Ángel Santiesteban: "Europe has left us alone to confront the dictators" / Amir Valle, Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban

Deutsche Welle, Amir Valle with Angel Santiesteban, 18 September 2018 — Invited to the International Festival of Literature in Berlin, the Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban speaks with Deutsche Welle (“DW”) and criticizes the passivity of the European Union and international public opinion in the face of the tragic situations in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Considered one of the most important Latin American writers at present, the Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban was condemned to five years in prison for opening his blog in 2007, “The Children that Nobody Wanted” to give his opinion about the political and social disaster imposed by Castroism in Cuba. continue reading

Beginning from that moment, his life became a struggle against governmental censorship and for democracy on the island. In 2014, Reporters without Borders elected him among its 100 Information Heroes in the world. The Cuban Government prevented him from traveling outside the island for 10 years, but he finally was able to visit Berlin, in order to present the German edition of his book of short stories, Lobos en la noche (Wolves in the Night), published by the prestigious publisher, Fischer.

DW spoke with him, in his role as intellectual and dissident, about matters of relevance that mark his life and that of Cubans.

DW: “Europe has legitimatized the Cuban dictatorship” is a recurring phrase in your interviews. 

The Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban, creator of the blog “The Children that Nobody Wanted.”

Ángel Santiesteban: Talking with a Regime that has shown for decades that it does not believe in dialogue legitimizes it. That’s undeniable. There have always been businessmen flirting with Castroism, but it’s understandable, since the only thing that matters to them is making a profit by being in Cuba. But to have a business based in a region that is struggling to establish what they call “the State of Wellbeing and Rights” is an enormous contradiction and, in many ways, shameless.

Since the European Union decided to sit down and talk with Cuba, the only thing we’ve seen is that it has had to cede time and time again to Havana’s demands, and that the dictatorship has repressed the opposition with more force, since it has seen that no one questions its violations. The same thing is happening in Venezuela, in Nicaragua. Europe has left us alone to confront the dictators. And that makes it responsible for our suffering and our dead.

As an opponent, in your blog, you were one of the most concerned with denouncing the responsibility of the Cuban Government for those social disasters that we see in Venezuela and Nicaragua. 

I believe that what’s called the “Free World” should once and for all condemn the Regime openly, and not just with timid sentences, for the moral support and advice in many areas that the Castros give to Maduro in Venezuela and to Ortega in Nicaragua.

Castroism has always been a parasitic government: first, the Russians and the socialist camp, then Venezuela. It’s a parasitism disguised as “the struggle for the rights of the poor in Latin America,” and now we know how many dead were the result of Fidel Castro’s promotion of the guerrillas in the region, not to mention that those guerrillas ended up being terrorists and narcotraffickers supported by the Cuban dicatorship.

Later, Fidel Castro and Chávez invented the poorly named Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), supposedly to defeat the neoliberalism and impose 21st-century socialism: another failure encouraged only by Castroism. And now, with their plan of extending socialism throughout Latin America, they behave like what they are: dictators, because they know that the “Free World” will criticize them only with politically correct words.

As a protagonist of Cuban culture, you have demonstrated against the most recent Cultural Law, Decree No. 349. Is it really dangerous?

From the time he came to power in 1959, Fidel Castro knew that he had to keep a lid on freedom of creation and expression. But with the exception of Law 88 directed at journalism, which we opponents call the “Gag Law”, all artistic censorship has been based on the application that the cultural commissars made from those famous words of Fidel: “Inside the Revolution, everything; outside the Revolution, nothing.”

But now the censorship is law: among many other obstacles, it limits the freedom of creative expression, then criminalizes and punishes those who try to show their work in public without the approval of governmental institutions. But the intellectuals are gagged by fear, and very few have raised their voices against it. Only the independent cultural opposition movement is protesting against this legalization of censorship.

Many people don’t understand that a large part of the Cuban opposition supports the North American president who is the most controversial of the last 100 years: Donald Trump.

Although there were some timid openings in economic matters, increasingly, as far as achievements in human rights go, we know what a failure Obama’s politics were for opening a supposed “new era” between Cuba and the United States. We can today question Trump’s other measures, but his pragmatism makes him understand that you can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want to listen.

People who criticize our support of Trump should go to Cuba and suffer  all the repression that has fallen on us since Raúl Castro saw that his eternal enemy, the United States, was ready to sit down and negotiate, and placed human rights last in the list of demands of the Cuban dictatorship. Trump, whatever you say about him, has leapt into first place in resepct to demanding that Castroism should grant human rights to Cubans.

Author: Amir Valle (CP)

Reproduced on Angel Santiesteban’s Blog

Deutsche Welle is the international network of Germany and produces independent journalism in 30 languages. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

THE END OF THE CASTRO ERA IN CUBA

1959 – The Triumph of the Revolution

The rebels, led by Fidel Castro, come to power after expelling the dictator Fulgencio Batista in January. The United States recognizes the new government. Soon “revolutionary laws” (such as agrarian reform) affect U.S. businesses. In December, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower approves a CIA plan to overthrow Castro in one year and substitute “a junta friendly to the U.S.”

Recent coverage of Cuba from DW

NO TO DECREE #349: AGAINST THE “CRIMINALIZATION OF ART” IN CUBA

One of the first decrees signed by the new Cuban President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, penalizes independent art on the island and denounces artists and activists. Their protests have been repressed by the authorities. (August 29, 2018)

POSADA CARRILES: HERO AND VILLAIN IN DEATH

While Cuba and Venezuela announce “A terrorist has died without paying for his crimes,” intellectuals and Latin American political exiles hope to one day know the true face of this man. (May 24, 2018)

BOOK FAIR IN HAVANA: LIGHTS AND SHADOWS

Although thousands of Cubans attend the book fair, Cuban writers and intellectuals say that the International Book Fair is no longer as important for Cuban letters as it was in the ’90s. (February 10, 2018)

THE END OF THE CASTRO ERA IN CUBA

Almost no one in Cuba can remember life without the Castros. Since April 19, there hasn’t been a Castro at the front of the State. For almost 60 years, the brothers Fidel and Raúl have governed the country with an iron hand. (April 18, 2018).

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Embargo Has Actually Accomplished a Lot / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 18 October 2018 — The embargo has actually accomplished a lot, and it’s that the Regime has not been strengthened. That leftist Obama discourse which suits the dictatorship, needs to be undone. Imagine if the embargo didn’t exist how much more pain the totalitarian Cuban Government would have imposed on us.

In fact, the first thing it would stop doing would be exporting guerrillas around the world because it wouldn’t have money, and the socialist camp, also under pressure, would have accepted not continuing to do it, nor would they be able to continue advising and protecting terrorists.

The Cuban Government never would have permitted the paladares (independent restaurants), rentals and the other businesses of independent entrepreneurs. Everyone knows that Fidel Castro accepted it because he had the noose around his neck. If it were up to the dictator, the “Cuban community in the Exterior” never would have been let in; he had no other option but to accept it in order to suck up the money they left. In his economic insanity, he didn’t want tourists either because they would bring the scent of freedom. continue reading

The proof is that in the two years that Obama ceded before the Regime, the population didn’t see any improvement. And when they began to taste tourism, which was going to have a strong economic impact, the response was to raise the price of permits for independent entrepreneurs, asphixiate them so that they would give back their “licenses” and the State could fill its retaurants, taxis and hotels. They wanted everything for themselves; the population didn’t matter.

This doesn’t count the harm done to the opposition by Obama’s recognition, which immediately raised the number of arbitrary detentions, kept the Ladies in White from marching on Fifth Avenue and prevented their going to church to attend mass, as well as encouraging their being beaten.

What Obama really didn’t want to see, hear or understand is that the only thing the Castro family dictatorship understands is force. He’s complicit, he perceives some benefit or simply doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand it because the history is there, fresh and at hands’ reach, collected in the history books and its testimony.

Nor would they accept a plebiscite or other variants. There is no dialogue with the dictatorship, and they demonstrated that yesterday in the United Nations. It didn’t have to happen to know what they are capable of doing!!! With what they have done up to now it’s sufficient to know their nature and what they would be capable of doing to stay in power. The best example of their intransigence is Venezuela and Nicaragua, which are their pupils in these matters of repression.

There is no other option with the Regime but international pressure. The rest is fallacy, stupidity or furtive work in favor of the Castros.

ACERCA DEL AUTOR

Ángel Santiesteban

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

(Havana, 1966) Graduate of Film Direction, he lives in Havana, Cuba. Mention in the Juan Rulfo competition (1989), UNEAC national prize of the writers guild (1995). His book, Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a Summer Day) was published in 1998. In 1999 he won the César Galeano prize. And in 2001, the Cuban Institute of the Book Alejo Carpentier Prize with his book of essays: Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children that Nobody Wanted). In 2006, he won the Casa de las Américas prize in the short story genre with his book Dichosos los que lloran (Happy are Those Who Cry). In 2013 he won the Franz Kafka International Prize for paperbacks, convoked in the Czech Republic, with the novel El verano en que Díos dormía (The Summer when God Slept). He has publisihed in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, China, England, the Dominican Republic, France, the United States, Colombia, Portugal, Martinique, Italy and Canada, among other countries.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Angel Santiesteban: "The Castros are professionals in the art of transformation." / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban”When I left the fold they settled the score because, in addition to their spiteful nature, the Castros needed to punish me so that other artists wouldn’t escape from the corral.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats (Havana, 1966) is one of the most prolific writers of his generation. Dichosos los que lloran (Happy are Those Who Mourn) (2006), Suerte que tienen algunos y otros cuentos (The Luck of Some and Other Stories )(2012), El verano en que Dios dormía (The Summer When God Slept) (2013) and El regreso de Mambrú  (Mambrú’s Return) (2016) are some of his most well-known works. The winner of several prizes inside and outside the Island, he is a member of the PEN Club of writers in Sweden. continue reading

In 1995 he won the prize for short story from the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC) with Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a Summer Day), a harrowing look at the war in Angola, which was not the official version, and the book was banned until 1998. When he founded his blog, Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted) (also the title of one of his most praised books, awarded the Alejo Carpentier prize for short story in 2001) in order to denounce the reality of his country, the response of the political police was to beat him, threaten him and fabricate a case of a common crime against him, in order to condemn him to prison.

Since then he has also become an independent journalist and dissident, one of the most hated and persecuted by State Security, for disarming and openly denouncing the farces and violations of the Cuban Regime, while most intellectuals remain silent.

Santiesteban-Prats gave an exclusive interview to Martí Noticias about Decree Law No. 349/2018, which implements a long list of new political crimes in the cultural sphere, increasing the dictatorship’s censure and control of artists on the Island. He also spoke about other subjects.

Why are these new censorship measures, outlined in Decree 349, coming precisely at this moment?

Santiesteban-Prats: They are trying to sustain a regime that is fading. They know it but don’t want to admit it; they think they can continue deceiving the international community. The Cuban people took off their blindfolds a long time ago but are still afraid. They fear reprisals to the point that they might even be killed, above all those opponents who aren’t visible on social networks, meaning that no one will raise the cry for them. After suffering and enduring unfair trials in the courts, which answer to State Security, they rot in prison. Cuban families can barely bring food to their tables, and it’s very difficult to feed a prisoner. In general, the families reject any rebel who comes up against the Regime, because they know the high cost they all will have to pay later, apart from being marked as suspect by Castro royalty. The Castros and their hit-men use terror to stay in power. It’s that simple.

Some opponents have sacrificed themselves, and the best have managed to show the rest of the people that the sacrifice is valid, that it is possible to confront Power even when it slaps them in the face. Thanks to those who have endured punishment and have duplicated their opposition in response, many have decided to join the struggle. Every time, people speak more openly, say what they think, which before was unthinkable. Things have changed, and who knows it better than Alejandro Castro, the power behind the scenes, and he needs to keep hold of the reins and try to control his puppet, Díaz-Canel. They are sacrificing him like a pig, without minimum consideration. He will be there as long as he fulfills his orders; when he no longer complies, he will have a fatal illness, committ suicide or simply be charged with corruption or treason, and he will leave the scene.

How important is it for the Regime to control cultural expression, which has so much to do with the freedom of expression?

Santiesteban-Prats: In general, dictatorships fear journalism and art. From experience, they know that artists and journalists drive public opinion, and it’s the last thing they need now when it’s so easy for anyone to give an opinion or put the news on social networks. So they try to gag the independent voices. It’s a gesture of desperation in order to delay the tsunami that will come without fail.

When I left the fold they settled the score because, in addition to their spiteful nature, the Castros needed to punish me so that other artists wouldn’t escape from the corral. Since then, the intellectuals have learned the lesson, and after me, no one who is established in Cuban culture, like I was, has opposed them with the force and decision that I did.

They always need to close off any opening so the truth won’t come out. Thus they now are implementing new measures and more censorship, counting on their Stalinist way of doing things; maybe they think it’s the only way to stay in power a little longer. They are betting on that. The Castros don’t want to loosen their grip on the family estate. They are convinced that it belongs to them and they will hang onto even by their fingernails.

What is the concrete objective of these regulations that affect freedom through economics?

Santiesteban-Prats: To slow down the freedom that we will have in our lives sooner rather than later. While they test out who can continue Fidel and Raúl Castro’s work, which isn’t anything other than an outrage for the Cuban people, continuing to make them live in total misery. They don’t want any Cuban, whom they consider their slaves, to empower themselves, be independent, live without the “charity” of their dictatorship. It’s like that anecdote of the featherless chicken in the snow that always ran between Stalin’s boots in order to get warm.

How do you think most creative people will respond to this? 

Santiesteban-Prats: With silence. Most who are established are busy begging to be allowed to travel in order to survive. They will not sacrifice what they’ve won when they are convinced that it won’t solve anything and that they would be crushed like cockroaches. And those who still haven’t managed to establish themselves push, lower their heads and pretend that nothing matters to them, the only important thing is their work, art, while they wait for their scrap to fall from the sky. They believe that if they move away from power, they will freeze, like the chicken, and they prefer to be sheltered between the boots of the master. They believe that by publishing their books, singing their songs, or having their work shown in theaters, they already have enough. Although they know that things could be worse, and thinking of me in jail is enough for them to do nothing.

Let’s continue speaking out so we can deal with our fears together, until they take us out or lose power. We can’t count on the artists in the National Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC). They have something more important to do: protect themselves. Don’t forget that, in spite of everything, the artistic sector gets the most benefits, so they feel lucky about surviving the calamities when they look around and see the rest of the people.

What artistic expressions are the most affected by the new censorship regulations?

Santiesteban-Prats: Everything in general, but mainly those who deal in words. I think they’re the most fearful because they permeate more in the population, at least in the professional sector, through scripts for movies, television, theater and literature. Don’t forget that many of these creative people write for alternative, independent media, far from the Castro umbrella.

How is Díaz-Canel seen in Cuban artistic circles?

Santiesteban-Prats: For what he is, an innocuous man. There are no “revolutionaries” left in the cultural sector, maybe some fidelistas: but at this point in the game they feel deceived, even by that man who hauled them out of poverty in order to ultimately steal the lives of several generations. Every Cuban knows that Díaz-Canel doesn’t represent anything. He doesn’t occupy any particular post in the cupola. He’s a carnival toy that you can throw balls at to try to knock off his hat. Every time that happens and it falls off, the owner – meaning the Castros – put it back in the same place or substitute another toy. Thus, successively, while the international community allows it or the desperate people throw themselves into the streets and are massacred like in Venezuela or Nicaragua.

What does Díaz-Canel have to do with these new regulations that intensify the censorship?

Santiesteban-Prats: He also is busy praising the Regime while fulfilling the Castros’ orders. He assumes his role of overseer of the slaves and plays it without protest. But as far as making decisions, it’s clear they don’t come from him. He only has to show his face, pretend that he’s the “President” and Raúl and his children, Alejandro and Mariela, will take care of the rest.

The Regime sold Raúl Castro as a supposed reformer. Then it designated Díaz-Canel to succeed him. What do these successions mean for the System and what do they mean for the people?

Santiesteban-Prats: Pure makeup, a cosmetic display. Fooling international public opinion, like they’ve done with the European Union. They pretend to make decisions that will gradually lead to democracy, but it’s nothing but great theater. The Castros are professionals in the art of transformation. They change every time they feel pressure, the possibility of losing power. They’re professionals of illusion. They spent decades making a large part of the population believe in accomplishments that they couldn’t feel. Intangible projects where millions of Cubans got involved so that the final result would be catastrophic. One project after another, and on like that for six decades. These successions mean nothering for the people because nothing will be resolved for them, while for the System they mean another breath, gaining time while they wait for better times to arrive, sips of oxygen that will permit them to remain in that imprecise space, but definitively, staying in power is the only thing that interests them. Now that family doesn’t know how to live without it, and they aren’t ready to cede power peacefully.

What should independent artists do in this new context?

Santiesteban-Prats: Not abandon the struggle. Don’t give up even if it’s all we can do. Don’t leave Cuba. Staying inside the archipelago now is a challenge to the Regime. I’m one of those who has exercised freedom of creation, and now that I’ve done it, I don’t know how to live without that divine grace. As long as artists don’t taste freedom, don’t remove their fear of writing, they will never know the satisfaction of being an artist with full integrity.

Luis Leonel León

Luis Leonel León

Journalist, writer, director of radio, film and television. After living in Venezuela and Colombia, he went into exile in the United States. His weekly column appears in Latin America media (El Nacional), Spain (Disidentia) and the United States (El Nuevo Herald, Infobae, HispanoPost), among others. Previously he wrote for Diario las Américas. Among his prize-winning documentaries are Habaneceres, La gracia de volver and Coro de ciudad. He has produced entertainment, opinion and debate programs for Florida television. His texts have been published in books and journals. He founded the publishing house Colección Fugas, dedicated to the writing of the diáspora. He is a member of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, for which he has made documentaries, feature reports and interviews about freedom, democracy and their institutional framework in the Américas. His web page is luisleonelleon.com. Follow him on Twitter: @LLLeon_enMarti.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Embracing a Brother After 12 Years / Ángel Santiesteban, Amir Valle

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats with Amir Valle in Berlin. Photo by Anna Weise.

Amir Valle, September 16, 2018 — Embracing a brother after 12 years of separation imposed by a dictatorship is a special, unforgettable moment. We both have advanced in our literary and civlc careers: Ángel from Cuba, as an intellectual opponent, and I from the exile into which I was forced in 2005. But nothing has managed to destroy all the things that unite us like brothers since we knew each other from the time we were kids and had the luck to read each other’s first stories. More than half our lives together, in good times and bad, and now we rediscover each other in Berlin. Here we are together, in a photo taken by a friend, the German photographer Anna Weise.

Amir Valle

Translated by Regina Anavy

Every Effort Against the Dictatorship Seems to Me Appropriate and Inevitable / Ángel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban, 12 May 2018 — Every effort against the dictatorship seems appropriate and inevitable to me. I believe fervently that in all of them is the pushback on the wall of dictatorship; but the actual reality does not lie there, at this stage of the championship contest we can’t believe in siren songs.

In particular, I believe in all of the opponents, in the Ladies in White, in Rosa María Paya, whom I respect and admire, in Antonio Rodiles, in Guillermo Fariña, UNPACU, Antúnez and all the others, just to mention those that come to mind now. continue reading

What I don’t believe is in the regime, in that some opponent can count on the Castros and his minions compromising and accepting any exigency that does not include them.

It is simply about agreeing or not, with one or more projects. I think it is unnecessary that five years can pass by only for them to tell us, this is not the way, we better rectify it.

From now on, and we see it in the example of Venezuela where Cuba is the ideologist, they won’t permit anything. The demand it seems to me, must be direct: that the regime abandon power and allow the road to a democracy where the people are the ones who govern. Accept that they will not be actors in that transition, and that it can only be achieved, of course, with pressure from the concert of nations.

By then we will have saved several years, that our generation has already missed, to see if we can have the experience of freedom in our beloved islands that make up the Cuban archipelago.

Hopefully the opponents who are leaders of projects will sit down to talk and find a roadmap, between all of them, the best path, the most united, in time and in form, as to what the dictatorship needs in order to leave power. This is like religion, each one contains a little bit of truth, of reasons and needs, none alone has all the answers and all the knowledge.

And for that I think that the artists and intellectuals should have an active role. As you well know, no political movement has been achieved without a prior cultural movement of art and of developed thought. I lend my voice so that it can be achieved.

About the author

Ángel Santiesteban

(Havana, 1966). Graduated in Film Direction, resides in Havana, Cuba. Mention in the Juan Rulfo contest (1989), National Prize of the Writers Guild UNEAC (1995). The book: Sueño de un día de verano [Dream of a Summer Day], was published in 1998. In 1999 he won the César Galeano award. And in 2001, the Alejo Carpentier Prize organized by the Cuban Book Institute with the set of stories: Los hijos que nadie quiso [The Children Nobody Wanted]. In 2006, he won the Casa de las Américas prize in the story genre with the book: Dichosos los que lloran [Blessed are Those Who Mourn]. In 2013, he won the Franz Kafka International Novels of the Drawer Prize, organized in the Czech Republic with the novel El verano en que Dios dormía [The Summer God Slept]. He has published in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, China, England, Dominican Republic, France, USA, Colombia, Portugal, Martinique, Italy, Canada, among other countries.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Free Iliana Hernandez! / Angel Santiesteban

 

Iliana Hernandez

Ángel Santiesteban, 14 July 2018 — Iliana Hernandez screams from her punishment cell. This sister sleeps in jail without having committed any crime, apart from, in the regime’s eyes, thinking differently. She knows about sacrifice. Of having left a free country to confront the government. In Spain, where she is a citizen, she would have no problem getting by comfortably.

Nevertheless, here, we have her fighting for our universal human rights. We should express our gratitude to her by thinking spiritual thoughts. It’s our only way to be with her where the dictatorship has her locked up in darkness. I phoned her house at night and her mother could hardly speak for crying. I told her she should feel proud; but how can you tell a mother to feel proud that her daughter is locked up. It’s asking too much. Free Iliana Hernandez!

Translated by GH

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King / Angel Santiesteban

Eusebio Leal (Cuba Literaria) 

cubanet square logoCubanet, Angel Santiesteban, Havana, February 20, 2018 — The first stage of the Havana’s “International” Book Fair, which this year was dedicated to Chinese culture, has ended. Perhaps it would be better to say it was dedicated to the three or four Chinese individuals who have been tasked with traveling the world, extolling the dictators who govern the “Asian giant” and exalting its tyrants.

The Havana Book Fair long ago lost what little sparkle it once had. It used to be an event at which, for a few days, people pretended the work of the country’s authors mattered. More than a few writers actually believed the forum was about them. For a few days each year colleagues from every corner of the island embraced each other and talked about their projects, a few days when the crafty military convinced them it respected their space and were keeping their hands off the event. continue reading

But the day came when the real writers disappeared and it became clear that it was the Army that controlled the fair, that it was Raúl’s forces who decided who got the best exhibition booths and the most desirable time slots. The regime has shamelessly turned the fair, and of course its books, into a joke. Political rhetoric dominates, along with green-clad buffoons sporting epaulettes and stars. The fair has become a circus in which the military presents books carefully scripted by its servants.

Today the release of any work by a real writer is conditional. Now, more than in years past, editors must juggle whatever money is left over after the publication of all the titles those in power demand. Only then will they know how many authors might be able to have a slim volume showcased at the fair. And almost always the writers will be those who comply with the state and its military.

One of the fair’s greatest absurdities was the presentation of the book Raúl Castro and Our America Nuestra América, a collection of eighty-six speeches by the Cuban head of state. The book was compiled by a certain Abel Enrique González Santamaría and presented by Eusebio Leal — Havana’s official historian and a man of great notoriety within the halls of power for his exalted language — who acclaimed the work and recounted its history. As expected, he praised the brothers Castro left and right, earning him the applause of a room filled of soldiers and government loyalists.

Among those present was Alejandro Castro Espín, the most powerful of Raúl’s children. It was clear how proud he was of what Eusebio said about his father, that he felt like a prince who, through blood connections, will at some point determine the fate of the country. This was perhaps the most significant of all the presentations, the one that required the skills of the entire security apparatus, the one in which Eusebio — the man who undoubtedly saved Havana’s historic city center — got the key role by being the most loyal of the Castros’ “brown nosers.”

In a country where battlefield rhetoric is prevalent, Eusebio stood out. Those who heard him were as ecstatic as rats at the sound of the Pied Piper’s flute. Eusebio spoke of Raúl as if he were God. However, this should not be surprising for a man who was educated in the Church but who later became loyal to the communists, though not without sometimes ridiculing them of course. But it is not just words that matter; one also has to prove oneself on the battlefield, especially in the area of sexual conquest, of which the macho men of the armed forces are so fond.

It was not long ago that Eusebio was doing the same thing with the late Fidel. But then, without missing a beat, he understood the moment had come to do it for Raúl too. I suppose Leal, like everyone else, knows Raúl has an inferiority complex and perhaps, along with Colonel Alejandro, he decided to raise the general’s self-esteem. So here was the historian, playing his greatest role, with a speech that grew, that rose, as though he were flying a kite. Leal, a man who very much likes history, wanted to make it very clear to us: “The king is dead; long live the king.”

Everyone understood and was grateful that his words reaffirmed the authority of the boss. Then came the hugs. First those of Alejandro, the general’s son, who has more power than any of the army chiefs scattered around the island. Culture minister Abel Prieto joined the waltz, all too ready to embrace. But Eusebio thought that this tall guy with his mundane hair style was not what he needed right then. So with cameras rolling, he left Prieto standing there, his arms outstretched. Rather than embracing, he patted the minister’s raised shoulder a few times, as if to say: “Boy, behave yourself and let me work.”

Another “crucial” event was the appearance of Fidel Castro’s grandson, who recently lost his father, Fidel Castro Díaz Balart. The latter’s mysterious death* has triggered a number of suspicions, including a possible murder carried out by that part of the Castro clan that now holds the real power.

Thus ends the latest Havana Book Fair, which will now travel to the provinces in the exact same form. It is unlikely to change in the coming years until it is turned over, as it should be, to the writers, especially to those who express themselves freely, regardless of the consequences.

*Translator’s note: Fidel Castro Díaz Balart, the eldest son of Fidel Castro, is reported to have committed suicide on February 1, 2018. He had previously been treated for depression. The report of his suicide by the Cuban government was described as “unusually public.”

Open Letter to Pope Francis / Ángel Santiesteban

Wednesday, 10 October 2017  Ángel Santiesteban

Havana, Cuba. Your Holiness: Now that your name is no longer so popular on the Island of Cuba, I have decided to write you these lines. I suspect that this decline in your prestige has to do with the scant companionship you have provided us, as well as with the distance that you have placed between yourself and the Cuban people. If I insist on threading these ideas it is because I am certain that your work as head of the Church–that is, of the Earth–is a far cry from the love, justness, and fairness that we knew from John Paul II, whom we Cubans remember with affection and devotion.

I want to tell you that there are many of us today who think that your appointment has not been good for this Island’s inhabitants, although I assure you that many were the Cubans who rejoiced when we learned that you would be the new leader of the Catholic Church. We were euphoric that a Latin American, who spoke our language, and who knew well what a military dictatorship means, would be in charge of the Church. continue reading

We happily believed that Your Holiness would take care of us just as John Paul II did but this was not to be. Your history was entwined with that of John Paul II. You knew that bloody military dictatorship in Argentina and the Polish Pope knew well what fascism and communism, which are so alike, signify. We had no doubt that you, Holy Father, would see the Cuban reality and would denounce it. But what actually happened was something else.

John Paul II was acquainted with fascism’s outrages, he denounced them and never left the world’s downtrodden to suffer the horrors of a communism that still persists in certain places on the planet. Holy Father, today I am certain that your visit to Cuba served only to leave behind the bitter memory of futility. Now, in the wake of your departure, many are reminded of the incarcerations suffered by those who never believed in the premises of a communist government.

While you were flying back to Rome, many Cubans were put behind bars, and I have not heard of an energetic comment coming from your mouth. The very same government that segregated Catholics in Cuba, that expelled the faithful from the universities, that imprisoned them in those concentration camps known as the UMAP, once again repressed those who thought differently, who were not willing to commune with a dictatorial regime.

We Cubans were waiting for some vigorous response from your mouth, from the mouth of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, but all encountered was a wall of silence. And as we already know, “he who is silent consents.” I suppose that you, and that cardinal who so much recalls a Communist Party militant, were much more interested in maintaining good diplomatic relations with the government than with being close to the long-suffering Cuban faithful.

Supreme Pontiff, I wish to remind you that during your visit to the Island, a desperate young man lunged towards your vehicle as you were traveling before a multitude whose members had, for the most part, been selected by the political police. That young man begged for your attention, that young man tried to direct your eyes to the injustices that the Cuban regime commits daily.

And what did you do, Holy Father? You left him to fend for himself, and the faithful the world over could see on their televisions how you continued on your way without so much as a glance backward. Did you ever learn of the ordeal which, from that moment on, that young man began to suffer? Did you discover how the regime responded to someone who wanted to get your attention? Do by chance realize that every visit by a world leader to this Island is a boost to the Castros’ communist regime? In a situation like that, the most honorable action would have been to step out of your automobile and offer protection to that faithful young man. But the opposite occurred: you abandoned him, you left him in the hands of assassins, who are in no way different from those you knew in Argentina.

Vicar of Christ, I dare to remind you that there exist on this Island some women who are called the Ladies in White. They keep with great devotion a photo showing one of them standing next to you in a plaza of the Vatican. It was during this meeting when Berta Soler, the leader of these Ladies, gave to you–besides her pleading words–certain documentation that serves as proof of the many injustices committed against them and against Cubans in general.

I wish to inform you if indeed you do not already know, that these women can no longer attend Mass and that they are arrested every Sunday and thrown into dark cells. And, although it may seem strange to you, this is for me a proof of God’s existence. It turns out that six days are sufficient for these brave women to recover from the beatings, and they once again sally forth with renewed strength; six days are enough for the Ladies to re-energize their will, to forget their bruises, to overcome their physical and spiritual fractures. These women, Holy Father, again go out the following Sunday. But the Church that you represent maintains absolute silence regarding them.

I will tell you that the photo of you and Berta graces the entrance to the Havana headquarters of these women’s organization. I will tell you that alongside that image are displayed others, those of many activists who have paid with their lives for daring to confront the dictatorship. I love the contrast in that picture of your pure white cassock with the blackest black skin tone of that woman in your company.

Please also know that, next to that photo that those ladies gratefully exhibit, rude words are scrawled on the wall, abusive comments intended to disparage them. And why does such a thing a occur? Because they make visible their discontent with a vulgar and dictatorial regime. And know that those who so denigrate them also hurl chemicals onto that photo. Know that these responses are ordered by that government that received you in Havana. Know also that nothing subdues those women–that once the attacks are over, they meticulously clean their areas with the intention that the environment surrounding that picture be as white as your cassock.

We Cubans, the Catholic ones, know that you favorably influenced the rapprochement between Cuba and the US and the reopening of the embassies. But I do not know if you are aware that since this conciliation, democracy moved further away from our reach, and there were more arrests and beatings of opponents and deaths occurring under mysterious circumstances. I assure you that your parting left a shroud of sorrow upon the Cuban people.

Unfortunately, it has also become notorious how this government which you helped tried to damage the health of US embassy personnel. Have you weighed-in on this matter, Holy Father? If so, we have not heard it. And your silence pains us, your apathy vexes us. And what would you have done if things had been reversed? What would you have said if the US had been the aggressor?

Please know that many of your flock are frightened at your cordiality towards the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela–and towards the Colombian guerrilla force. So much so that already there are many who believe you to be very close to the leftist forces in the region. Unjust or not, what is certain is that your actions have been very aligned with those “diplomats,” so much so that you are now called “the communist Pope.”

You represent the Catholic Church today, but tomorrow–when God wills it–another will do so, and in each case, the individual should be a mediator of truth, in solidarity with our pain, not causing more pain. We, the opposition in Cuba, are also your flock, flesh of your flesh. And I do not believe that the dictator, his family, and every one of his henchmen who have directed so much hate towards God and the Church during these 60 years of iron-grip dictatorship, deserve your attention and friendship.

Father Francis, who was able to deceive you so? Who made you believe that the dictatorship could dialogue sincerely with the Church? How could the Church forget the persecutions that the Cuban government unleashed on Its priests and faithful? Who convinced you that the embargo was more hurtful to the people than to the dictatorial government? Two years of restored relations with the US leave it clear that this friendship empowered the regime even more.

Holy Father, it was all a ruse, a smokescreen to fool you. We Cubans desire–before food–liberty, rights, democracy. Messenger of God, cease from appearing cold, stop looking away when this archipelago begs you to intercede for our liberty. Know that the young man who during your visit clung to your vehicle, even today is continuing the fight, and he alternates his theaters of action: sometimes on the streets, sometimes in the prisons. And do not be surprised if someday you learn that he was found to suffer from an unexpected and rare “illness,” or that an “accident” took his life.

Those who are assassinated by the regime do not mourn their own deaths, those assassinated by the regime believe that death is a worthy price for obtaining what belongs to us. Those who in the jails go on hunger strikes do not clamor anymore for your attention, perhaps anymore they see you as a ghost. Their prayers go to Christ, He who forgets not the pain of those who suffer on the Earth.

Holy Father, see our reality–although I believe that it would be better for you to keep your distance because every time you have glanced our way, you have ended up harming us. Perhaps what we ask is your silence–that same silence you offered, in Argentina, when one of your priests was arrested.

Father, this letter is not intended to obtain a pronouncement by you in support of victimized Cubans, of those who are robbed of their most basic right, of those whom you well know. We know too well that you will never be the agent of a miracle.

About the Author

(Havana, 1966). Graduate in film direction. Resides in Havana, Cuba. Honorable Mention in the Juan Rulfo Award (1989); National Prize awarded by the writers’ union UNEAC (1995). Book, “A Summer’s Day Dream,” published in 1998. In 1999, won the César Galeano Prize. In 2001, the Alejo Carpentier prize awarded by the Cuban Institute of the Book for the short story collection, “The Children That Nobody Wanted.” In 2006, won the Casa de las Américas prize, short story category, for the book, “Happy Are Those Who Weep.” In 2013 won the Franz Kafka International Prize for Novels from the Drawer*, convened in the Czech Republic, for “The Summer When God Slept.” Has been published in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, China, UK, Dominican Republic, France, US, Colombia, Portugal, Martinique, Italy, Canada, among other countries.

*”Novels from the Drawer” is a phrase used to describe literature written under censorship; because the novel cannot published, the writer puts it in a drawer ‘for later’.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Compañero Who Looks After Me

Angel Santiesteban, 16 October 2017 — Another title of this book could be A Cuban History of Fear. The fear of living (and, above all, of writing) surrounded by an army of police, undercover agents, collaborators and simple snitches in charge of rounding up the misguided souls of Cubans, be they writers or not. But “this book is not a monument to grievance,” insists the anthologist. What is intended is “to collect a small amount of Cuban contributions to a genre already proclaimed by Kafka from the first pages of his unfinished novel, The Trial. The first chapter of the novel, which announces in the first sentence that K. “without having done anything bad, was detained one morning.” A genre that Orwell would continue in 1984, with the addition of hope: “You are a difficult case. But don’t lose hope. Everybody is saved sooner or later. In the end, we will kill you.” A recompilation that stretches from the time of almost artisanal vigilance up to that virtual panoptic that is Facebook. And beyond.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Assassins, Accomplices, and Victims (II) / Ángel Santiesteban

Abel Prieto, Cuban Minister of Culture, Eduardo Galeano and Roberto Fernández Retamar, President of Casa de las Américas. AIN FOTO/Omara García Mederos

Ángel Santiesteban, 2 September 2016 — After writing what will now be considered the first part of this post, and publishing it under this same title, I was arrested by State Security; however it was not the writing, and much less the visibility that it would attain in my blog, that was the real cause for the arrest. My captors, in the height of contempt, tried to make me believe that I was a trickster, a vulgar swindler. In a flash I became, again, a dangerous offender. I confess that I even got to imagine myself in the shoes of some famous swindlers whom I met in movies, but this was not at all a game, and the cell was not a movie set.

I have dug around a great deal in their procedures up to now, and I know their falsehoods, which was why I urged them to let me know the details of my mischief. What was the cause? What would they do now to present me as a swindler? continue reading

First would be to convince me of that strange condition of con artist that even I did not recognize in myself. Time and again, fraud would be cited in their arguments, with no trace of it when the facts were compiled. Diffusion, accusation…so that the crook I was would contradict himself and ultimately see the error of his ways. Which ways?

They themselves would offer me very few details. Everything had occurred a year ago, and on the Isle of Pines–that island south of the larger one which, arbitrarily and without popular consultation, the government decided to rename the Isle of Youth. While I was shut away in a dungeon, my “interlocutors” mentioned a fraud which they were not able to explain very well, only to later refer to a packet of leaflets which, supposedly, I had given to the photographer and human rights activist Claudio Fuentes, who was also detained.

Try as the hired gun might to convince me of the “misdeed” and that I had no option other than to recognize my “crime,” I could not help but burst out laughing. The allegation was so ridiculous that I could have dignified it with many guffaws such as the one it provoked at the start, but these spurious accusations have no intention other than to ruin the lives of we Cubans who think differently, and laughter is a good thing.

I had not other option than to let them know that I was well aware of those strategies, that I was sure that they were trying to make me believe that Claudio had denounced me, and how that was a well-worn tactic–even in the movies and police novels. “I do not think the same as you. I am not a coward, nor am I your ’comrade.’ I am not a lackey.” That’s just what I said to them.

Then they laughed, but their laughter was not that of a victor, it was the nervous laughter of someone who’s about to lose. I confess that I felt frustrated; I have always dreamed of taking on an intelligent adversary, an enemy convinced of the rightness of his actions. This would be much better, but this time again it was useless to pine for such a thing, and the worst was that those gendarmes had not the slightest idea what the words “liberty” and “democracy” mean.

I was so annoyed that I started to speak of my childhood, of those days when I believed that Cuban State Security was one of the best in the world, even mentioning out loud the titles of a few novels: “Here the Sands are Whiter,” and “If I Die Tomorrow,” and “In Silence It Has Had to Be.” I mentioned the mark that those works had left on a bunch of proud adolescents who, still, believed that what which those fictional officials were defending actually existed in reality–and that we even believed, naively, that on this Island was a concerted effort to create a lasting prosperity.

The bad part, I assured them, was when I knew the whole truth, when I understood that those agents were only after ensuring the perpetual rule of the Brothers Castro. I mentioned the moment in which I crossed the line, that line that placed me, irreversibly, on the opposite side. I spoke of my discontent with a totalitarian regime, and about how I discovered the true essences of those killers in the service of the Castros: people capable of abusing women, of planting false evidence for the prosecution (after brutalizing them) of those who fight for change in Cuba. They would laugh, nervously…and with no segues they arrived at a new argument, undoubtedly the most important one, the one that caused them to shut me away.

What had truly annoyed them was a post that I had published regarding Roberto Fernández Retamar, in which I called him an assassin. According to them, I had not considered the fact that Roberto was my colleague. “I don’t have colleagues who are assassins,” I told them, and they replied that my attack had not achieved any importance, that it had already been forgotten, and that Fernández’ true comrades had made a tribute to him immediately. Then why, I asked, were they holding me there? Why were they mentioning that post? For sure, they were contradicting themselves–but I was already used to that, and once again I smiled, sardonically.

I thought of a version of Silvio Rodríguez whom I had seen on TV making tributes, in song, to Fernández, which made me suspect that it all could be a reply to my post. My detention had nothing to do with the leaflets nor with any fraud– that seizure was orchestrated after I accused Roberto Fernández Retamar of having signed a death sentence against three youths who only wanted to get out of an extremist country where they no longer wanted to live.

I had already received some news about the comments that had been incited by that post, and I also knew of the vexation that it had provoked in some writers, who judged it excessive that I should call Fernández an assassin. Again it was I who was the monster, I who committed savageries, I the irreverent and cruel barbarian–while Fernández was presented as the venerable elder, the respectable and virtuous man, the honest citizen, even after having signed a death warrant.

My detractors, the same who became his defenders while forgetting that the poet was one of the signatories of that judgment that would send three youths to the execution wall, denigrated me again, but never mentioned that the “revolutionary” poet lent a veneer of legitimacy to the death of those three young men, whose only sin was to have tried to leave a country that was tormenting them, to separate from an Island and from the dictators that have been ruling it for more than 50 years. Is that a crime?

Those who were annoyed by the post are the same who repeat the charge against me that the official discourse prepared some years ago. Those who claim that I was unjust toward Roberto Fernández Retamar did not defend my innocence when I went to jail. They saw me be taken away, they knew I was shut away in a cell, and they were silent. They never had doubts, they never confronted a power that decided to accuse of me of physically mistreating the woman who was then my companion. Those who again judge me and cast me aside are also guilty of my imprisonment.

Those who today are annoyed because I accused the president of the Casa de las Américas, did not lift a finger to request, at least, a thorough investigation of my case. They believed in the “dignity” of that woman, and today turn a deaf ear to the statements by my son. They, whom my post angered so, are the same who remain silent when “State Security” beat the Ladies in White, a “State Security” that beats women who are demonstrating peacefully. What kind of security is this? Of what State? This shows their double standard and hypocrisy. Those who signed the accusation against me today are irritated by my “attack” on the poor poet Fernández, following the orders of Abel Prieto, who at the same time was following those of the highest hierarchy of a dictatorial government.

My attackers defend only their permanence in that official union that is the UNEAC. They who seek to tarnish me want to preserve their membership in the official delegations sent to any event taking place outside the Island. They who raise their voices to attack me defend the shoes and sustenance of their children. They who attacked my liberty because, supposedly, I was beating the mother of my son, said not a word after the thrashing that State Security delivered to the actress Ana Luisa Rubio.

That woman who found herself so vulnerable, so trampled, had no choice but to leave Cuba–and what else could she do, if the UNEAC did not offer her any support nor did it organize a demonstration to confront that power that decided to batter her. No woman was to be found confronting the janissaries that bashed Rubio. In those days there was no book going around collecting the signatures of indignant UNEAC members, if any there were. Nobody went out on the street–apparently, they were amusing themselves by protecting the crumbs they get from the powers that be for their services to the “fatherland.”

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others

ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 30 March 2016 — The denunciation of the violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s human rights has been accepted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The organization has given the Castro dictatorship a three-month deadline to respond.

– The Editor

[A translation of the letter from the IACHR, addressed to Ángel Santiesteban’s editor, Elisa Tabakman, follows below.] continue reading

14 March 2016

RE:  Ángel Lázaro Santiesteban Prats
P-1004-13
Cuba

Dear Madam:

I have the pleasure of contacting you on behalf of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the above-cited petition in reference to the situation of Ángel Lázaro Santiesteban Prats in Cuba, which was received by this Executive Secretariat on 13 June 2013.

I hereby inform you that by way of a note dated today, the parts of your petition pertinent to the Government of Cuba have been remitted and a due date of three months has been from the date of transmission of the present communication for a presentation of observations, in accordance with Article 30 of the Rules of the IACHR.

The present information request does not constitute a prejudgment regarding the decision that the IACHR will eventually make on the admissibility of this petition.

Likewise, you are informed that based on Article 40(1) of the Rules of the IACHR, at any phase of the investigation of a petition or case, by its own initiative o upon the request of the parties, the IACHR will make itself available to the petitioners and to the State, with the goal of reaching an amicable solution founded on the respect for human rights established in the American Convention, the American Declaration, and other applicable instruments.

I take this opportunity to give you my most cordial greetings,

Elizabeth Abi-Mershed
Adjunct Executive Secretary

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Gagged Words / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

The writer Amir Valle. (Photo EFE / File)
The writer Amir Valle. (Photo EFE / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenchea, Santa Clara, 27 June 2016 – The Eva Tas Foundation, located in Amsterdam, publishes and promotes texts that have been and are censored, regardless of where or how. Indeed, as a part of this laudable and necessary work, this institution just published two books by one of the most important figures in Cuban letters, and one of the highest contemporary examples of commitment to the truth and the defense of freedom: Amir Valle.

Gagged Words is one of them. The book was completed this 20 February, and though the ink hasn’t dried yet it is essential reading for anyone who wants to know the history of the Castro regime’s censorship, harassment and persecution of creative work and thought in Cuba, mainly in literature and film, but above all it reveals the subtle mechanisms of intellectual repression that the regime has adopted in these times of what some call late-Castroism. continue reading

Amir Valle, one of the most important Cuban intellectuals of all time, describes certain keys to this veiled censorship or repression that goes unnoticed by many strangers to the Cuban island. This censorship or repression in many cases is considered by the new Mr. Magoo as a hoax invented by enemies to discredit the “greatest example of human dignity and social justice in the world today”: The Cuba of Fidel. For example, the complex mechanisms which prevents foreign publishers at our Book Fairs from breaking the “ideological firmness” of our people by giving them access to controversial literature.

The foreword of the book is by another great of our literature and a person with an intellectual commitment to truth and freedom: Angel Santiesteban. Thanks to this prologue, the reader from other cultures (what Cuban does not know who we are talking about?) can learn the essential aspects of Amir’s life from the mouth of someone who has known him intensely for almost three decades, and who addresses the worth of information that one is about to receive, in very direct language, with which a master of the language aims to reach the widest possible audience.

It is not by chance, but by ineluctable statistical necessity (here surveillance and harassment never sleep), that this book came to me from the hands of another intellectual who is often quoted in the pages of Gagged Words, whom the police arrested Friday in my and my wife’s presence at one of the busiest intersections in Santa Clara. As the captain of the secret police informed us, on suddenly materializing next to us out of nowhere (what a shock to me, an atheist!) they took him to talk “a little while” with them: “Because, compadre, with Vilches we couldn’t have done better, check it out, we’ve even resolved (they = the secret police, it is understood) to put him on the jury in a contest there in Varadero.”

Gagged Words is a book with which, if you are still one of the clueless of good faith who remain out there, you should do two things: the first is to read it. The second is to go to Cuba with it in your suitcase so that you can, with total sincerity, declare it at Customs, and share it with any Cuban with the face of a reader you run into in the street. Only then will the reality of the “Raulist opening” be known first hand with regards to intellectual creativity, thinking and the free discussion of the ideas. Keeping in mind, if you are one of those anti-Yankee global-phobics who come and go in the world today, that Amir Valle, even though they invited him, never stepped foot in what was then the United States Interest Section in Cuba.

And it is my good friend, who then returned to the plane, expelled from the island as a persona non grata, as Amir summarizes in an epilogue: (In Cuba) “independence, creative freedom, free expression of creativity are elements as palpable as galaxy EGS-ZS8-I, the most distant, 13,000 million light years from earth.”

A pdf of Gagged Words is available here.

Assassins, Accomplices and Victims / Ángel Santiesteban

14 May 2016 — We are now looking at another anniversary of the execution of the young men who, in 2003, tried to hijack the Regla ferryboat and were shot by the dictatorship. As is well known, it was one of the most vile assassinations of the so-called “Cuban Revolution, on an extensive list that has grown in their five decades of totalitarianism. It claimed the lives of a group of defenseless young men who only longed to reach a horizon that would offer them lives of dignity.

They were executed, despite the deception in the negotiations with the responsible authorities, who assured them that if they surrendered absolute nothing would happen to them, especially because they had done nothing to harm any of the passengers on the ferry. After a summary trial they were shot. This is story in its briefest version. continue reading

I remember, among the first posts on this blog, I express that it would be a shame for anyone — especially if it was a renowned intellectual, in this case a good poet — to stain their hands with innocent blood. I said when, the person who writes this posts, wasn’t persecuted by the political police, or at least not in a way as obvious as they would later later.

The writer in question was Roberto Fernandez Retamar, who was then a member of the Council of State, and who had to confirm the sentence of death, making his name an embodiment of that execution because this is what the laws of the regime required.

I said at that time — and I still hold to it — that he needn’t have dirtied his hands with blood, when he did his duty with ink. I argued them that Retamar had also been sacrificed by the dictatorship; that it was a way of forcing him to become a part of the crime, so that later he would keep his mouth shut.

I did not want to consort with assassins

We know intellectuals who have sold their souls to the devil. This is the case with Retamar. And perhaps those who read that first post didn’t know that I was expressing my criticisms with pain, because he once told me that, years ago, he inherited the friendships of his daughters, and that he considered me his friend. But, once I published in my blog what I thought about it, I was crossed off the list of those “welcomed” to his family parties, which I accepted with pride because I did not want to consort with murderers.

In turn, when the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) began to collect signatures in support of the executions as often happens with these so-called “officialistas,” many, almost the majority, stamped their names on that cowardly document, although later, in my living room, they said they didn’t want to sign, but that fear of “the lessons of those instruments” (the way that “intellectuals” refer in silence to official repression), induced them to betray their thinking, their true beliefs.

Refusing to put your signature in support of such a sadistic crimes was, for them, similar to suicide. For my part, it’s obvious, when I got the respective call from the Writers Association soliciting my signature, I said I refuse and I remember that the functionary listened in total silence to my contempt of the dictatorship, certain to inform on it later; or, at least, not to get involved in my diatribe in case it should be overheard.

We all know Laidi Fernandez de Juan, we know she idolizes her father, as good children do, of course, and in this case, starting from the post I published criticizing her father, she started from her officialista pinnacle an implacable persecution against me. She forgot about the surprise birthday party she held for me, about her love letters via Cubarte email — before they closed my account — her dedications in the books in which she extolled me as “one of the few gentlemen I know,” among other boasts that, “I don’t want to say, as a man, the things she told me. The light of understanding make me very restrained,” when she wanted me to take her to the river.

The truth is that, like the vulgar lady she embodies today — and those who know me will agree because they know she smokes, drinks and swears like a mule driver — as she has always climbed the rungs of power and take advantage, she started her work of satrapy against me, in collusion with State Security, Abel Prieto and Retamar, who were on the hunt for me and waiting for the perfect moment.

They wanted more blood, mine — I read somewhere that, once they taste it they suffer from vampire syndrome, and I imagine Retamar reveling in mine. But far beyond anything in my imagination, this absurd process always calls to me the accusations and persecutions against Hannah Arendt, when she questioned the role of the “Jewish Councils” in the holocaust. And, as I said, Laidi Fernandez began scheming against me. And, along with her, even friends and acquaintances, fearful, because in order to save their own backs they had to court the regime and were capable of denouncing their own mothers.

 A cynical act of the “Ladies of UNEAC”

A few days after the dictatorship sent me to prison, they had already planned “A Meeting Against Gender Violence,” which located at the best place in the script: once the Havana International Book Fair and the foreigners left, they cited me to go to prison, and at that very moment, when the international protest against my imprisonment, these “Ladies of UNEAC,” as they called themselves, were collecting signatures to support this injustice perpetrated by the regime.

The Retamar clan, as I denounced on previous occasions, was the great promulgator of that collection of signatures against me. The old man, instigated it on the grounds of the Casa de las Americas, where he serves as director-for-life — which he has to pay for by getting his hands dirty, as well as by emulating the Castros, as if it were a bet on who is going to last longer in power. It is also know that this cultural institution was used to convince some foreign intellectuals, who indeed were fooled and joined them on that unjust campaign, despite a complete proof of my innocence was on the internet (posted on my blog and on hundreds of web and social media sites).

And there was also, sad to say, people who signed without knowing anything about the matter, and following blindly officialdom’s rumor, which in reality had to silence my voice at any political cost after the two Open Letters I wrote to the dictator Raul Castro, and my public actions in defense of human rights and freedoms that we should have as established in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

These “Ladies” were women who had never condemned the savage beatings the repressive organs of the dictatorship inflict on the Ladies in White, but the worst is that neither did they defend Ana Luisa Rubio, when she was savagely beaten and the photos of her disfigured face were shown on all of the world’s web, including in Cuba; they were not even moved by her being a member of the guild, being a popular and well-known actress. They maintained their silence in a shameful act of cynicism, becuase for them the abuses of the government ar not violations. They only work when the dictatorship gives them the green light, like animals trained to pounce on receiving the order to attack.

Papa Retamar’s deceptions

The fears of the old wolf are publicly known when Fidel Castro sends for him to come to the palace. They say that Retamar got a stomach ache. It was not for nothing, surely fearful that the tyrant had decided to inflict some punishment. I am sure that life and history will give an account of the poet, above all of his cowardice, which is a great sickness; the same sickness of those who ally themselves with power to save their backsides.

Someone told me a few days ago that they had scene Laidi Fernandez in the street and that a certain evil is already reflected in her face, to the point of looking like a witch. That, I am sure, is the devastating result of the weight of her conscience, if she has one, for all the dirty plans that are cooked up in her house.

It could also be a consequence of being known as an inflated writer, invented, because she has won literary prizes that just show the pressure of her father on the judges. It is publicly well-known by the writers’ guild. And all those who have participated with her in these contests, put up with it, although they prefer to shut up because it would be confronting the full power of that last name and officialdom that represent and exercise it. In addition to the pressure of her father so that his Laidi was accepted in the Cuban cultural media, to officialdom the cowardice carried in the blood is convenient, because it would infer it would be one more ally for his dastardly acts, as effectively she has been. But if she has any talent it is to get herself extra perks, jumping from one functionary’s bed to another’s, standing with any person in power if this power is interested in her self-promotion.

Retamarismos, but this time not of blood, but excreta.

I know a compelling anecdote, told in the first person. Someone who still works in the Casa de las Americas did an anthology of women who wrote stories. And, when the news broke, he was called into Retamar’s office. The critic, without knowing what the summons was about, rushed over anyway because he was his boss and he was received by the secretary. Just seconds later, intrigued, she faced the Director.

“I’ve been told,” said Retamar, “that you are preparing an anthology of women writers.”

The man nodded his head, in confirmation, still surprised, because he didn’t have the least idea of the interest of his boss.

“I’ve also been told that that you didn’t choose any story by Laidi,” he said, with a certain suspicion. “Instead you selected a story by the writer Mylene Fernandez,” and he looked at him arrogantly, “they are very good friends, you know?”

The anthologist didn’t understand what was happening. In fact, he didn’t know who “Laidi” was, who Retamar mentioned, because keep in mind at the beginning of her “literary career” she used her real name: Adelaida.

“So that my daughter won’t suffer any inconvenience,” Retamar let him know with great authority, “you should substitute a story by her for Mylene’s… and I assure you, they are very good friends as I already said.”

The anthologist told me that a question immediately came to mind, silently: in what conditions would he continue his interest to keep working at the Casa de las Americas? And he responded that there was only one path left, replace the story or step down from the organization.

Everything ended with a nod and he left. And so it was that the story by Laidi Ferandez appeared in that anthology.

But this is just one of the many maneuvers of Papa Retamar to get his daughter recognized. Nor does anyone forget what happened in the David contest and the disgust among the participants, when in reality the prize, according to the quality of the book, should have been won by Michel Perdomo, who later discovered that his book hadn’t even been read by the panel, friends of the old poet. This time, fortunately, they didn’t give in to the cheating to support Laidi.

The silence of the lambs

The old poet wasn’t able to protest in front of the other members of the Council of State, to which he belonged, and did not refuse to put his signature of the death warrant of those young men who deserved to live, who were the children of other mothers and fathers who then experienced and suffered that unspeakably horrible act. Thus he tarnished his image for posterity. In particular, I don’t believe that some good verses erase the color of blood.

We can’t forget that when some vandals attacked her son in the Vedado neighborhood where they live, Laidi forgot the ties of interest that connect her to the dictatorship and jumped like a wolf, writing a declaration attacking the system the let the public know that her blood is untouchable. As is common, people support totalitarianism as long as it doesn’t injure them directly, not caring if others are hurt. But then, two days later, when she had calmed down and reread it, because the functionaries she knew well had been talking about her bad decision to criticize the state, she rewrote the text to soften it, and it was republished with the new version.

This is the quality of my enemies. These are the tyranny’s bloodhounds who are after me. Base people who don’t love themselves who are pressured to hurt me. Just to express my embarrassment for his sake for Retamar’s poetry, with the guilt on his hands and his soul, of young and innocent blood.

Related post: Signatories Forever, Unredeemed Brownnosers

Angel Santiesteban Released “For Now” / 14ymedio

The writer, blogger and activist Angel Santiesteban. (Lilianne Ruiz)
The writer, blogger and activist Angel Santiesteban. (Lilianne Ruiz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 June 2016 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was released on Tuesday night after 30 hours of detention and having been taken to three police stations where he received all sorts of warnings and threats.

Santiesteban told 14ymedio by phone that he was arrested around one in the afternoon on Monday, and released at eight at night on Tuesday. The writer was taken first to the police station at 21st and C Streets in Vedado, then to the one at Zapata and C, and finally to Vivac de Calabazar.

As he explained, the political police were very upset by the recent post in his blog titled “Assassins, Accomplices and Victims,” in which he called the president of Casa de las Americas, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, an assassin. The police said the blogger showed a serious lack of respect in speaking of the elderly poet in this way.

“As a member of what was then the Council of State,” Santiesteban explained, “Retamar signed the application for the death penalty of the three young men who had simply tried to take a boat to Florida. Now, when an anniversary of that horrible event came up, I recalled it publicly.”

According to Angel Santiesteban, the reason given for his arrest was a link to the crime of fraud on the Isle of Youth. “That could not be sustained because this happened in the year 2015 when I was in prison,” the writer said, almost laughing. In his view this was just an excuse for the police to pick him up and detain him.

During the interrogations, the writer says, an official told him, “You pretend you’ve called it quits but we know you’re up to no good.” Santiesteban said that he replied, “Yes, I am up to two novels and you’re not going to like anything about them.”

Cuban Writer Angel Santiesteban Arrested / 14ymedio

Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)
Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 June 2016 – The writer Angel Santiesteban was arrested on Monday afternoon shortly after he left his home. The blogger is in a cell at the police station located at the corner of Zapata and C in the Plaza municipality, according to the information from the police offered by telephone.

Recently, Santiesteban received the Reinaldo Arenas Narrative Prize, awarded by the Club of Independent Writers of Cuba and he is now in what he called “a creative phase” that consumes all his time. continue reading

According to telephone calls made by family and friends to police authorities, Santiesteban was arrested because “they had tracked him” from the Isle of Youth.

The winner, also, of the Casa de las Américas Prize (2006) was on parole awaiting the outcome of an appeal for review of his case by the Ministry of Justice; he recently served several years in prison for “violation of domicile and injuries.” In the trial in that case, which was denounced as a process full of irregularities, he had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Since the appeal was filed for review of his case, Santiesteban has been arrested on several occasions, including for participating in the Sunday marches of the Ladies in White.

Related:

They forced me not to dream

From Villa Marista They Threaten to Delay Angel Santiesteban’s Release

Angel Santiesteban in Prison

The Dictatorship’s Annoying Writer