S.O.S.: Angel Santiesteban Transferred and His Whereabouts Unknown

Since yesterday, July 21, Angel Santiesteban Prats is in an unknown location.  I will now relate the events that preceded this new arbitrariness on the part of Cuban State Security.

Joining him in his helplessness is his younger son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban Rodriguez, 16 years old, the son of Angel and the woman who plotted against him with State Security in order to incarcerate him.

The youth — once old enough to escape from the clutches of his mother — asked to tell the truth about what had happened and how he was manipulated by her and by the Castro regime State Security to testify against his father.  Here is the link to his statements.

Obviously, we are very worried about the fate that may await the boy, for we already know through Angel’s own experience that no apologies are made for harassing and incarcerating minors.  In fact, Angel learned the drama of prison at 17 when he was jailed for saying goodbye to his three older brothers who were planning to leave the Island on a boat.  The escape was thwarted, the three “deserters” were captured, along with the youngest (Angel) for “harboring” them.  After a year and a half of incarceration, he was freed because saying goodbye to his brothers was deemed “not a crime.” Continue reading

Soldiers of Information / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

 Graphic for “Spokespersons United”

March 14 turned out to be yet another Cuban press day with more shame than triumph. As in previous years there were media warriors who committed themselves to forging a more critical form of journalism. I ask myself, With whom? With society and its leaders? That doesn’t work! Criticizing anything except those responsible for Cuba’s devastation seems to be the currency of today’s media soldiers, none of whom want to risk their perks and privileges, which in post-1959 language means “letting someone else take the fall.”

In general the key problem is the fifty-five-year-old Castro dictatorship, or more specifically the forty-seven year rule of its original dictator, a caudillo who has left a scar on the nation with his “do as I say” mentality. It has been a period marked by verbal violence, disrespect and discrimination against anyone who thinks differently. So, what or who is there to criticize? Capitalism and the United States, of course, as well as anyone who does not fall in line or sympathize with its so-called revolution.

The group in power has always been sensitive to its own interests but deaf to the real demands of society. The monopoly on information in Cuba is in the hands of the state, which officially prohibits the circulation of independent publications, freedom of association and a multiparty political system.

The most chilling example occurred on camera sometime around 2005, after the price of electricity had gone up, and featured the journalist Arleen Rodriguez. During a visit by Fidel Castro to the program Mesa Redonda (or Roundtable), in which Rodriguez participated, she raised complaints about the increase in electrical rates. With obvious annoyance, he issued a veiled threat: “Your husband is a friend of mine.”

On the following day she was forced to appear at the start the program with a prepared text — written so to avoid any mistakes and to be read without so much as one letter more than what was proscribed — to clarify that “what she meant to say was …”

Then there was the writer and poet Heberto Padilla, founder of the organization Origenes (Origins). In the 1960s he was forced to publicly denounce his colleagues and made to commit hara-kiri with the well-worn blade of extortion.

As I have said on other occasions, I personally believe that our communication professionals neither have nor feel the freedom to express what they truly desire or what is of concern to much if not all of the population. Thus there can be no true transparency of information to facilitate and encourage freedom of expression for industrial workers or for society in general.

Unless they themselves turn away from the violence that destroyed Cuba’s democratic institutions, which now exist to perpetuate power and to maintain a dependent and manipulated press, they will not be able to achieve what government leaders have wanted for a long time. By “resorting to political flirtatiousness” when talking about the current system, as is routine in the Cuban media, they rely on theatrical props to give the false impression that in Cuba there is freedom.

25 March 2014

Campaign for Another Cuba Delivers Request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Antonio Rodiles delivers Campaign for Another Cuba documents to Ban Ki-moon

Antonio Rodiles delivers Campaign for Another Cuba documents to Ban Ki-moon

The director of the independent project Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, delivered documents for the Campaña por Otra Cuba (Campaign for Another Cuba) to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this Wednesday in Costa Rica. The Campaign demands that the Cuban regime ratify and implement the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by the regime at the United Nations in 2008.

The meeting between Rodiles and Ban took place at the National Theater, where the UN Secretary-General was attending a dinner with the with the president of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís and his wife Mercedes Peñas, according to activists of the Campaña por Otra Cuba.

They added that Ban received the documents “with interest.”

During his visit to the Island last January, during the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Ban called on Raul Castro to ratify the Covenants.

Complaint and Petition

The activists of campaign, on the other hand, have asked that the implementation of the human rights covenants to be included in the current negotiations between the European Union and Havana for a bilateral agreement.

Campaña por Otra also promotes the use of legal action of complaint and petition on the part of Cuban citizens, as a way of demanding a response from their government

“Cuban citizens can file the complaint and petition the State Council, either personally or by certified mail. Those who reside outside the Island can also participate in the campaign by directing their complaint to the nearest Cuban Consulate,” activists explained in a note sent to Diario de Cuba.

Interested parties can use a model complaint and petition posted online by the campaign in PDF format.

Activists who have submitted a demand to the regime can also send a copy to info@porotracuba.org.

Mailing address for the campaign:
Por otra Cuba
www.estadodesats.org
Estado de SATS
La Habana 11300
Cuba

31 July 2104

Nostalgia for “The Special Period”? / 14ymedio

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Pigs (14ymedio)

, Havana, 31 July 2104 — I knew about nostalgia for the colonial era, the Republican era and even for the “marvelous” eighties, what I never could imagine was that anyone could be nostalgic for the Special Period. But everything is possible on this island and if you don’t believe me, then read the June 23rd article in Juventud Rebelde, “The happiest children in the world,” by Glenda Boza Ibarra.

This young Cuban from the east recounts with great candor her childhood full of “good and nice” times, in which she dedicated herself – as a form of entertainment – to counting the few cars circulating in her neighborhood. Eventually, the journalist says: “I can’t complain, because I was born in this country, a place where children have everything they need to be the happiest in the world.”

To a great extent the conditions we are raised in determine our tastes, needs and aspirations. A native indigenous to our island would have perceived the disgusting Paris of 1492 as a dazzling paradise, and a pigsty like the suite of a three star hotel.
The aspirations, tastes and evaluation criteria of this young woman from Las Tunas were curtailed by the circumstances in which her childhood unfolded in the midst of the Special Period, particularly bleak in eastern Cuba. It is precisely because of these circumstances that she no longer sees the barefoot children who once again occupy our streets, terraces and paths, nor the tremendous cultural decline that has occurred between my generation and hers.

However, there seems to be a glimmer of hope for Glenda. Nostalgia is nothing more than the desire to escape a troubled present to a past in which we had not yet suffered the difficulties we are now subject to. She confesses the strange naivety of her childhood when she writes “we weren’t worried about the fall of the Berlin Wall, nor the disintegration of the USSR,” a reflection that she has already begin to expand her range of expectations, that her new circumstances have raised her cultural level and her aspirations.

Will there be such a change that Glenda will reject, outraged, the pigsty, or on the contrary will she become one more member of the sect of pig farmers? Only time will tell.

What the Soviet Union Left Cubans / Ivan Garcia

Pro-Soviet books by the English Dean Hewlett Johnson (1874-19xx). Photo from Havana, 1945.

To this day, in the universal history books in junior high or high schools in Cuba, the Soviet theme is handled with kid gloves.

They recall its founding father Vladimir Illych Lenin, the epic of the Second World War with its 20 million dead (old data, it was 27 million and more than a few died from a bullet in the neck from their own comrade, or in a dark Gulag), and the selfless help of the USSR in the first years of the olive green revolution.

To Zoraida, a third year high school student and a lover of history, when I ask her about that nation made up of fifteen European and Asian republics, without hardly taking a breath, let loose with a tirade right out of the school books.

“The October Revolution was founded in 1917 by Lenin, and despite the aggression of the western nations, it established itself as a great world power. It was the country with the most deaths in World War II, 20 million (the error persists), and it had to fight alone against the fascist hordes. The United States and its allies were forced to open the Second Front in Normandy, faced with the rapid advance of the Red Army,” she responds with the usual pride of a student who applies herself. Continue reading

What We Don’t Talk About / Regina Coyula

My husband has dengue fever. Or chikunguya, what the difference is can only be known after a long-awaited test. We needed to find our family doctor because he kept going from house to house inquiring of people with fever or other suspicious symptoms. The doctor, after a physical examination and posing a series of questions, filled out a paper and referred him to Fajardo Hospital.

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait in line for this.”

At 11:30  Alcides went to the hospital with one of our daughters who arrived at just the right time. I stayed at home cooking, so they could eat lunch after returning from the hospital.

At four in the afternoon, my brother arrived and took me to Fajardo. At that hour the shift doctor still had not seen the urgent test results. Alcides had to wait for a long time because the line that he “didn’t have to wait in” was much bigger than the line for people who arrived for other reasons. Finally, it was his turn. A young Guinean doctor with enviable patience attended each case, filled out a stack of papers and still had the Hippocratic spirit to be friendly.

I signed a paper to take responsibility for Alcides. What worries the doctors (at the hospital as well as at the neighborhood clinic) is that his platelets are very low and his leucocytes very high, but I’d rather go to the clinic every day to have the follow-up analysis than to leave him in the hospital. I don’t like anything about the Emergency Room, disorganized and lacking in hygiene, and I have no reason to suppose that the rest of the hospital would be any different.

In the waiting room the patients never stop complaining. Why if you come with a referral directly from your clinic do you have to repeat the same procedures with the doctor on duty instead of going directly to the lab? No one knows what the “guidelines” say. Later, there were only two doctors and they were overwhelmed. Those missing must be on overseas missions like Barrio Adentro or Mas Medicos; to the claim of our being a “Medical Powerhouse” should be added: … “for export.”

Having a case of dengue fever in the house isn’t news. The list of patients in the four surrounding blocks fills two pages in a school notebook. “We haven’t found the source,” my family doctor tells me with concern. I comment, “They shouldn’t focus so much on individual homes, rather they should clean up the neglected lot on the corner, and if they haven’t found the source, there they’re going to find all those who haven’t appeared yet.

As the situation is worsening (I would speak of an epidemic, but the health authorities seem not to have received “the orientation”) the priority is the source. Yesterday they came and fumigated and asked about home sources (if you have vases, plants in water, drinking bowls for pets, water deposits in the house, and I already know the list by heart and can recite it). Later the supervisor showed up to ask about the program to check for sources in homes; later the supervisor’s boss came by to ask about the program to check for sources in homes.

And at the lush wilderness on the corner? No one asks about the sources there.

28 July 2014

A Morning at the Courthouse / Rebeca Monzo

After having had to find out on my own — and wearing out the soles of my shoes in the process — what and where the registrar’s office for my area was in order to request a certificate that, in addition to other documents, was required to have the deed to my house certified, I finally found it. The premises, located on one of the most intricate and disrupted streets of Old Havana, were dark and unventilated. The very precarious furniture caught my eye. There was only one telephone, secured with a lock like those used on suitcases to prevent employees from making calls.

Luckily for me I had kept an old copy of the document in question. Otherwise, according to the employee — who treated me very politely, by the way — I would have had to look through those massive books, their bindings unglued and held together with string, under the same employee’s watchful eye, something which would have taken me all day. The books themselves were not particularly old but bore the hallmarks of long-term abuse. Continue reading

Days to Turn Off the TV / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Woman watching TV (14ymedio)

Woman watching TV (14ymedio)Days

YOANI SÁNCHEZ , Havana, 29 July 2014 There are days when it’s better not to turn on the TV. Right now, just pushing a button can dump us in an avalanche of official propaganda for the birthdays of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. From July 28 to August 13, the boring national programming will be filled with the cult of personality, ideological kitsch and political sentimentality. Children’s choirs will sing to the “Eternal Commander,” people who barely saw them pass by on the street will share anecdotes, and endless biographical scenes will bombard us from all sides.

“Right now the news has no news,” complained a neighbor who wants to know what is happening in the world and can’t see anything but processions of red and olive green. I felt the same today with the first news of the day. An hour after it started I couldn’t extract the least national or international information, only praise for the “immortal warrior of the race of Bolivar,” and the “wise guerrilla who loved him like a son.” I tend to have little patience with this overdose of flattery, so I turned off the TV and began calling several friends so they could tell me what was going on here and there. At least we have “Lip Radio”!

The ruling party continues to confront the distribution of information, serials and movies in the so-called “combos” or “packets.” However, it makes no real changes in its television programming to attract young people. Instead, the small screen becomes a loudspeaker for slogans and boring material that viewers find annoying and reject. Thus, they can never regain the ground they have lost to illegal satellite dishes, content copied onto USB sticks, and hard disks full of documentaries. If they continue with the ideological excesses of recent days, official TV will, very soon, become a monologue that few listen to.

Angel Santiesteban is Being Held at the Acosta and Diez de Octubre Police Station / 14ymedio

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14YMEDIO, Havana, 28 July 2014 – Since July 23 Angel Santiesteban’s family has denounced his disappearance from the Lawton Prison Settlement. That day the prize-winning author was taken from the place where he was serving a five-year sentence for an alleged crime of violation of domicile and injury. Until this morning his whereabouts were unknown.

This newspaper investigated, calling 18806, the police service number, and learned that Santiesteban is currently detained at the Acosta Station on Avenues Acosta and Diez de October. The duty officer there told 14ymedio that the writer is accused of the crime of “escape.”

The family has denied this accusation and his sister, Maria de los Angeles Santiesteban, in a statement to Diario de Cuba said, “My brother has never had an idea like that. He never agreed to leave Cuba and he had the opportunity, he was in the United States three times and he traveled the world.”

This coming Wednesday morning Angel Santiesteban may receive visits from relatives, according to what14ymedio learned. Today, however, they did not allow a fellow journalist to deliver a package personal hygiene products.

Ángel Santiesteban has received major literary awards, including the Casa de las Americas Prize in 2006. Just two days ago his novel The Summer God Slept was presented in New York, and he won the Franz Kafka Prize for Fiction 2013.

 

The night has witnesses: a simpler poetry / Luis Felipe Rojas

On the evening of June 5th, I had the opportunity of presenting Janisset Rivero’s book “Testigos de la noche”  (“Witnesses of the Night”) (Ultramar 2014).  Casa Bacardi opened its doors so as to let us share this lady’s work along with the poet Angel Cuadra. Rivero read entries from her wonderful book of poems. These are the words I wrote for the occasion:

Poetry books always bring me new hope. After time spent reading poetry that leaves me cold, there are poets who emerge to refresh my thoughts and point the way to understanding the mysteries of universal poetry.

Janisset Rivero has written a book that continues the narrow hereditary line of verse in Spanish, that line which unhealthy experimentations and abuses of the language have tried to erase by force. Simple versification, without needless displays and literary artifice, is perhaps the best decision, an expression of talent and the force of poetry macerated by eyes that see above the crudest reality. Continue reading

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

Descriptive Penury / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

An acquaintance of mine swapped his apartment of a room and a half for a smaller one and “some chump change on top of that” to relieve his alcoholism and misery.  I never entered his home and that’s why I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture had the appearance of shabby knick-knacks, which probably — as in the majority of Cuban homes — were bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model which installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

A matte oil painting, covers the surface of a dresser that perhaps once was covered in formica, the quite ramshackle wardrobe tells a story of age and overuse, the hollows of his three-quarter mattress, the remains of his sofa and of his Russian half-washing machine — they had to amputate the dryer — that accuse like the speeches of the rulers of Cuba, are words blurred by abandonment and demagoguery.

During the move, he got from a yellowish nylon bag a bunch of black and white photographs to show to his companions how beautiful the apartment was when his father first moved into it in 1958. Then the furniture seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat of paint. Monochromatic feelings showed the nostalgia on his face buffeted by frustration and liquor. Continue reading