HAVANA, Cuba. This past February 28, Reporters without Borders issued a statement attaching the second Open Letter from Angel Santiesteban to General-President of Cuba, Raul Castro, on exactly the day that the writer finished a year in jail. Santiesteban published the first letter, addressed to the same leader, on his blog a few days before being taken to jail for a crime of which he declares he is innocent.
The place where he is currently held is a military settlement in Lawton, Havana, with the appearance of a housing construction company. It houses 19 prisoners. His companions have committed crimes of theft, drug trafficking and murder. They are required to stay in a regimen of forced labor. We went there to visit him, a group of friends and this reporter, who could obtain his statements.
Previously he was in La Lima, a prison establishment located in Guanabacoa, and afterwards in the prison known as the “1580,” situated in San Miguel del Padron.
The writer’s people skills guarantee respectful relationships with the inmates. While they are going to work at the ironworks or carpenter’s shop, he stays writing all day. But this he has gotten by force of protest.
Compared with the other jails where he has been, the place is less severe:
“The only explanation that I give you for the fact that they have brought me here is that I publish complaints. Within the jails there are beatings constantly on the part of the authorities. In the ’1580’ I made 70 complaints in four and half months,” explains the writer who receives us in the penal enclosure.
This is the second time he has been a prisoner. The first was when he was 17 years of age. He spent nine months awaiting trial in the La Cabana jail. He had gone to the coast to say goodbye to a part of his family that was leaving Cuba clandestinely. They were caught, and all were taken to jail. From the memories of those nine months, which for him were interminable, came the book that won him the Casa de las Americas Prize in 2006: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn. Continue reading