“Being in Prison is like walking through the guts of the country”/ Cubanet, Jorge Angel Perez, Angel Santiesteban

The writer Angel Santiesteban Prats (photo: Jorge Angel Perez)

The writer Angel Santiesteban Prats (photo: Jorge Angel Perez)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Jorge Angel Perez, Havana, 23 November 2015 – Angel Santiesteban is the author of one of the most singular works in our literature. He has received multiple recognitions for this in Cuba and abroad. When he was very young he won the UNEAC Prize (from the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba) for his book, “Dream of a Summer Night,” and later the Alejo Carpentier Prize for “The Children Nobody Wanted.” This title also served as the name of his blog, where he has expressed himself in recent years. “Blessed are Those Who Mourn” was distinguished with the Casa de las Americas Prize.

After this brief summary, anyone unfamiliar with his work would say that he is “lucky,” but the larger truth is that he always earns what is most important: laurels from his readers. Life in prison is one of his recurring themes. Whomever starts reading his texts will discover this from the first line of many of his narrative pieces. It turns out that he was in prison twice, and in a ton of police stations. We talked for a long time about prison and his work, a few days ago at my house. And now, while transcribing our conversation, I learned why he was nominated by Reporters Without Borders to receive the Citizen Reporter prize that was just awarded to a group of Ethiopian bloggers.

Jorge Angel Perez (JAP): Angel, there are not many Cuban writers who lived through the hell of prison for two seasons. Did these two stays serve something in your writing?

Angel Santiesteban: Prison has been a rare source of nutrition; relating the events I lived, that I witnessed, has been my armor. Thanks to writing I didn’t lose my head. I think what I experienced intensely in those times gave my writing a great spontaneity. A writer with great imagination could write a great book without being imprisoned, but you can’t deny that someone who was there could tell it with more candor… Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban Explains What Happened During His Arbitrary Detention

“I traded one cell for a slightly roomier prison, because I continue to think that this island is a prison.”

Elisa Tabakman (Blog Editor), 6 November 2015 — Angel Santiesteban-Prats was arrested on November 4, suspiciously, after reporting the previous day that the political prisoner Lamberto Henández Planas died in Combinado del Este Prison as a consequence of the hunger strike he maintained during his re-imprisonment, the result of a sinister new maneuver by State Security to lock him back up after 23 years in prison.

What happened since Angel’s arrest at his home, and the new “Kafkaesque process” that ended in a summary trial, lasting only 5 minutes, in which they “revoked his probation and in the same act revoked the revocation because there are no reasons to re-incarcerate him” shows that they threw together a crude spectacle to draw media attention, releasing from the police station (where he remained until being transferred to the court) all kinds of false, absurd and contradictory versions, which we believe were concocted to cast a new shadow of suspicion on Angel and to discredit the serious accusation he made about Lamberto’s life, and incidentally, to continue the ongoing campaign they have mounted to destroy Angel’s reputation and to try to diminish the numerous international awards he obtained during his two and a half years in prison, something they well know has failed. Precisely for these reasons, we preferred to maintain a cautious silence about what was happening and to wait for Angel himself to explain it and not to keep playing the dictatorship’s game.

This is an excellent opportunity to remind the dictator Raul Castro that Angel is waiting for the response to the Review of the judgment, filed July 4, 2013, and that was admitted to the 3 instances why it happened, proving that they have already acknowledged errors, irregularities, and violations of judicial procedures, because, it never hurts to remember, THERE IS NO OBLIGATION to acknowledge the revisions, only to acknowledge them when such “mistakes” are proven.

General Raul Castro, it is very sad to go down in history through the sewer, to be remembered by posterity as a violator of human rights and the architect of all kinds of crimes against humanity.

What follows is the account of the “episode” in Angel’s own words. [Recording of phone call in Spanish is available here.]

The Editor


Any Life in Havana / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, Havana, 26 September 2015 — Rolando never wanted wealth, depending on the point of view you look at it from, because wishing for blue jeans, a good pair of sneakers and some brand name t-shirts, carries an extra sacrifice above and beyond the daily one. It is going beyond, through “ambition,” the possibilities, that usually set or rule an average Cuban’s behavior.

Graduating from nursing school, despite the terrible food that he endured at school, the little enjoyment of those youth years, and the humiliation of being financially supported by his grandmother with her precarious pension, made him walk the desired path of the “easy,” and once his Diploma was endorsed after completion of the mandatory community service required from graduates, he experienced the bad night shift hours at the Hospital emergency rooms, lousy professional rewards and underpayment, and so, among many reasons, accepted the invitation to meet an old but interesting foreigner who offered him, for one night, the equivalent of several months wages. Continue reading

#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