Padura and the Face of Cultural Context / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 18 November 2015 — On October 31, in the Museo Napoleónico de La Habana, the book, “The Faces of Padura: Work and Life of a Writer, ” a compilation of texts about Leonardo Padura, was presented. Padura was recently awarded the Princesa de Asturias de las Letras Prize.

At the event, Padura shared the thank-you speech that was read in Oviedo before Spain’s royal family; words that should have been published by the Cuban press. But not only did they not publish them, but also in the official media it was completely ignored that for the first time a Cuban writer was given credit for such a prestigious award. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms


Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban Explains What Happened During His Arbitrary Detention

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Editor


Writer Angel Santiesteban is Released / 14ymedio

Angel Santiesteban (center, plaid shit) and several activists after his release. (14ymedio)

Angel Santiesteban (center, plaid shit) and several activists after his release. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 5 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was released Thursday after appearing before the Provincial Court of Havana. The journalist had been arrested yesterday afternoon, accused by his ex-wife of the supposed crime of “violation of domicile,” the same charge he was convicted of 2012.

“We were going to revoke your probation, but you are behaving well and so we are not going to revoke it,” the judges said, as confirmed by the writer to this newspaper. He said the trial never happened because the cause was withdrawn. Santiesteban said that they learned that “a paper signed by his ex-wife” withdrew the complaint for the supposed crime. After what happened this morning, the activist remains on parole, as he has been since last July.

A few yards from the Havana Capitol, a dozen Ladies in White, activists and members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) gathered from the early hours and were able to witness the moment Santiesteban, handcuffed, escorted by two policemen arrived and was led into the Fifth Chamber where he would be tried. Among the opponents was Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White.

Ladies in White outside the provincial court. (Angel Moya)

Ladies in White outside the provincial court. (Angel Moya)

In the morning, the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), took toiletries for the writer to the police station in Zapata and C where he was being held, but he had been transferred to the court, although several sources said he was able to make a phone call before leaving.

Writer Angel Santiesteban Arrested Again / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Havana. A police car drove the activist from Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles’s house, where he was, to a police station, according to Santiesteban himself who spoke to this newspaper at the time of his arrest.

After the arrest, the blogger Lia Villares informed this newspaper that the police told the writer that it was “circulated for a month,” under the alleged “violation of domicile.” This Thursday he could be “tried in the Fifth Chamber of the court,” the same source stated.

Another source told 14ymedio the writer had missed the last time he was supposed to have signed in at the police station, a control measure that he must complete every week, under the terms of his probation. Should certain information arise, the authorities could use this to revoke his parole and return him to prison.

Last July Santiesteban was released after entering prison in December 2012, after a process that was considered by many to be arbitrary and precipitate. At that time he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison also for alleged “violation of domicile and injuries.”

The writer has won significant literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novel in Drawer Prize in 2013; the prize is given to censored writers whose work is, literally, “in a drawer” because they are unable to publish in their home countries.

Any Life in Havana / Angel Santiesteban

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

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

The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 2 October 2015 — Within a few hours of the opening of the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), scheduled between 2 and 6 October in Charleston (South Carolina), regional reports from the Commission for Freedom of the Press and Information were made public. According to the organization, ten months after the beginning of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, journalism on the island continues to be “dogged by censorship in the Cuban Communist Party monopoly over the national media.”

The report details that in Cuba there are still no signs of “economic improvement,” nor an increase in the respect for “human rights, greater freedom of expression, association and the press,” derived from the process of diplomatic rapprochement that both countries are experiencing.

With special alarm, the text includes the threats and arrests made this summer by State Security against the reporter Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, when he tried to document in videos and photos the repression suffered by the Ladies in White. The independent journalist denounced the repressive methods against the exercise of the unofficial press, including detentions for “several days without records of arrest nor of the seizure of our belongings” and the “confiscation of the tools of our work.” Continue reading

#PapaEnCuba [Pope in Cuba]: A Shout for Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) / Angel Santiesteban

Danilo (El Sexto) painting one of the piglets for his planned performance.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 21 September 2015 — Today, Monday, September 21, makes 13 days since he has been on a hunger strike inside a solitary confinement and punishment cell. Separated from his family and from all human companionship, for the act and right as an artist of attempting to put on a performance that alluded, according to the political police, to the dictators when he applied two common names, Fidel and Raúl–names borne by many in this nation–on the bodies of two pigs.

He has spent nine months in captivity without due process and will not therefore have a fair trial from the judges. The lawyer I have met with assures me that her intention is to “help,” but that it is not in her power, “because she is a simple attorney, from whom the case file has been kept for several months.”

Danilo’s nights are long, extremely extensive. The dawn seems elusive, while he feels his body coming apart. His faculties are failing, and that mental deterioration which, at times, inserts ideas of desisting–along with the fear of dying, of not ever again seeing his mother and his little dauther, of losing his teeth, of ruining his kidneys, among so many fears–are the battles he fights secretly in solitary confinement.

“This too shall pass” — A drawing Danilo made in prison.

These days we are being visited by Pope Francis, the merciful one who spreads peace for being the messenger of God and who, out of respect, those who say they revere him should interrupt their wicked actions, their pride and the abuse they inflict on the helpless, whose only intent is to be artists who fight for their beliefs.

But the dictators Fidel and Raúl only manipulate the Pope, the presidents, the UN and any international courts where they appear–as they have done throughout their more than half century in power, robbing destinies, destroying futures, extinguishing lives, undoing dreams–and consequently ignoring pleas for Danilo’s release, because always, with dictators, their commitment to evil and to assuring their totalitarian power comes first.

“Peace is a white (dove) knife that is placed in our hands.”

Danilo’s little daughter sobs for wanting to see her father. Danilo’s mother bravely endures the trance of pain not wishing to break down and say goodbye to her son and, at the same time, lives the contradiction of admiring him and respecting his ideas.

Danilo’s grandparents look on with that mixture of despair and sorrow, and one feels that they need to demand, to scream, for someone to show them where to find justice, and we can only respond with our heads bent low or look away so that they don’t see our tears.

The Ladies in White along with the members of the forum for Rights and Liberties, with the hashtag #todosmarchamos [We All March], march every Sunday, for the last 22 weekends, bearing Danilo’s photo along with those of other political prisoners through the streets of Miramar, demanding their release–even when on every one of those weekends, they are subjected to brutal beatings and arrests.

Danilo’s friends accompany his family, trying to give them support in the emptiness caused by his absence. We take it upon ourselves to demand his freedom, to go along on visits to the lawyer, or to deliver letters to the prosecutors’ offices regarding the violations to the law committed against him according to their own judicial laws, which they should respect and to which they should adhere.

The regime cannot, as it always does, arm wrestle with Danilo, and have it affect his health. Their duty, their obligation, must be to free him immediately before greater harm is done, and not add another international crime to their dictatorial records.

Freedom for Danilo Maldonado, Now!

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats,

Havana, 21 September, “free” on parole

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison


The Pope, So as Not to Say Anything, Said Nothing / Angel Santiesteban

The Inverted Pyramid

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 17 September 2015 — It always irritates me that it is accepted, ironically, for the Cuban dictatorship to ply its totalitarian propaganda and be visible in foreign countries, via the media and its “solidarity”committees, when not even Cubans themselves in their own country are not allowed to claim freedom of thought, association, and all  the rights contained in the magna carta of the United Nations. Is it just that a country that violates these rights by denying them to its own citizens be allowed the spaces to cover up, manipulate, and lie to international public opinion?

A front-page article in Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, reports “anti-blockade [embargo] tour begins in Washington,” which will include stops in other North American cities and various countries. It also announces a confirmed total of 44 visits to the Congress, 37 to congressional offices, and 7 visits to senators’ offices. Continue reading

Reporters Without Borders to John Kerry: Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard? / Angel Santiesteban

Photo taken from the internet

Open letter to John Kerry: “Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard?”

Published Thursday, August 13, 2015.

On Friday August 14, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cuba to strengthen the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He is the first U.S. Secretary of State to make an official visit to the island since 1945. This is a unique opportunity to address the catastrophic situation for freedom of press and information in Cuba. RSF sent an open letter to John Kerry addressing these fundamental issues.

Paris, August 13, 2015

Dear Secretary Kerry,

On the occasion of your historic visit to Cuba this August 14th, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) asks that during your meetings with Cuban authorities you address the problem of freedom of press and information. As the first high-level American politician to visit Cuba since 1959, you have the duty, and the power, to positively influence Cuban policies.

Cuba ranks 169th among 180 countries in the World Ranking of Press Freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in 2015. The Cuban government maintains a monopoly on information and does not tolerate any independent voices: it prohibits the existence of free media. Only official media are authorized (and the list of them is very short). The media that do not have state authorization are deemed illegal and are censored. Moreover, Cuba is considered one of the countries with the least access to the Internet worldwide. Continue reading

US Expresses “Deep Concern” Over The Arrest Of Dissidents In Havana / 14ymedio

During the march of the Ladies in White on Sunday August 9, some demonstrators wore masks of Barack Obama. (Twitter /ForoDyL)

During the march of the Ladies in White on Sunday August 9, some demonstrators wore masks of Barack Obama. (Twitter /ForoDyL)

14ymedio biggerEFE, Washington 10 August 2015 — The US government on Monday expressed “deep concern” about the detention for some hours of about 90 dissidents in Cuba, including a group of members of the Ladies in White, and insisted that it will continue to work to ensure respect for the right to demonstrate in Cuba.

“We have seen the reports, and our staff at the embassy in Havana confirmed these arrests,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the State Department, in his daily briefing.

Kirby stressed the “deep concern” of the US government over these arrests. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban: Most of our people pretend

Disoriented in time like all ex-prisoners, Ángel Santiesteban brings with him a thousand prison demons.

Interview with Ángel Santiesteban after his conditional release – Cuba 2015.

Havana, Cuba, Augusto César San Martín —  The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats suffers with every word he writes. “I classify my work as social,” he declares in an interview given to Cubanet. “It’s always about the environment that surrounds the Cuban,” he adds.

And “suffering” is the best word to describe a people numb with fear, according to the writer who won the Short Story Prize from the National Union of Artists and Writers in Cuba (UNEAC).

“Most of our people pretend; they hope that this will pass and that they don’t encounter that wall. They don’t brave any consequences they might receive for confronting the dictatorship,” he expressed. Continue reading