#PapaEnCuba [Pope in Cuba]: A Shout for Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) / Angel Santiesteban

Danilo (El Sexto) painting one of the piglets for his planned performance.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 21 September 2015 — Today, Monday, September 21, makes 13 days since he has been on a hunger strike inside a solitary confinement and punishment cell. Separated from his family and from all human companionship, for the act and right as an artist of attempting to put on a performance that alluded, according to the political police, to the dictators when he applied two common names, Fidel and Raúl–names borne by many in this nation–on the bodies of two pigs.

He has spent nine months in captivity without due process and will not therefore have a fair trial from the judges. The lawyer I have met with assures me that her intention is to “help,” but that it is not in her power, “because she is a simple attorney, from whom the case file has been kept for several months.”

Danilo’s nights are long, extremely extensive. The dawn seems elusive, while he feels his body coming apart. His faculties are failing, and that mental deterioration which, at times, inserts ideas of desisting–along with the fear of dying, of not ever again seeing his mother and his little dauther, of losing his teeth, of ruining his kidneys, among so many fears–are the battles he fights secretly in solitary confinement.

“This too shall pass” — A drawing Danilo made in prison.

These days we are being visited by Pope Francis, the merciful one who spreads peace for being the messenger of God and who, out of respect, those who say they revere him should interrupt their wicked actions, their pride and the abuse they inflict on the helpless, whose only intent is to be artists who fight for their beliefs.

But the dictators Fidel and Raúl only manipulate the Pope, the presidents, the UN and any international courts where they appear–as they have done throughout their more than half century in power, robbing destinies, destroying futures, extinguishing lives, undoing dreams–and consequently ignoring pleas for Danilo’s release, because always, with dictators, their commitment to evil and to assuring their totalitarian power comes first.

“Peace is a white (dove) knife that is placed in our hands.”

Danilo’s little daughter sobs for wanting to see her father. Danilo’s mother bravely endures the trance of pain not wishing to break down and say goodbye to her son and, at the same time, lives the contradiction of admiring him and respecting his ideas.

Danilo’s grandparents look on with that mixture of despair and sorrow, and one feels that they need to demand, to scream, for someone to show them where to find justice, and we can only respond with our heads bent low or look away so that they don’t see our tears.

The Ladies in White along with the members of the forum for Rights and Liberties, with the hashtag #todosmarchamos [We All March], march every Sunday, for the last 22 weekends, bearing Danilo’s photo along with those of other political prisoners through the streets of Miramar, demanding their release–even when on every one of those weekends, they are subjected to brutal beatings and arrests.

Danilo’s friends accompany his family, trying to give them support in the emptiness caused by his absence. We take it upon ourselves to demand his freedom, to go along on visits to the lawyer, or to deliver letters to the prosecutors’ offices regarding the violations to the law committed against him according to their own judicial laws, which they should respect and to which they should adhere.

The regime cannot, as it always does, arm wrestle with Danilo, and have it affect his health. Their duty, their obligation, must be to free him immediately before greater harm is done, and not add another international crime to their dictatorial records.

Freedom for Danilo Maldonado, Now!

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats,

Havana, 21 September, “free” on parole

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison


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

The Inverted Pyramid

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

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

Reporters Without Borders to John Kerry: Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard? / Angel Santiesteban

Photo taken from the internet

Open letter to John Kerry: “Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard?”

Published Thursday, August 13, 2015.

On Friday August 14, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cuba to strengthen the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He is the first U.S. Secretary of State to make an official visit to the island since 1945. This is a unique opportunity to address the catastrophic situation for freedom of press and information in Cuba. RSF sent an open letter to John Kerry addressing these fundamental issues.

Paris, August 13, 2015

Dear Secretary Kerry,

On the occasion of your historic visit to Cuba this August 14th, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) asks that during your meetings with Cuban authorities you address the problem of freedom of press and information. As the first high-level American politician to visit Cuba since 1959, you have the duty, and the power, to positively influence Cuban policies.

Cuba ranks 169th among 180 countries in the World Ranking of Press Freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in 2015. The Cuban government maintains a monopoly on information and does not tolerate any independent voices: it prohibits the existence of free media. Only official media are authorized (and the list of them is very short). The media that do not have state authorization are deemed illegal and are censored. Moreover, Cuba is considered one of the countries with the least access to the Internet worldwide. Continue reading

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 consequences they might receive for confronting the dictatorship,” he expressed. Continue reading

The Silent Comedy Presents? / Angel Santiesteban

Raul Castro blindfolds a guerrilla sentenced to die by firing squad.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 14 May 2015 — I pray that Europe does not expose its neck to the dictatorship — especially to Raul Castro  “the vampire” — who, by tradition, for over fifty years, has sucked in as many opportunities as his long, sharp fangs have allowed him to.

Each time the dissolution of the (EU) Common Position which prevented the dictatorship to continue abusing opposition as it wanted gets closer, and now, like a snake, we see the dictatorship crawl to its new convenient position that will strengthen it, in order to stay in power and continuing through the “heirs” of Castro being the absolute masters of Cuba.

Arrogant as usual, Raul Castro appears before foreign presidents — who so far have kept a common front to halt his Human Rights violations — and tries to change the story, as if telling a lie over and over in any stand he is offered would make them believe him. Continue reading

The Languid and Protean Miguel Barnet / Angel Santiesteban

Barnet accompanied by Castro’s mobs in Panama City, Panama.

We reproduce here an excellent article by Felix Viera about Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) and one of the most servile cultural commissar of Castro’s dictatorship. In the article Viera offers the example of what has happened to Angel Santiesteban.

Félix Luis Viera, México DF

Miguel Barnet, president of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC) chaired a meeting at the headquarters of this organization in the city of Pinar del Rio, reports Granma — the official news paper — (like all the existing press in Cuba, paid by the government), in its issue of June 30th.

Barnet, as he was candid instead of cynical, brought to the memory of those present, what he has called “Fidel’s words to the Intellectuals,” a terrible moment in the history of Cuban culture. Continue reading

Lambs of God / Angel Santiesteban

L to r: Victor Fowler, unidentified, Mariela Castro

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 April 2015 — A friend’s grandmother claimed that most people complain,”When their own toe is stepped on, but not for someone else’s” because it does not hurt them.

Just a few days ago I wrote a post in which I mentioned the Cuban intellectual Victor Fowler. Despite having explained the real dilemma for which State Security threatened to imprison me — and he listened to me and at least said he recognized my situation at that time — I offered him a ride in my car, when I saw him on the street taking his son to José Martí National Library for a cultural workshop. At that moment he made me believe that he empathized with my case. I swear if he had disagreed with me, I wouldn’t have put them the car, on the contrary, I would have admired him. Continue reading

The Broody Serpent’s Egg / Angel Santiesteban

Aleida Guevara, daughter of the infamous “Che” Guevara

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 April 2015 — My colleague and friend Felix Luis Viera has written a post about one of the most disgusting human being I’ve ever had in front of me: Aleida Guevara.

Sometimes we ran into each other in our children’s school on 62nd and 5th Avenue, in the Playa municipality. I talked about it once in a post — I also described that facts I am giving you now — when a teacher told me that “Guevara”, as they call her, had been inquiring about my relative. Fortunately, he is out of her reach and her revenge.

On that occasion I commented on the arrogance, pushiness and haughtiness which she displayed and with which she manipulated those around her. In fact, she acted like the school principal, while the actual principal along with teachers nodded their heads in constant assent, fearful of a complaint from that fatso with “commander pretensions,” regardless of the cause and reason, which could get them expelled from the school in the blink of an eye. This woman, as brute as a mule, moved around that institution like a triumphant guerrilla. Continue reading

The Generals’ Smokescreen / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 May 2015 — Again Raul Castro lies to the world when he says on television that “independent journalists” are graduates from a course at the United States Interest Section (USIS) in Havana, and that they also receive a “stipend” from that agency. Graduates from that course: I have met lawyers, doctors, economists, among many professionals. I remember at some point I was interested in that course, but I never completed my registration. It was not a bad idea. Knowledge is always welcome.

General Raúl Castro, if he decided to mention us, he did it with disdain as usual, by asking his Minister of Foreign affairs about the term “independent” because he thinks that’s the way to denigrate such a worthy condition. He showed the same attitude when he spoke about the autobiography of President Barak Obama, “I’ve read a few passages”, making it clear it did not deserve the space or the necessary importance from his “precious time.” Continue reading

To the Righteous (?!) Women from UNEAC*, When is Your Statement Expected’

Lady in White Laura Pollan (now deceased) being dragged by security agents

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 3 June 2015 — There is not a single day of my existence in prison in which I don’t feel embarrassed for those women who, at the beginning of 2013, once I was jailed, made a supposed appeal against gender violence, when in fact it was later shown — by the silence they maintained before other forms of violence exercises against women in opposition to the regime on the island — that they were just intending to comply with government oder, dictated by Abel Prieto personally, spokesman and sinister mastermind, from the darkness of his office as advisor of Raul Castro, the main purpose of which was to smother international solidarity in my favor.

At that time, those women, especially the intellectual ones — whom I had travel with, shared book presentations, events in which they devoted odes to my affability; who I shared emails with daily, dinners, who organized surprise parties for me, and appeared with me in national and international anthologies — once they received the official order, the joined efforts to execute me publicly, just to receive the attention of politicians and cultural officials and looking not to be forgotten when trips abroad are awarded, with which the dictatorship usually rewards their most loyal subjects in the culture field. Continue reading

Honduras Slaps with White Gloves / Angel Santiesteban

After the Congress of Honduras, according to the validity of its statutes, decided to impeach former president Manuel Zelaya, the mafia of leftist Latin American presidents have attacked from all sides the new elected government of Porfirio Lobo, expressing their support for former president Zelaya, who took his dismissal as a coup.

The late Hugo Chavez was the one who led the crusade in his favor. Since that historic event, the “wound has not healed” and, once the new president has committed to give continuity  to Democracy in his nation — Democracy which was reaffirmed during last presidential election when Hondurans did not gave their vote to Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the former president’s wife, and elected instead the agricultural entrepreneur Porfirio Lobo — these pro-Castro governments have joined efforts to plot and make it difficult the advancement of his plans for social, political and economic development. Continue reading

Hitler, Stalin y Fidel / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, 14 May 2015 — Like in an old historical museum of the horror of the Cuban Revolution, the visit of the most powerful rulers to Fidel Castro’s lair is expected. It’s like visiting a living mummy, still able to continue to do harm to those who do not coincide with his directives. They have chosen the photographs instead, because they are ashamed of the grimaces and gestures — that come along age — to be seen by the rest of the world.

For some presidents who visit the Cuban archipelago, leaving without a snapshot alongside the old wolf it is like going to Paris and not being photographed at the Eiffel Tower. I understand that in politics and to any human being in general, being photographed with the old jackal means a moral disgrace. I would not portray myself beside Hitler or Stalin nor even next to their wax replicas. Times of dignity are scarce. Some call it diplomacy, however talking on the phone with Antonio Rodiles, we agree that subject is about telling the truth in a decent and settled way. Continue reading

Chronicles of Birania*: Justice? / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 3 June 2015 — It is laughable that the prosecutor in Santa Clara pursued a case for “injury” (when it was really a case of “attempted murder and injury”) against Jose Alberto Botell who, in an attempt to assassinate opposition leader Guillermo Fariñas, seriously wounded one of his companions, a Lady in White, who ended up in intensive care with life-threatening injuries, and stabbed four other human-rights activists. For all of this the prosecutor sought only a five-year sentence, but the Court took pity on the “sad case” with murderous intentions, and sentenced him to four years, knocking one year off his punishment.

In my case—after demonstrating my innocence at trial, where I presented five witnesses who they then rejected—even assuming I had committed the crime for which I was charged, the maximum punishment according to the law was four years. They violated my rights by adding to the charge against me an allegation that I was not subject to, for the sole purpose of adding one year to my sentence. This shows that there are two penal codes: one for those sent to commit crimes for State Security, and another for dissidents. Continue reading