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

Blogger and Activist Angel Santiesteban Released from Prison / 14ymedio

Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)

Angel Santiesteban. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 July 2015 — The writer and journalist Angel Santiesteban Prats was released from prison on Friday night. Speaking to 14ymedio, Santiesteban said he wanted the quick release of other activists and that a new stage “of struggle” was now starting.

“Just a few minutes ago Major Adonis and First Lieutenant Guillarte said “Angel Santiesteban, congratulations, you have just been released’,” explained the writer. “Then I was given my personal belongings and left.” Asked by this newspaper about his next steps, he answered: “Now, to fight, and other releases have to happen, such as that of El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado).”

In December of 2012, after a process that has been labeled by many as arbitrary and precipitous, Santiesteban was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for “violation of domicile and injuries.” Since 2008, he has published in his activist blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, in support of human rights on the island.

From the prison where he began his sentence, the Lawton Settlement Prison, in Havana, he passed from one prison to another, accused of “attempted escape.” For almost a year, he was imprisoned in the Border Patrol Unit, west of Havana, a military base where he experienced a more severe prison regimen.

Angel Santiesteban has won important literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novels From The Drawer Prize in 2013.

Reporters Without Borders had called on the Cuban authorities to withdraw all charges against Angel Santiesteban Prats and release him immediately.

The Silent Comedy Presents? / Angel Santiesteban

Raul Castro blindfolds a guerrilla sentenced to die by firing squad.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 14 May 2015 — I pray that Europe does not expose its neck to the dictatorship — especially to Raul Castro  “the vampire” — who, by tradition, for over fifty years, has sucked in as many opportunities as his long, sharp fangs have allowed him to.

Each time the dissolution of the (EU) Common Position which prevented the dictatorship to continue abusing opposition as it wanted gets closer, and now, like a snake, we see the dictatorship crawl to its new convenient position that will strengthen it, in order to stay in power and continuing through the “heirs” of Castro being the absolute masters of Cuba.

Arrogant as usual, Raul Castro appears before foreign presidents — who so far have kept a common front to halt his Human Rights violations — and tries to change the story, as if telling a lie over and over in any stand he is offered would make them believe him. Continue reading

The Languid and Protean Miguel Barnet / Angel Santiesteban

Barnet accompanied by Castro’s mobs in Panama City, Panama.

We reproduce here an excellent article by Felix Viera about Miguel Barnet, president of UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) and one of the most servile cultural commissar of Castro’s dictatorship. In the article Viera offers the example of what has happened to Angel Santiesteban.

Félix Luis Viera, México DF

Miguel Barnet, president of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC) chaired a meeting at the headquarters of this organization in the city of Pinar del Rio, reports Granma — the official news paper — (like all the existing press in Cuba, paid by the government), in its issue of June 30th.

Barnet, as he was candid instead of cynical, brought to the memory of those present, what he has called “Fidel’s words to the Intellectuals,” a terrible moment in the history of Cuban culture. Continue reading

Lambs of God / Angel Santiesteban

L to r: Victor Fowler, unidentified, Mariela Castro

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 April 2015 — A friend’s grandmother claimed that most people complain,”When their own toe is stepped on, but not for someone else’s” because it does not hurt them.

Just a few days ago I wrote a post in which I mentioned the Cuban intellectual Victor Fowler. Despite having explained the real dilemma for which State Security threatened to imprison me — and he listened to me and at least said he recognized my situation at that time — I offered him a ride in my car, when I saw him on the street taking his son to José Martí National Library for a cultural workshop. At that moment he made me believe that he empathized with my case. I swear if he had disagreed with me, I wouldn’t have put them the car, on the contrary, I would have admired him. Continue reading

The Broody Serpent’s Egg / Angel Santiesteban

Aleida Guevara, daughter of the infamous “Che” Guevara

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 April 2015 — My colleague and friend Felix Luis Viera has written a post about one of the most disgusting human being I’ve ever had in front of me: Aleida Guevara.

Sometimes we ran into each other in our children’s school on 62nd and 5th Avenue, in the Playa municipality. I talked about it once in a post — I also described that facts I am giving you now — when a teacher told me that “Guevara”, as they call her, had been inquiring about my relative. Fortunately, he is out of her reach and her revenge.

On that occasion I commented on the arrogance, pushiness and haughtiness which she displayed and with which she manipulated those around her. In fact, she acted like the school principal, while the actual principal along with teachers nodded their heads in constant assent, fearful of a complaint from that fatso with “commander pretensions,” regardless of the cause and reason, which could get them expelled from the school in the blink of an eye. This woman, as brute as a mule, moved around that institution like a triumphant guerrilla. Continue reading

The Generals’ Smokescreen / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 13 May 2015 — Again Raul Castro lies to the world when he says on television that “independent journalists” are graduates from a course at the United States Interest Section (USIS) in Havana, and that they also receive a “stipend” from that agency. Graduates from that course: I have met lawyers, doctors, economists, among many professionals. I remember at some point I was interested in that course, but I never completed my registration. It was not a bad idea. Knowledge is always welcome.

General Raúl Castro, if he decided to mention us, he did it with disdain as usual, by asking his Minister of Foreign affairs about the term “independent” because he thinks that’s the way to denigrate such a worthy condition. He showed the same attitude when he spoke about the autobiography of President Barak Obama, “I’ve read a few passages”, making it clear it did not deserve the space or the necessary importance from his “precious time.” Continue reading