Leopoldo Lopez and Angel Santiesteban: Two Lives and One Destiny

If we paused to observe Leopoldo Lopez and Angel Santiesteban-Prats for one moment, we see two very different physical types. One is very slim, the other sturdy. One is a lawyer, the other a writer. One is Venezuelan, the other Cuban; both are the father of a girl and a boy. Both share the same gift: a great charisma accompanied by enormous generosity, and a desire to change the difficult reality of their countries: Leopoldo, from his active political participation, and Angel, through his civic opinion passed through his books and writings, with the cutting edge of the truthful word.

Beyond the similarities and differences, they appear to be cut from the same cloth. It is hard to find such men with such composure to dare tell two dictators — Cuban and Venezuelan — calling things clearly by their name and speaking directly, without euphemisms. Angel and Leopoldo did this and they continue to do it. For this reason, they both also share the terrible situation of being political prisoners of these two regimes brought together by the greed and evil of their rulers.

This week, Leopoldo has been a victim of a “violent requisition,” the same way that Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano, opposition mayors dismissed and imprisoned for designs of political power, using an “armed wing”: a justice that is corrupt and sold.

When we read the news about what is going on in Venezuela, we have to assure ourselves that we are reading news about Venezuela because, really, it appears copied from the news that independent journalists bring us in Cuba.

This week, Angel Santiesteban has been transferred in an illegal manner from the prison he had been in, a military facility in Lawton, Havana. Today is the sixth day of anguish and desperation without having received any news. This week we have also heard about how violence against those in the Venezuelan opposition is intensifying and how, not being satisfied with locking them up, the authorities enjoy punishing them with the same sadism of the Castro regime.

Angel already expressed his solidarity with Leopoldo Lopez in an open letter; today, Angel’s whereabouts remain unknown and isolated, probably tortured, and is oblivious to what is happening right now with Leopoldo. However, knowing full well Angel’s sentiments, from here we send all his solidarity in his name and in my own name, because I know that in the difficult moment he is going through, this is what he would have written in a new post.

And of course, our deepest affection to Lilian Tintori and her children. She, like the dignified Ladies in White of Cuba, exalts the word love.

I share here the brave letter that Leopoldo sent to his compatriots. In this letter one can see how – same as in the case of Angel – Maduro’s regime actually ends up strengthening Leopoldo. Without a doubt, as long as men like this exist, the liberty and peace of Venezuela and Cuba will arrive soon.

The Editor

Letter from Leopoldo Lopex Mendoza: I Accuse the Venezuelan Dictatorship

I have been politically persecuted under the “Chavista” regime for more than ten years. There have been more than 20 proceedings, political trials, homicide attempts dully reported and never resolved, moral assassination on behalf of the means of communication of the State and two political disqualifications, despite obtaining a favorable sentencing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the violation of my rights and in defense of my political participation. Continue reading

Completely dismantled, the farce against Angel Santiesteban continues in an unknown location

Angel continues being held in an unknown location, transferred illegally and without being able to communicate to his family, a few days after his son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban Rodriguez, told the truth about what happened when he was only a child. He now is a 16-year-old adolescent.

Forced and manipulated by his mother — Kenia Diley Rodriguez — and Castro’s State Security, he has told now that the objective was to harm his father and declare against him. He said that he never saw anything of what his mother said Angel had done to her, and that everything is a plot in order to punish Angel for his dissidence, and that his mother, for motives of “love,” collaborated with the Regime to lie.

It’s important to clarify that the ex-partner was the one who abandoned Angel and the two-and-a half-year-old boy, a little before she started to make up false accusations against him.

She abandoned him after deceiving him with a lover who had made promises to her that later he didn’t keep, and she, disenchanted with that lover, decided to try to win him back, something she couldn’t do, because he had already formed a stable partnership with a very well-known and beautiful Cuban actress. Kenia, disgusted and jealous, formed a new partnership with an agent of the political police, and from that moment the false accusations rained down. Continue reading

Extremely Urgent: Angel Santiesteban Remains Missing

Angel’s whereabouts remain unknown; the authorities have not mentioned his transfer, and when his son, a minor, Eduardo Santiesteban calls the prison to obtain information they tell him that Angel “escaped.”

We demand the immediate appearance of Angel in perfect condition, the restoration of ALL of his rights, a review of his trial with all of the guarantees denied until now, and we hold Raul Castro Ruz fully responsible for Angel and his son Eduardo’s safety. We remind you that there are NO possible “accidents” and that everyone’s eyes are upon you and Angel. There is NO place for more impunity.

We will not stop denouncing what you have done and continue to do against this acclaimed writer, and we demand justice and his release.

The Editor

Angel Santiesteban is a peaceful activist who has not committed any crimes for which the Cuban political police are now condemning him.

A video in Spanish with a telephone interview of Angel’s son and others is available here.

Translated by: Marlena Papavaritis

24 July 2014

S.O.S. Imminent Transfer: Am I more dangerous than the murderers? / Angel Santiesteban

In the most total secrecy, State Security is preparing my transfer to a military unit of border guards.

In the last few days, a rumor started that now has become plausible, inasmuch as the prison authorities are waiting for my transfer in order to bring me to a Minister or a Vice-Minister of Construction who keeps convicts for “diversion of resources,” and in no way can they clash with me, fearing that I will get information from them and later divulge it in my blog.

After a prisoner escaped and managed to reach Miami, State Security ordered that the surveillance on me be strengthened, so they set up a 24-hour command post and kept every movement that I make inside the settlement under supervision.

A few minutes ago, they just ordered a welding of some bars to secure the place where they’re taking me, and the bars have to be placed in the frontier-guard unit before morning.

Evidently, they will keep me more guarded and isolated there. Another chapter begins in this journey of injustice, for my dangerous crime of thinking differently.

I reaffirm that I am stronger than the first day of imprisonment. It’s an honor that they commit these extremes against me — for exercising the craft of thinking and expressing my opposition to the dictatorial regime that has suppressed our country for more than a half-century — while they accept murderers, drug traffickers and rapists, whom they barely harass or watch, like they do in my case.

Long live Cuba, and let it be free.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, July 2014.

Follow the link to sign the petition to have Amnesty International declare Angel Santestieban-Prats a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

21 July 2014

Are Anguish, Bitterness and Loneliness Only Names of Havana Streets? / Angel Santiesteban

A voyage to the end of all things.

By Antonio Correa Iglesias, June 6, 2014

Angustia (Anguish), Amargura (Bitterness) and Soledad (Loneliness) are not only names of Havana streets. They also are discovered feelings that seize and condition that which we call Cuba, the infinite island, which Abilion Estevez and Virgilio Pinera call the fate of being cursed, a portion of earth that floats in the sea, a sea that is the beginning and end of everything, where weightlessness and drifting are forms of keeping afloat.

But the island is also longing and folly, desire and debauchery, hatred for those who have made Cuba a prison of 111,111 square kilometers, as Reinaldo Arenas reminds us in his Leprosorio. The island and its agony accompany us each morning when we prepare coffee, a coffee which reminds us where we came from, and by those smoky silhouettes of a woman we remembered the amazing knitting grandmother who  helped the homesick and the spoiled greet the dawn. How Cuba hurts, and hurts much more when we find in a literary exercise a daily reality like that which Angel Santiesteban Prats describes for us in a clear and visceral voice. Continue reading

The New Robin Hoods (1) / Angel Santiesteban

In a visit to France I was told I was a terrible Cuban because I was abstinent, didn’t smoke, didn’t dance at all, I didn’t even drink coffee, and I only eat fruits. Since then I have assumed it would be more difficult for me to understand others.

A few months ago I wrote a post in which it could be understood that I justified those who are taken as prisoners, because I explained that, according to them, the life of liberty was extremely difficult, and well, in their homes they had to confront the stark reality, and in some commentaries, or perhaps in only one, I commented, with every right, that no crime has a justification, which I reaffirm, of course. This would entail a sanction against Robin Hood, who committed misdeeds, stole from the rich to give to the poor.

Incidentally, none of the prisoners who are in prison with me have robbed particular houses, perhaps because of the poor socioeconomic status in the society, because the majority live with them daily, and the new rich live in protected areas. Neither have they robbed specific businesses, in Cuba there are none, or the few snack bars that exist are of very low income, and those prosperous businesses were also located in zones with major surveillance. Continue reading

Historical Remnants: Julio Sanguily, the Great Traitor / Angel Santiesteban

Men and women make history, later, it is collected by historians, based on documents that serve as evidence of those events.

For which Cuban is it not a point of pride, the rescue carried out by General Ignacio Agramonte he snatched the imprisoned official Julio Sanguily from the Spanish troops, which came to be one of the epic battles — – comparable to those of Ulysses and recorded in The Odyssey — for the waste of courage, noble sentiments, and generosity that could only cause that possible suicide, given the superiority in numbers of the enemy troops?

Nonetheless, it has been approximately 10 years since payments by the Spanish government to their spy, Julio Sanguily have been discovered. It is certain that he was also a spy for the American government and received his price in gold. It is a fact that in various occasions, Julio Sanguily received money and used it for his own personal purposes.

The most hurtful — to my understanding, because I am no historian, only one constant consumer of the investigations of those who are authorized in this subject — was that the money sent by José Martí for the start of the war in 1895, strategized and arranged by the Apostle (as Cubans call Martí), and which Sanguily received, was poorly wasted without helping the revolt. His brother Manuel maintained himself in an upright and consistent position with the fight for the good Cubans.

Despite the great wounds received in combat for Julio, the money was his weakness, or, seeing his body so sacrificed, he decided to exchange sacrifice for pleasure, something that was repeatedly done by a certain type of Cuban throughout history. This reality has also been dealt with with secrecy, although it has already been recorded by some historian, precisely the one who found the documents of the payments in the archives of the peninsula.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison settlement of Lawton. June, 2014.

Please follow the link so Amnesty International may declare Angel Santiesteban, a Cuban political prisoner

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

11 July 2014

The Tribal Unity of the Dissenters / Angel Santiesteban

I want to mention the appearance of laziness inside the Cuban opposition, because — in my opinion — this is what most corrodes our political force and does the lamentable work of the common enemy.

And I’m not even referring to those who must be sprinkled among us doing the terrible and cowardly work of the satraps, but also to that partitioning of ideas and movements, where each one thinks he’s better and more important, and that his work will be most recognized.

I have listened to those who talk about themselves and their work, and — even recognizing their merits — later I have seen how they end up lowering themselves, diminishing themselves as human beings. They leave much to be desired from those feelings that — I take for granted — all fighters for human rights should have.

Comprehension and respect are important to co-exist with others and above all, you know what, not thinking you’re better than anyone else… Just as there are a lot of people who don’t like me… it makes sense to assume that I can’t like a ton of imbeciles… no?

Sometimes, the daring of confronting a regime isn’t sufficient when we ignore common sense and let them impose that mechanism educated in misery that they have imposed on us since birth. Continue reading

Remnants of History: Cubans in the Independence of the United States / Angel Santiesteban

Many Cubans are unaware, although living in the United States, that we were participants in the independence of the Thirteen American Colonies.

When in 1776 the conditions were given for the confrontation with England, commercial relations between Cuban and the North had already reached a mutual development and interest, independent of their cities. In 1764, England cut off commerce with the Spanish and French Antilles which affected thirty distilleries that produced the coveted “Anitillean Rum.”  This was one of the reasons for the separatist movement, recognized by John Adams, second president of the United States.

After that event, Havana became a supplier for the independence army.  A commercial fleet was in charge of bringing resources while in Havana shipyards and arsenals American ships were repaired and mounted with cannon.

Part of the rebel force was made up of Cuban Creoles and brown and moreno battallions. On the Pensacola Site, April of 1781, the Havana forces that had arrived as reinforcement were the first to enter the city. Continue reading

I Would Not Accept Trading My Freedom For That of the Spies / Angel Santiesteban

I hope that President Obama does not have the card up his sleeve to exchange Alan Gross for the three spies who are fulfilling their sentences in the United States. The dictatorship is aiming for that to happen. We all know – by the actions of more than a half-century of totalitarianism – that the régime survives on media circuses, the most remembered of them being the one that concerned the child Elian.

The latest theme that they have chosen was that of the “ZunZuneo”, which sought to raise dust in front of the calamities and the strict censorship in a country that is sinking but — incredibly — without even touching bottom, precisely, thanks to those life with those who manipulate the media of the Fourth Estate.

Fidel Castro, Champion of Disinformation

The Castro brothers, wise in foreign policy in terms of deception, blackmail and economic vampirism, understood – ever since the trial against began in Miami of the agents of Cuban Security – that they would have a cause, a slogan and entertainment for a while. Fidel Castro, invariably, has been the champion of disinformation, always making a defeat seem like a victory; that is what he has been doing since he failed in the attack on the Moncada Barracks.

Since his last lights and years in Government, he planned this blackmail of the United States. He tried also with the imprisonment of 75 dissidents, which later was called the “Black Spring” and paid a high price for it with the attitude taken by the European Community and its “Common Position”.

Alan Gross, hunted rabbit

Cuban State Security waited a long time for an opportunity to seize an American spy who had no diplomatic rank, and seeing that it was not going to happen, manufactured one, as suits its political ability.

The Obama government has not recognized the contractor Alan Gross as a spy for his country, although, on humanitarian grounds such as his age and state of health, it has asked Havana to release him.

Of course, Cuba has played all the cards, because if their prey were to die for whatever reasons, it would create a conflict of major proportions. But the Castros needed a victory to result, especially if it concerns their historic enemy, and so, winding the watch of their power and extending it for a while longer.

To top it off, as if it had to do with cattle, and seeing that a single hostage is not enough incentive, the political police has seen fit to apprehend four residents of Miami on serious allegations of terrorism, as a desperate gesture to undermine influences and press for the exchange.

Media campaigns that are bleeding us dry

One day it will be known the economic amount the media campaigns of Fidel Castro cost, but only the campaigns of the child Elian and the Five Spies have deeply bled the Cuban economy.

To maintain committees in dozens of countries, and elderly people paid at the service of the political police of the Island, they constitute an army that not even a prosperous state would be able to afford.

The paid publications in newspapers of great importance, the billboards along the highways — even in Miami itself — the payment for lawyers and constant travel of relatives around the globe, are only some of the costs of the infinite list that the Cuban citizen pays.

An exchange would be a setback for the United States

If President Obama, in the two years remaining to him, exchanges the spies for a maligned civilian, it would harm the Cuban vote, so important in Florida, and would lose that place for the candidate of his party.

In addition, Hillary Clinton just acknowledged — in her book of memoirs — that “she advised Obama to ease the embargo”, by which it can be inferred that she is willing to exchange them, which would be a major setback for the United States in terms of its position in defense of human rights in the Island, even more so, because these spies are related to bloody deeds — such as the shooting down of the small plane of the “Brothers to the Rescue” (Hermanos al Rescate) — and it would be a Pyrrhic victory with regard to policy, for their inhuman actions.

They should be incarcerated and with long sentences – the three who are left — should it be exclusively pride of Fidel Castro, who did not hesitate to expose his men in “enemy” territory. It was he who slaughtered and betrayed them.

An exchange would stain Gross

If the U.S. Government has maintained until today that Gross is not an agent, exchanging him would be a deadly act, first, because it would be recognizing him as such, after several years of ordeal as a hostage; second, it would be to accept that they have sacrificed it for nothing, because they could have exchanged him from the beginning; by the way, it would strengthen the Cuban dictatorship, and would weaken the effort for human rights that the American administrations have pursued for decades.

And lastly, by carrying out an exchange, it would pass into history as an act of cowardice by, a high cost that perhaps he is not willing to pay. To exchange a civilian for spies sentenced because of acts of blood, is to muddy Alan Gross, As the US President, maybe he is willing to pay that price, not exactly as a fighter for liberty, which does not at all have to do with the exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo, as a result of the war against Taliban extremists.

In my case in particular, as a civilian, artist and civil rights activist, I would prefer to die in Cuban jails before being so stained by history, by the simple and reasonable fact that I am innocent, as corroborated by my evidence, as should be Alan Gross, as has government has said so far.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. June 2014.

7 July 2014

Response to my Blog Readers / Angel Santiesteban

Messages come to my blog mail, some elegant with congratulations for “my upright position” before the dictatorship; others, interested in my health, like this one that I answer in which they ask questions because they don’t understand why I’m in prison, then recognize that sometimes there are contradictions. And of course, this happens so much that I thought I needed to answer. With the most possible brevity, I’ll try to answer many questions in one single answer: this post.

Everything that is sanctioned in Cuba with a maximum sentence of five years is recognized as a “minimum severity” conviction. There are three types of sentences: “maximum”, “medium” and “minimal severity”. As my punishment was for five years, according to the present laws for prisoners condemned for “minimal severity”, they had to place me in a settlement.

The prisoners of “prioritized” character (meaning the most dangerous, condemned for murder, trafficking of people or drugs, economic crimes, rape, pederasty, etc.) are always sent to prisons. Continue reading

Opportunistic Foreigners Who Suck the Dictatorship’s Tit: Alessandra Riccio, the Most Castroite of All the Neapolitans / Angel Santiesteban

Alessandra Riccio, a Neapolitan who resides in Cuba, knew how to live, like so many leftist foreigners, from the benefits that the totalitarian regime offered them. I don’t know if she came to be one more of the secret collaborators of State Security, captured by Commander Manuel Pineiro “Red Beard,” of course, dead in suspicious circumstances at a time when that death was very convenient for the Castro brothers, because with his secrets as Fidel’s private scribe he could sink them before international justice.

What is certain is that the lady in question has written a book about her memories of Cuba, at least those that she can or they permit her to tell, because if she tells some others she would be catalogued as a traitor by those who helped her out for so many years on the island. Continue reading