. In a fatal chance I’ve seen some scenes of a horrible thing called Santa Maria of I Don’t-Know-What that shows on the soap opera hour; but the other day I endured with a stoicism worthy of a better cause a humor (?!) program made by women. They were competing, there was a really condescending jury, raising their cards with their ratings.
Bad taste, vulgarity, lack of grace, lack of originality; and an example of all of the above, the host of the program. In the Federation of Cuban Women and the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), institutions that concern themselves interchangeably with female integrity and raising cultural values, should not have seen More Women (with the “more” [plus] sign that I don’t find on the keyboard), this monstrosity of “more” for which I can not find enough adjectives on the keyboard.
20 May 2013
Havana, Cuba: The May rains have already started throughout the country and the in June hurricane season begins, extending until November.
The Cuban authorities and Civil Defense have recently launched the 2013 Meteor Exercise, preparation intended to corroborate the availability of all the factors involved in times of natural disasters. It is clear that this organization is run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and which have a structure from the nation top to bottom.
Authorities of the Institute of Meteorology say the hurricane season for Cuba and the Caribbean this year be a big one. So they predict that the island will be hit by any of these phenomena. The solidarity of the national response is immediate with things like this, far different from the government indolence that abandons countless families of disaster victims like this.
They are only there to lend a gaze to the eastern provinces and especially to Santiago de Cuba so that we can see a false reality of a city totally recovered.
The Civil Defense and the authorities in power more than ensure the preservation of human life. They have the obligation to provide to Cuban population with secure decent housing. We recall that the situation of the state of the buildings on the island is one of the problems that constantly checkmates the Cuban family.
The drought is palpable on the island and the lack of rain is well-known, but it is necessary to take urgent measures to preserve not only human lives as I said earlier but to put all of our goods in safekeeping. And to take as one of the main measures not walking around in places that are underpinned by danger of collapse.
It is our duty in this season for the sake of the Cuban family to preserve our lives. Not to highlight the role of the authorities but to comply with the first right of every man. Always remembering that our nation needs people committed to build the immediate future for our children and our future families if they can enjoy safe homes that can be a garrison in these catastrophes.
By Ignacio Estrada
20 May 2013
I put up this post this past Friday, but the WordPress goblins made it disappear. With my scarce connection time and my barely adequate technical knowledge, I wasted a copious amount of time looking for responses in a forum, and along the way, restoring this post. Management having failed, I’ll do this the old way: by repeating it.
The Revoliquera* Experience
If I ask a youth with occasional internet access which page referring to Cuba he visits, almost certainly he’ll respond with Facebook. It doesn’t matter that it’s not Cuban. The social network par excellence keeps him up to date with his artists and favorite athletes and let’s him meet up with his school friends, who today can be the same in Miami as in Madrid or Moscow.
But if I consult a young fan of technology or video games, or who is just growing out of his first childhood, the more sure is that he’ll answer that his favorite page is Revolico, the site of national sales & buying, born from the lack of a physical space inside Cuba to accommodate a classified ad.
It’s impossible to walk down the street and not see bills posted on phone poles announcing electronic musical concerts or house parties. On bus walls appear printed announcements of exchanges, nor does a car attract any attention with a cardboard box behind the windshield with hurried letters that read: “FOR SALE”. The yellow pages of the telephone book increasingly recognize the emerging private services sector, but even there the space is insufficient to insert a perishable or offensive ad. Here is where the online note triumphs.
No matter the real estate market, where the false image of an enormous (and overpriced) residential listing is for sale, poking around on revolico.com reveals that Cubans aren’t too interested in whether or not the government is going to build socialism; but meanwhile, each provides their own management style, and for some it doesn’t seem to be going badly. The productive forces of this country are in the starting blocks waiting for the starter’s gun to go off, and Revolico is becoming pre-competition training.
And if you don’t have access to the internet, that is no longer a problem. Inside a weekly or monthly 500 GB pack you can find an offline version of the popular site that now permits even the opening of links to photos; “It’s exactly the same as seeing it on the Internet,” a neighbor told me who copied her own version from me last week. As it is often forbidden to access Revolico from work and school, or the page won’t open and is redirected to the searcher, disturbed souls have posted alternative addresses and proxies that lead to the revoliquera (messy) experience.
Office services, translations, language classes, wedding dress rental, jobs, loans with interest, clowns, quotes … that amalgam makes up the pages of Revolico, a much better known site within Cuba than Generation Y, and more visited than CubaDebate.
Translator’s note: “Revoliquera” is an adjective roughly meaning “messy” created from the word “revolico” which in Cuban slang means “a mess”; it is the name of the Cuban site that is the equivalent of “Craigslist.”
Translated by: JT
13 May 2013
El Sexto is raided at his home this afternoon at 1:15 pm, according to Alexandra his wife and owner of the apartment, who learned of it through an email from her dad who lives downstairs and saw men and women in uniform and in plainclothes, accompanied by 2 neighbors from the CDR [Committee for the Defense of the Revolution], and a major from MININT [Ministry of the Interior], in all about 5 people, they showed him a search warrent and confiscated his laptop, spray paints and all the works they found and took him away in a patrol car. As of now with destination unknown.
Translator’s note: This post and the following ones (now with earlier time stamps) together form a report on El Sexto’s (“the Sixth” — Danilo Maldonado) arrest, the search of his home and the confiscation of his belongings.
18 May 2013