The Island of the Long Shadows / Angel Santiesteban

Screen Capture – Moment in which Angel Santiesteban was arrested in front of Section 21, after being violently beat up by agents (8/11/12).

Section 21, as this Department of State Security is known, works to track the political activities of the opposition in the Cuban archipelago.  They are the omnipotent masters of the destinies of those who seek democracy and freedom.

In my case, it was the official Camilo, the same one who on November 8th, 2012, after a beating in plain view of the public, told me that they were putting me in jail for 5 years [before Angel’s trial was concluded].

Three months later, I went to prison, convicted by a rigged jury, where they didn’t show a single bit of evidence against me, except that joke by the lieutenant colonel graphologist, who acted as something like a fortune-teller and said that given “the height and inclination of my handwriting*,” I was guilty. Of no value were the five witnesses I presented who corroborated my statement. Not even justice is an impediment to the designs of the political police.

Since I entered prison, it has been the State Security officials who have manipulated my incarceration. The prison officials have always let me know that “they are there to keep me enclosed,” but that they have no rights over my person.

If I fall ill, whether they are to approve or not the pass** that is provided every sixty days for those serving less than 5 years, transfers, disciplinary measures, or for any other motive, they are to call Section 21 and there they will be instructed as to what is to be done with me.

Of course, it was those authorities in that very same Section 21 who gave the go-ahead for my transfer from the Valle Grande prison to La Lima camp, in keeping with my sentence (as I am not supposed to be in prison); from there to prison #1580 (in a new violation of my rights); later, to the Lawton settlement; and now, to the Guardafronteras (Border Patrol) unit, where I am currently held.

According to the prison officials, they are supposed to consult with the officials of Section 21 at each step in my process. They have retained the appeal of my case, delivered at the Ministry of Justice on July 4, 2013, for more than a year. This is because if justice were to be applied, they would have to release me immediately, as requested by my attorney, given my proven innocence. Instead, they gather an extensive list of flagrant violations that, as my defense attorney at the time said after the trial, left me “in a state of utter defenselessness.”

I have stated before that murderers, drug traffickers, pederasts, and others who have committed grave crimes, are treated with the utmost mercy compared to the stance the authorities have taken toward my person, for they treat me according to the strictest of their laws.

At this time they have me cloistered inside a Border Patrol Troops unit, in a small apartment with two rooms and a bath. It is completely barred and there is a guard at the door who records in a log the hour at which I rise, if I take exercise, if I write, etc.

In addition, this small apartment made into a prison cell includes a patio that, in my honor, was completely enclosed in bars – even on the roof – just hours before they decided to transfer me to this place.

However, even while bearing every suffering that their impediments cause, I feel proud to be treated thus. Not even the worst of their measures against me will cause me to back down from my struggle for a more just country — a country in which free expression against the politics laid down by the powers-that-be will not be cause for imprisonment.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Patrol Unit Prison. Havana. October, 2014.

Translator’s notes:

*A handwriting expert literally testified at Angel’s trial that his “too slanted” handwriting proved he was a guilty person.

**In an earlier post Angel explained the Cuban penal system that allows prisoners with shorter sentences to leave prison every so many days for extended (overnight) home visits. He was granted one of these passes when he was in the Lawton Settlement, a work camp, but future passes were withheld. 

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison, and others.

10 November 2014

Sensitive Issues / Angel Santiesteban

Moment at which the Government’s TV show “Cuba’s Reasons” declared Angel Santiesteban Prats “guilty”

In the days when they arrested me, between last July 21 and August 13, among other questions, the State Security officials questioned me about my economic support. In this regard, I’d never imagined that others would be interested in this aspect, but as the Cuban government likes to accuse every opponent of being a mercenary, I’d like to make this public.

Since I’m in prison, my sister María de los Ángeles, who has always supported me, assumed this role, not without pain on my part, because she didn’t send me her excess, not even from reducing her wishes and desires, but from her own sweat, the same sacrifice, because as she likes to say, “I am the poorest person in the United States, but the richest of any Cuban found inside Cuba.” In addition to my sister, I have received help from friends and colleagues with whom I’ve maintained a close friendship since I was a teenager and youth; and also from Masons living in Florida. Continue reading

Solidarity with Miguel Ginarte / Angel Santiesteban

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, the president of the Diez de Octubre Court declared conclusive the trial against Miguel Ginarte and five other defendants. Just a year ago, Ángel Santiesteban-Prats wrote this post in solidarity with Miguel.

The Editor

My mother always warned me that the Cuban government proceeds through their actions: “When they no longer need you, the squash you like a cockroach”.

In the cultural media, it is well-known that there are very few shows on Cuban TV that do not use Miguel Ginarte to produce their programmes; in fact, very few are those who in the end who are not grateful for his disinterested help, his constant effort, because he takes the care with each show as if it were the final project that he would ever collaborate on. A man who people rarely hear say no, and when he has had to say no it is because it really was beyond his reach to help. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban Prats: 20 Months of Unjust Imprisonment

Today, 28 October 2014, Angel Santiesteban Prats marks twenty months of unjust incarceration, waiting for the Review of this show trial which condemned him without any proof because he is INNOCENT. His son, being a child and used to testify against his father, has now completely dismantled the farce plotted against Angel and yet they still keep him in prison. His only crime: opposing the dictatorship that has plagued Cuba for more than half a century.

28 October 2014

Blatant Lies / Angel Santiesteban

During the days in which Ángel Santiesteban-Prats’ whereabouts were unknown, and with fears absolutely based on the illegal transfers that he experienced before, we filed a complaint with the United Nations Working Group on Forced or Involuntary Disappearances, so they would put it before the Regime in Havana to clarify his whereabouts.

Translation of letter from the High Commissioner’s Office of the United Nations Human Rights Commission:

Dear Mrs. Tabakman,

I have the honor of addressing you in the name of the Working Group on Forced or Involuntary Disappearances with respect to the case of Mr. Ángel Lazaro Santiesteban Prats (case no. 10005155).

In this respect I would like to inform you that the communication sent to the Government of Cuba on July 30, 2014, due to an administrative error, did not include the phrase “Marti TV (Miami, United States)” in place of “Cuban communication media.”

Furthermore, I want you to know that this correction of the case does not affect the decision taken by the Working Group during its 104th session, such as was communicated to you in its letter of September 30, 2014.

I would like to inform you that the Working Group will celebrate its 105th session between March 2-6, 2015, in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Sincerely yours,

Ariel Dulitzky, President-Presenter

They acted with the dedication and speed that an emergency requires, and, of course, the Castro dictatorship did not. They only responded to the Group’s requirement when it gave them the demand; that is, when Ángel already had been located by journalists from 14Ymedio. Thanks to them we knew where he was, although they couldn’t meet with him. The Regime had put him in the border military prison where he presently is. Continue reading

The New Robin Hoods (II) / Angel Santiesteban

Granting the wish of Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, who remains unjustly imprisoned, that his voice is not silenced, and while I await for him to find a way to send me his posts, I will be publishing, starting today, the ones he sent me in the past, as to keep his voice alive in these isolating times that prevent him from publishing in his own blog.

The post I share today was written in May, in the Lawton Prison.

 The Editor

—————————————————————————————

The New Robin Hoods (II)

Last night, after we were locked in our barracks, we heard screams and remained alert. Shortly after, we saw the prison guards running around and calling for the military-on-guard. They had caught a thief who had entered one of the storage rooms that hold construction materials. When he was brought close to a light, we were even more surprised: we soon recognized him as the other military officer who guards the prisoners. He’s not more than twenty years-old.

While being taken, he kept explaining he needed to fix his house, as he was getting married. For this, he would need to divide the space so he could be independent from the rest of the family and start his married life.

We can imagine it was humiliating to him for the prisoners to see him detained and then see him being pushed into the patrol car that would carry him to the police station. One of the inmates joked: “The birds shooting the rifles.”

One more young man who will be added to the thousands waiting in Cuban prisons.

I’m sorry for those who do not understand this, but in the prison cell where they lock in people who rob, not for luxuries, but for necessity, I would instead lock in the politicians, whom I blame for cutting those young lives short and ignoring their most objective needs.

Ironically, it is a sort of luck and a relief for their families to see them in prison, as at least they know they will be alive and they know they can wait for them to return, as opposed to the families of those hopeless ones who venture into the sea risking their life and, in many cases, losing it in the attempt.

Those who live or have lived in Cuba know that the salary here is not enough to live on, not even in the case of the most lauded or brilliant professional.

Inmates assure us that the real ambition of the guard, now locked inside some dark and fetid cell, was—after becoming independent of his family—to buy himself a bicycle.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison. May, 2014.

Ask Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Ángel Santiesteban a Prisoner of Conscience

Translated by: T

15 September 2014

The “Hero” Who Couldn’t Find the Entrance / Angel Santiesteban

A great truth was revealed at the VIII Conference of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC, by its Spanish initials).

We have to admit when our detractors speak the truth.  There’s no other option than –for the sake of honesty– to accept how right they’ve been.  Therefore, I have to admit that, yes, “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”*.  It’s impossible to state it any clearer, for we know well the political, human, logistic, and leadership failures that the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 symbolized, when the immature and terribly suspicious Fidel Castro stationed a select group to practice their aim in Santiago de Cuba.  With neither suitable arms  nor adequate preparations to confront the army, he sent them to a certain death.

How can intellectuals pretend not to recognize Fidel Castro’s cowardice, who — in spite of having gone to school in that city and having planned the attack — couldn’t find the entrance to the barracks, when those who had never been there were able to get behind its walls?

It is infuriating to watch that documentary where Fidel Castro, leaning on a car of that era, explains how he was unable to find the entrance, yet the cars traveling ahead and behind him managed to penetrate the garrison, whose entrance is of such a size that a blind man could find it!  But we already know that there’s nothing worse than one who doesn’t want to see what’s in front of him.

That wasn’t his only mistake.  We know that, throughout the entire struggle of the Rebel Army, he never participated in a single battle; and he advised Raul Castro to do likewise: while leading his comrades in the midst of combat, the latter would abandon the fight only to appear days later when the town square had been taken.  Fidel Castro not only couldn’t find the entrance, he was unable to follow the sounds of gunfire on that fateful morning, nor could he redirect himself towards other posts during the shootout.  On the contrary, he remained huddled, waiting for the end, and when he learned his soldiers were dead or captured, he sought shelter in a hole in order to finally turn himself in to the Catholic Church (which he never thanked for saving him), and reemerge as the hero.

Certainly, seen as a failure (the only way to comprehend this event), without a doubt, as the president of the UNEAC, Miguel Barnet, put it: “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”.  He’s never been more right.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Compound.  April, 2014

* Santiesteban is referring to the speech by Miguel Barnet at the opening of the VIII UNEAC Conference.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

Sign the petition so that Amnesty International will declare the Cuban dissident Ángel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

23 May 2014

Let’s Join "The Death of The Cat" in Denouncing the Castro Dictatorship at FIBABC

For my soul brother Angel Santiesteban, prisoner of Cuba for thinking differently.

For my second father, Raul Guerra, who died intoxicated with disappointment.

The Death of the Cat

Writer:  Lilo Vilaplana  Genre:  Fiction  Category:  Fiction

The Death of the Cat is much more than an exceptionally accomplished work of art by Lilo Vilaplana.  It is an unambiguous argument against the Castro dictatorship that has plagued Cuba for fifty-six years.

It deeply impacts Cubans who have lived that period, those who even if they have not lived it suffer even today the same painful reality, and the non-Cubans who are moved seeing how the Castro propaganda has fooled them also while all Cubans are prisoners of the big island jail.

Dedicated to Angel Santiesteban and Raul Guerra, it deals with a work of fiction inspired by real events, contextualized in the day after the shooting of General Ochoa but that takes great care with even the smallest details managing to recreate on a Bogota lot the miseries of one Havanan.

Details as “trifling” as to have covered the floor with a paper that mimics the tiles that populate Cuba.  And even the wretched roll that Cubans eat, many preliminary experiments were needed until obtaining what appears in the short film, seeking not to exceed the weight and to be true to what the impoverished people eat.

It is not easy to create intentionally so much destruction, poverty and neglect as the Castros have caused in over five decades.  Painstaking craftsmanship by Lilo’s team has managed to “destroy” the setting, making it so true to life that more than one person will believe that it really was filmed in Havana. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban’s New Dossier

The mechanism of annulment is cleanly bureaucratic: You can’t hire an attorney without having completed the dossier. The prosecution prepares its case in the dungeons.

Lilianne Ruiz

Havana, Cuba.  In the doorways of Avenue Acosta, in the neighborhood of La Vibora, some faded beings sell aluminum scouring pads, Band-Aids and little boxes of matches. A few meters away, crossing Calzada de Diez de Octubre – formerly Jesus del Monte – is the former police station of Acosta and Diez de Octubre, which now advertises itself, by a lighted sign, as a Territorial Unit of Criminal Investigation and Operations of the Ministry of the Interior. The latest news about the writer, Angel Santiesteban, places him in the cells of that sinister place.

Another writer, the Czech Milan Kundera, victim in his time of the same procedures, pointed out that our only immortality exists in the archives of the political police. In this city of changed names, where poetry is a military choir, where the violation of human rights is called anti-imperialism and there is thoughtless defense of socialism, and where some nameless beings without a voice sell scouring pads in order to eat, I think about my friend who is experiencing the same awful misfortune.

Except for Daniela Santiesteban, his 18-year-old daughter, sufficiently bewildered and frightened to not want to speak with the independent press or the dissident friends of her father, no one else has seen him nor can corroborate that he hasn’t been maltreated, or that he really tried to escape from prison, as the authorities say.

The Territorial Unit building has checkpoint surveillance. It seems to be the entrance where the detainees are taken to the dungeons, which are in the basement. Those who have left that prison say that below there are around 70 cells. And that’s where they look for confessions in all the cases. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know the first thing about the crimes that the official presents to them. The dossier can be false. It takes time to complete, so that in order to obtain the auto-inculpation, the false confession, no attorney can be present. Continue reading

Liberty Costs Dearly, and Angel Santiesteban Decided to Buy It for Its Price

In the world there has to be a certain quantity of decency, just as there has to be a certainly quantity of light. Where there are many men without decency, there are always others who have in themselves the decency of many men. Those are the ones who rebel with terrible force against those who steal from the people their freedoms, which is to steal decency from men. In those men are thousands of men, an entire people, human dignity. Those men are sacred.”  Jose Marti.

Today, August 28, 2014, it has been a year and a half, 18 months, 72 weeks, 548 days or 13,152 hours since Angel was unjustly incarcerated.

In this time, not a single response from the dicatorship in answer to the requests for a Review of his rigged trial after the false complaints by a resentful woman manipulated by State Security.

In this time, his son grew enough to distance himself from his mother, the complainant, and to tell that he was manipulated to lie and testify against his father for the purpose of hurting him. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban, Being Held in Military Unit to the West of Havana / 14ymedio

Angel Santiesteban through the blinds (14ymedio)

Angel Santiesteban through the blinds (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 2 August 2014 — Writer Ángel Santiesteban has been relocated to a prison under the control of Border Guard Troops in the Flores neighborhood near the town of Jaimanita, west of Havana. After weeks of uncertainty and conflicting information, a reporter for 14ymedio was able to locate and see this military unit.

For three weeks Santiesteban‘s situation has become even more confusing after the authorities in charge of keeping him under custody in the prison center in the Lawton neighborhood declared that he has “escaped.” He was immediately taken  to the police station at Acosta and Diez de Octubre Streets, where he could only receive visits from his closest relatives.

Freelance journalist Lilianne Ruiz, after touring the different places where it was stated that the writer being held, was able to see him and talk to him through the blinds. The guards of the Border Guard Troops confirmed to the journalist that Santiesteban is considered a “special case.”

Santiesteban himself assured Ruiz that he is not being prosecuted for a new offense, and that a brief letter will appear in his blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, explaining everything that happened during the last days.

Ángel Santiesteban serving a five-year sentence for the alleged crime of violation of domicile. Multiple irregularities during his trial have been denounced by activists and independent lawyers. A couple of weeks ago Reporters Without Borders released a statement calling on the Cuban government to clearly state the fate of the narrator and journalist.