Recollections of Police Extortion: A “Rebar” / Frank Correa

Police on patrol in Havana. Photo from Internet

Cuban police on patrol in Havana. Photo from Internet

HAVANA, Cuba – I recently participated in a course on Criminal Procedure taught by Dr. Wilfredo Vallin, an independent lawyer, to members of civil society. We learned what the law requires and how police are supposed to act when making stops, searches, seizures, or arrests.

Each one of us there related some personal experience of police misconduct. Dr. Vallin explained to us in each case what kind of violation of the law had been committed by the officers. We finally reached the conclusion that ignorance of citizens’ rights is the primary cause that encourages these infractions.

We learned that to carry out the search of a home, a warrant signed by a prosecutor and two witnesses is needed. The search warrant must describe the “specific object” being sought: they cannot seize any property other than that “specific object.” In addition, everything seized must appear on a list, and a copy must be delivered to the person affected. The confiscations must be presented in court, and if invalidated must be returned.

We had a slew of examples of violations of this law. As with the other one, Dr. Vallin explained: on the street, only a uniformed police officer can stop you, never a plainclothes officer. And to perform a search a police officer must present a warrant, or else take you to a police station and search you there. This is a law that is violated in Cuba every day; just ask the hundreds of street vendors who are stopped, searched, and deprived of their property in full public view.

We also learned that you cannot be detained in a police station for more than twenty-four hours without an arrest warrant. After that time an investigator must be assigned to you, who has three days to present the prosecutor with a report of the completed investigation. The prosecutor has three more days to issue a decision—of a fine, detention, or immediate release. Many of those attending the course complained of spending days in a jail cell without any compliance with this law.

I remembered the meetings of the Agenda for Transition, in Jaimanita. And how they detained me when I left my house in the morning so I could not cover the news! They locked me in a cell in the 5th precinct station, popularly known as “The Warehouse,” along with other dissidents also prevented from attending the meeting. Without a word of explanation, they left us among dozens of common prisoners until late afternoon. Then the “file folder” (receptionist) called us one by one, gave us our identity cards and let us go.

I also remembered the time I was on a corner in Old Havana, talking with my friends “El Mapa” and “Pulu,” when I saw boy dressed in a school uniform coming down the sidewalk, followed by a row of detainees. In his hand he was carrying a bundle of identity documents and asked us for ours and told us to get in the line.

I was stunned, watching how the men meekly followed single file toward the police station in  Dragones, but when I started to protest, “El Mapa” told me:

“Don’t even open your mouth! He’s a policeman disguised as a student . . . and he’s vicious! Now they’re going to lock us up and search us . . . then they’ll let us go for a ’rebar.’”

Without understanding anything I followed the line to a vast courtyard inside the station. A captain ordered us to stand facing the wall and empty our pockets. We complied. They didn’t find any drugs, or weapons, or anything that would incriminate the men against the wall, who didn’t let out a peep.

Then he left, and we sat on the stones in the yard or on the floor, helpless, without an arrest warrant, without having committed any crime, and not knowing how to assert our rights . . . or to whom.

After a while I saw that the men began to leave, one by one. Before leaving, “Pulu” passed me the sign: the passage to the street cost a “rebar” (1 cuc, national currency equivalent to one dollar). This was well-known in the neighborhood about their police, but I, who believe that bribery is one of our worst crimes, was not going to contribute to it.

I remained alone in the yard, with three other poor devils who had no “rebar.” Our passport to freedom that afternoon was to carry a heavy iron tank between the four of us and load it on a wooden cart in the kitchen.

Afterward they handed us back our documents. Without even thanking us for loading the tank on the cart.

Cubanet, April 4, 2014

Translated by Tomás A.

Magic Formula to Revive Socialism / Miriam Celaya

Raúl praying

Raúl praying

Will investors be able to save the conquests of the olive green caste by soaking their hard currency in the Castros’ holy water?

HAVANA, Cuba: In recent weeks, the new Investment law–the latest magic formula to overcome the endemic crisis of “the model”–has been preeminently occupying space in the official Cuban press.

Commentaries, interviews with officials and experts on the subject, and reviews that look at the advantages and benefits of assimilating foreign capital as the most expeditious way to finally give birth to the socialism that spent over 50 years in the gestation phase, emerge from the pages from government pamphlets and television news announcing that the good “new” capital is the philosopher’s stone for development. So let’s forget all the ideological catechism defended until now, because our rulers have discovered that soaking hard currencies in the Castros’ holy water will safeguard the “conquests” …of the olive green caste.

And it is precisely about the conquests of the elderly druids and their acolytes that the foreign investment law was born with congenital deformities that require deep reconstructive surgery if they really intend for it to work.

The most important flaw that is obvious from the outset is the legal aberration of expressly excluding the rights of Cubans on the island to participate as investors in their own country, an issue that is unparalleled in any civilized nation, and that alone disqualifies the best intentions beforehand. Another issue, no less twisted, is the exclusion of free contract (that is, allowing foreign investors to hire Cuban workers directly). Both elements are unsustainable since they are not justified or serve any function other than to maintain absolute control over the population to prevent the weakening of political power.

Dilma Ruseau and Raúl Castro inaugurate the Mega Port at Mariel

Dilma Ruseau and Raúl Castro inaugurate the Mega Port at Mariel

Therefore, the Castros’ hired applauders are saddled with the thankless task of challenging independent journalists’ criticism of the law, since new technologies allow other opinions to circumvent the official information blockade and reach the population. Fundamentalists will now take to the trenches to fight another battle against freedom of opinion.

So an obviously poorly trained journalist did take to the trenches when he approached the subject from an article in the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper (“Good investments and ‘skeptical’ versions”, Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar, Sunday, April 20th, 2014, pg.3), which misses the mark from its own opening paragraph, when referring to the authors of the inquiring articles as “preachers of a policy aimed at promoting foreign interests over national affairs”. This cluelessness indicts the rookie’s inexperience, when he refers in such terms to the critics of a law that precisely favors “foreign interests” at the expense of the Cuban people.

Havana’s International Commerce Fair

Havana’s International Commerce Fair

Yoerky’s errors did not end here.  He obviously has access to the independent press but does not dare to reproduce the arguments of the criticisms of said law. It is untenable to be a representative of the people while advocating, at the same time, in favor of legislation that strips the people of their essential rights, contained in international pacts and declarations ofwhich Cuba is a signatory.

“One of the causes for the media’s ‘skepticism’ is related to the fact that the law prohibits foreign investors to directly contract with workers, a role that will be up to national employer organizations,” Yoerky indicates, and he explains to us that such a measure “protects our human resources, considered as the country’s most important asset.” Unfortunately, he forgot to explain how stripping Cuban workers of their capacity for free and individual contract constitutes “protection” for them and what “guaranties” this offers the investors.

“Who better than us to select employees, taking into account taxing requirements which will contribute to higher solvency and satisfaction to all parties…” wonders this Beefeater, immersed in a “collective us” that always emerges when the lords try to convince the herd about the need for sacrifice. Maybe he is ignoring that, when they sold us out as a “pseudo-republic,” foreign companies freely hired Cuban workers, who did not need a government agency to determine their suitability, their wage levels or the taxes they would pay to the State, so the current investment law implies a serious labor rights setback.

In short, far from being enlightening, the referenced writing stirs the murkiness of a law that holds more questions than answers. We continue to not know how the “investment portfolio” is defined, or what devices will manage it or prevent favoritism, influence peddling, corruption, patronage, and other ills.

There is no mechanism or information system that will allow Cubans–its supposed beneficiaries–to find out what items, who, and how to go about investing, much less verifying amounts, earnings, and how the wealth to be gained will be distributed. The “exceptional reasons of social interest or public utility” that will determine expropriations haven’t been clearly established either, and they will be left at the government’s discretion, while rampant widespread corruption–in spite of many battles and comptrollers–continues unabated and constitutes a threat to any investor in a country in which the actions of individuals are patterned for survival.

It takes a lot of magic to revive Cuban socialism

It takes a lot of magic to revive Cuban socialism

Yoerky does not say, perhaps because a servant is not able to understand it, that in the absence of civil liberties and democratic changes no palliative measure will be able to overcome the crisis. Undoubtedly, investors will always turn up who are ready for an adventure with the regime, and thousands of Cubans will probably flock to apply for jobs of “our own procurement” because nothing motivates a crowd as much as a poverty auction. Maybe by then this young man, an undertaking of the official media, will see this as another “victory of the Revolution.” I will not attempt to argue the point: I have spent 54 years attending them without any benefit whatsoever.

Translated by Norma Whiting
Cubanet, 22 April 2014 | Miriam Celaya

The Drug Trafficking Country / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

Chapultepec Castle

Mexico City is one of the safest places for the families of the kingpins of the Mexican mafia. In spite of having a corrupt government, the politicians know the importance of protecting the capital. Even though drug trafficking is out at the doorstep.

Alejandro has awakened — silence does not exist — the sirens of patrol cars, ambulances or fire trucks are part of the vitality of the city. He can check his cellphone for today’s smog index in the area.

Walking towards an OXXO store his eyes water because of the pollution. Today most residents will not go out into the streets unless necessary. Some vehicles also are prohibited from circulating in order to reduce pollution.

The decision to go out into the street intimidates him a little because of the stories he has heard, the violence and disputes of the mafia in that country. In spite of the rumors,

Alejandro begins to adapt to the Mexican climate and society (very polite). The mafia stories begin to form a part of a myth (it exists), but he is confident. Another day begins, and Alejandro walking to the bread store observes a display of federal police, awaiting some supposed protest march.

The image of the police does not affect him but the tranquility of expecting to close the streets with railing close to four meters tall. They do not permit passage but nor do they refuse the right to protest or demand something. That is something called DEMOCRACY.

Translated by mlk.

14 April 2014

Cuba: The Clueless Official Press / Ivan Garcia

granma-620x330
There is an abysmal gap between daily reality and the information offered by a clueless official press.  Never in Granma, Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) Trabajadores (Workers) or any of the 15 provincial press organs was there news of the Castro regime’s flagrant arms smuggling to North Korea in violation of the United Nations’ embargo of the Pyongyang dynasty.

The boring and disoriented national press, print, radio or television, to date, has not reported about the spaces open for dialogue by the Catholic Church. Or local news that has had resonance, like the protest by self-employed workers in Holguin or the unlikely walk by a nude woman in the city of Camaguey.

They also ignore less tense or contentious matters, like the visit to Cuba by Big League ball players Ken Griffey, Jr., and Barry Larkin or by famous people like Beyonce and her husband, rapper Jay Z.

Neither does it interest them for readers or viewers to find out that Cuban artists and musicians resident abroad visit the island and give performances, as in the cases of Isaac Delgado, Descemer Bueno and Tanya, among others.

They don’t even publish an article to analyze the insane prices for car sales or internet services.

On international topics, the old trick is to show only a part of the event.  For those who only read official media and do not have access to other sources of information, those who protest in Ukraine, Venezuela or Turkey are terrorists or fascists.

In Cuba it was never published that the dictator Kim Jong Un summarily executed his uncle.  Likewise, they kept silent about the atrocities that happen in the concentration camps of North Korea.  And about the degrading treatment of women in Iran.

Newsprint is usually occupied by cultural commentary and sports in an undertone, the television schedule, optimistic news about agricultural production or the good progress of economic reforms dictated by President Raul Castro and his advisors.

Apparently, they considered it inopportune to inform Cubans about the talks between the Cuban-American sugar millionaire Alfonso Fanjul and Chancellor Bruno Rodriguez.  Nor did they think it convenient for the common people to know that Antonio Castro, the son of Fidel, plays in golf tournaments.

Or that recently entrepreneurs with bulging wallets paid 234 thousand dollars for a handmade Montecristo tobacco humidor at the 16th Havana Festival where the most well known guest was the British singer Tom Jones.

Local reporting is directed by inflexible ideologies that presume that behind the vaunted freedom of the press is hidden a “military operation by the United States’ secret services.”

And they take it seriously. As if dealing with a matter of national security. That’s why the newspapers are soldiers of reporting.  Disciplined copyists.

For the Taliban of the Communist Party, the internet and social networks are a modern way of selling capitalism from a distance. The new times have caught them without many arguments. They assert they have the truth, but the fear the citizens testing it for themselves.

Reading of certain reports should be suggested by the magnanimous State.  They think, and they believe, that naive countrymen are not prepared or sufficiently inoculated for the propagandic venom of the world’s media.

Not even Raul Castro has managed to break the stubborn censorship and habitual torpor of the official press.  For years, Castro has spoken of turning the press into something believable, entertaining and attractive. But nothing has changed.

Destined for foreign consumption, official web pages and blogs have been opened. With their own voice they try to promote the illusion of an opening. The warriors of the word are for domestic consumption.

Ivan Garcia

Photo:  Taken from the Cuadernos de Cuba blog.

Translated by mlk.

26 March 2014

Studying Medicine and Desecrating Tombs in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Since 1948, when the UN decided to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many organizations and activists of the world have hoisted that dignified flag confronting the daily violations of liberty, justice and peace that many people suffer for the simple fact of their human condition.

Unfortunately, in several corners of this jungle that we call Earth, human rights entered a dark period due to the infinite apathy of many of its residents.  Barbarity is like our daily bread, and that makes it more or less normal.

In my country, for example, the topic is always a subject of controversy and debate; but today, I will not make reference to the rights of the living; I will speak of those who no longer exist, of our forebears, who are not the monkey, the Ardipithecus or the Australopithcus; but my mother and your grandfather.

Skulls, teeth, tibias, ribs, femurs, mandibles, vertebrae, pelvises; it is all found at the cemetery gate.  The desecration of graves has gone from being a horrible act of vandalism to an almost daily event.

But, “why is the toti always saddled with the blame for everything*”; uninformed metaphorics and made up know-it-alls, instead of finding out at the time of judging, they launch the accusing roar towards the many practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions who make up our folklore and form part of our cultural heritage.

In Santeria and witchcraft there are very but very isolated rites that require a human skeleton; there also exist artisans who buy bones in order to construct objects with them that they sell for the price of gold; but the absolutely responsible party for this atrocity against our dear ones is, as always, the State.

Ad nauseum the thought is drilled into us that since 1959, the development of medicine has been the principal priority of the revolutionary government, and in fact, Cuba boasts the highest physician-inhabitant ratio in the world.  Thousands of doctors are graduated each year on the island, and I tell you, each of these students, without regard to race, color, sex, language or religion (come on, like human rights), receives a bag with a skull and parts of human skeletal remains that if insufficient to study anatomy, then they get a card that they present at Cuban cemeteries in order to exhume from among the graves without owners the remains of those who in life were relatives of the unnamed, emigrated and exiled dead.

In order to have a slight idea of the desecrated graves, we would have to compare the number of bags delivered with the gross rate of Cuban mortality which, according to the reference published by the UN and sent by Havana, was 7.6 in 2012.  The same year in which — according to the extensive editorial by the website Cubadebate — the largest of the Antilles Islands trained more than 11,000 new doctors, 5,315 Cubans and 5,694 from 59 countries.  Scary.  I do not favor statistics when I write, nevertheless the exception deserves it.

Just a day like today, April 7, but in 1985, one of the most renowned Cuban visual artists, Rene Portocarrero, died.  His remains . . . I do not want to even think where they might be.

*Translator’s note: In “good Cuban” the expression is: “porqué la culpa de todo, siempre la carga el totí.”  It means several things: that someone small always ends up being accused of what others did, or that the blame always falls on the same notorious people regardless or whether or not they were actually involved, and also, that black people always get blamed for things. The totí (a.k.a. Cuban Blackbird) is a small black bird from the Cuban countryside that is notorious for eating crops and other human foods.

Translated by mlk.

10 April 2014

The Summer when God Slept: “Novels From the Drawer” Prize Winner reprinted for International Distribution

(Photo courtesy of Neo Club Press)

I have the pleasure to announce that my work, which won the 2013 International Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize 2013, “The Summer when God Slept,” will be reprinted in coming weeks by Neo Club Editions, an independent publisher located in Miami and directed by the Cuban writer Armando Añel.

Owing to the fact that the original edition, printed in the Czech Republic, according to the rules established for the award, is destined for the Cuban reader on the island, I agreed with Neo Club Editions to make this second edition, which will consist of a greater number of copies, with the idea of reaching what I consider, in addition to Cuba, natural markets for my work: Miami and Spain. The book, furthermore, will be available in ebook format and paperback through Amazon’s channels of international distribution.

Idabell Rosales – president of Neo Club Editions – together with Armando Añel, heads this project so that those of us who are censored and excluded for political reasons from cultural promotion in Cuba can publish our works in freedom and let them be known outside our country.

Thanks to this important and necessary idea, for example, a door has been opened wider to international promotion of the poetry of the writer Rafael Vilches Proenza, a friend enraged by the repression, which already on two occasions threw out works that he had in cultural institutions in Holguín and Santa Clara. The publication of the beautiful poem, “Café Amargo” (“Bitter Coffee”), besides rescuing the work of a writer censured for not bowing to official impositions, is an act of literary justice for one of the most outstanding poets of my generation.

When there’s another reunion on the island to celebrate another Congress of UNEAC in which, same as in the previous ones, no substantial change will happen that hasn’t already been predetermined, because now it’s known that the guild of creators responds only to the interests of the State and thus is converted into a useless and deceptive organization,

I will celebrate – thanks to the project and the generosity of Armando and Idabell – that my novel will be able to be read in the rest of the world, the same as the valuable Cuban literary production of Cuban writers in exile that Neo Club Editions includes in its catalogue.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, April 2014

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy
11 April 2014

Angel Santiesteban’s Work Again Recognized in France

The dictator Raul Castro continues stubbornly to make the world believe that he’s bringing to Cuba an opening that in reality doesn’t exist. He continues being the same dictator as always, violating the rights of all Cubans, submitting them to misery, censoring the press, harassing, beating and imprisoning peaceful opponents.

Angel Santiesteban, unjustly imprisoned, has completed one year after a rigged trial for some crimes that his ex-wife and mother of his son invented together with the political police. They sought to silence his critical voice against the dictatorship, but they have not succeeded. No punishment, beatings or prison itself has made a dent in him.

And by keeping him locked up, the dictator hasn’t prevented his literature from continuing to be recognized in the world, which condemns the injustice against him.

Again in France, this time in Marseille, his book of stories, “Laura in Havana”, published in 2012 by L’Atinoir, will be presented before the public.

Raul Castro continues violating his own law, taking away Angel’s passes that he is supposed to get every sixty days. It doesn’t matter to Angel, because when his companions go to visit their families, he takes even more advantage of the time and the calm to continue writing.

The Editor

A meeting

We invite you to a convivial meeting with Jacques Aubergy and Rasky Beldjoudi, Saturday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. at the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai (House For All of the Belle of May).

 

Jacques Aubergy is a translator, bookseller and publisher. His publishing house, L’Atinoir, publishes authors of noir fiction and Latin American writers.

He will speak to us of his trade, how he chooses his books, and will make us know intimately and with passion some marvels of Latin American literature chosen by him.

He will also present the book, “Laura in Havana,” a collection of ten short stories by Angel Santiesteban-Prats, published by Atinoir.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is one of the greatest Cuban authors, presently in prison after having openly criticized his country’s system. His imprisonment has generated strong support from Reporters Without Borders and the world-wide community of bloggers.

An enthralling book

“The Eleventh Commandment” is a book by Rasky Beldjoudi, a resident of the Belle de Mai.

The name Rasky Beldjoudi will surely mean nothing in particlar to you. You have never noticed him, although it’s very probable that you have already seen him on Caffo Square or perhaps, one day, sitting next to you on bus 32.

However, Rasky is impressive, muscular, and his Belgian accent with a Kabyle (Berber) accent leaves no one indifferent. Since his infancy, Rasky has accumulated difficulties. From scholastic failures to precarious employment, he knew years of struggle and the hell of drugs.

In spite of an uneven road and a life story that is sometimes not very glorious, he succeeded in rising above the circumstances of his life and has just published “The Eleventh Commandment”: an enthralling autobiography, written in a remarkable style, full of humanity, and unbelievably touching.

Nicolás ROMAN BORRE

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m.

Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai

6 Blvd. Boyer, 13003 Marseille

Free admission

Event organized by Brouettes & Compagnie, the association CIN-CO and the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai.

Translated by Regina Anavy
4 April 2014

Guille, The Macho Guajiro / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban Prats dedicates this article to Guillermo Vidal, to remember the tenth anniversary of his death. He wrote it from the Lawton Prison Settlement for the column “Some Write” from the digital magazine “OtroLunes” (“Another Monday”).

By Angel Santiesteban Prats

It’s always a pleasure to remember Guillermo Vidal.

Sharing with him the adventure of writing has been one of the great rewards that life has offered me. His sympathy, modesty and talent seasoned his conversations. He was a man called to make friends, easy to like, and always persecuted by injustice, since they never could make him bow down. He maintained his literature at a high price, because he didn’t yield even one iota of his level of social criticism.

When they expelled him as a professor from the university, they didn’t even ask how he was going to live or maintain his family. Being despised and marginalized by the government of his territory in Las Tunas, by the demand of the political police, he became himself.

He was part of an intellectual existence that he accepted with stoicism, without complaint, which he endured in solitude and repaid with brilliant writing. That was his revenge.

After treating him like the plague for many years, the government offered a tribute to an official writer, and we agreed to attend if Guille would be among those invited. Once there, in the seat of the Provincial Party, in the same lair as the dictatorship, one of us said publicly that our presence had no other end but to lionize Guillermo Vidal, the most important living writer of Las Tunas, and one of the most important in the country; that it was a way of supporting him and demonstrating our friendship.

The government functionaries and those in charge of culture opened their eyes, surprised by the audacity. Those were the times when we still had not gained some rights that we have now, and where for much less than what is done today, there were immediate reprisals.

What is certain is that on that night and in the following days, we felt like better people and better intellectuals for showing our solidarity with him. Later he let us know that, from that moment, things got better for him. He stopped being banned and persecuted, because the authorities feared his contacts in the country, especially in Havana.

Now that we are on the eve of another congress of UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), I remember what happened during the decade of the ’90s. After the vote to name the officers, Professor Ana Cairo, the officer of the Roger Avila Association of Writers, and I counted the votes, and there were a surprising number of artists who voted for Guillermo Vidal.

No one else had as many votes; no one even came close. However, later, when I saw who they elected, I understood that the votes were only a game, because Abel Prieto determined the election. They didn’t give any commission to Guillermo Vidal, not even in his own province. He was cursed, on the list of the marginalized.

When he died, it caused an infinite sadness, impossible to describe. I called the Institute of the Book (ICL), since I knew that they would have transport to take writers who wanted to participate in his burial.

The Taliban Iroel Sanchez, at that time the President of this institution, assured me that the microbus already had seats assigned. Of course, he was lying to me, and I intuited that in his words. Later, those who made the trip in that transport told me that not all the seats were taken.

I regretted very much not being able to say goodbye to him in that last moment. They feared that the truth would come out: that they had condemned him in life by closing all the doors to him that he knew his literature, a stroke of talent, would win. Surely I would have said that.

You can’t talk about Cuban literature at the end of the 20th century without mentioning the genres of the short story and the novel. However, in spite of the human misery that surrounded him, and the material poverty they obliged him to suffer, his genius at being a good Cuban jokester is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about him. That’s how I want to remember him now.

The book fairs in Havana take place in February and almost always coincide with his birthday, the 10th, that all his friends celebrated in harmony. We also celebrated February 14. I have one of his books, presented to me during those days, and I remember the dedication to me that “in spite of it being the day of love (Valentine’s Day), don’t get me wrong, I was a macho, macho guajiro.”

He had a spectacular snore. It almost loosened the nails from the beams and raised the roof. When you approached his room, the first sensation was that there was a roaring lion inside. The result? No one wanted to share a room with him.

Once, late in the night in Ciego de Avila, I met another writer from Las Tunas, Carlos Esquivel, literally crying in the lobby of the hotel because he couldn’t manage to sleep with those snorts.

When I described this scene the next day to Guillermo, he laughed like a naughty child. He asked me to repeat the story so he could continue to amuse himself, and he called for the others to listen to what suffering he was capable of inflicting, unconsciously.

In one of the prizes he won, and there were several, he had the luck to receive dollars. Then we got a telephone call saying that he was a relative of Rockefeller, and that he was ready to share his fortune; thus, he was generous. Certainly, in those few months I didn’t have a cent, and he continued in his material poverty. No one except his friends and spouse could believe him.

At one book fair in Guadalajara he told me that sometimes he had the impression that the government permitted him to leave to see if he stayed and they would get rid of him, and he laughed imagining the faces of the functionaries when they saw him return.

In one of his visits to Havana, he confessed to me how surprised he was because another writer told him that he envied him, and he couldn’t conceive of being anyone to envy, and he laughed. “When I go home from the university, at high noon, the cars pass me and no one gives me a ride, and they leave me wrapped in dust to the point that I stop breathing so I don’t swallow the dust,” he said, and he began to laugh.

Then I told him that I would exchange all that poverty for his books, that I also envied him, and he got serious, and in a respectful tone asked me if I was serious.

Thus he always comes into my memory, ironic as the priest’s pardon after confessing sins, and as sweet as the tamarind that they give the leaders to taste.

This year is the tenth anniversary of his physical disappearance. And every year, in spite of some mediocre political and cultural figures who agree to forget him, the imprint of Guillermo Vidal on Cuban culture overrides frontiers and political regimes. And this is elaborated with the passage of time, which was the only thing he didn’t laugh about. To struggle against time through writing was an exercise on which he bet his life.

Published in OtroLunes.

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Amnesty International declare the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 April 2014

Cuba: Changes Come, Although the General May Not Want Them To / Juan Juan Almeida

For more than half a century, the Cuban Revolution developed exclusively inspired by the powerful and omnipresent archetype Fidel Castro.  An image that no longer exists or is hidden is the dressing rooms of the current political-economic-social theater. That is why when someone asks me if there exist in Cuba objective and subjective conditions for forging change, I always begin by saying: It depends on what we understand and want to assume by “Change.”

It is clear that the so extended process called the Cuban Revolution did not lead to a more just or prosperous or inclusive society, but to a strange and irrational collapse that still endures. The seizure of all powers, judicial and executive, did away with the legal protection of the citizen, and imposed apathy and fear; like that singular combination that exists between a cup of coffee with milk and a piece of bread with butter.

The old Asian theory that speaks of two elements is the basis of the idea that all phenomena of the universe are the result of the movement and mutation of various categories.  The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the yin and the yang.

The presence of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the chief of the political department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and the misguided intervention of the President of the Republic of Cuba in the closing event of the recently held Eighth Congress of UNEAC was a terrible implementation of this old theory, and a disastrous strategy for showing the authority of the Government and the State, and at the same time it tried to reconquer the intelligentsia that as we all now know appears because of obstinacy, compromise, inertia or boredom, but that for some time, due to these same reasons, distanced itself from the Revolution.

The island’s government, upon the prompt and unstoppable disappearance if its leader-guide-priest and example, manages to entertain by talking of transformation while it intimidates us, leaving very clear the place of each in its chain of command.Many times we have seen dissident voices that issue from within the island repressed using mental patients with disorders like bi-polar and schizophrenia that without adequate medication exhibit extremely violent behaviors.  Outrageous.

I ask myself what the representatives of international organizations do, or what  those sensitive and passionate people who decided to defend vehemently and peevishly the Hippocratic oath say, on learning that the mentally ill are used as deadly weapons.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic, at that time the safest boat in the world, crashed into an iceberg, and while it was sinking, the orchestra played.  In all ways, whether the general wants it or not, change is coming, although I have to admit that since 2008, the man has exerted himself in confusing us with an imaginary and mythological climate of national improvements and radical reforms; on one hand he shows several political prisoners, and on the other he hides political prisoners from us (here the order of the factors does alter the product).

According to the Marxist bible, the Communist Manifesto, a transformation of the structure of the classes demands a change in the social order and a political revolution.

La Habana decided to wind up its old and rusted clock because it had turned into quite the brake.

Translated by mlk.

14 April 2014

Angel Santiesteban’s Work Again Recognized in France

The dictator Raul Castro continues stubbornly to make the world believe that he’s bringing to Cuba an opening that in reality doesn’t exist. He continues being the same dictator as always, violating the rights of all Cubans, submitting them to misery, censoring the press, harassing, beating and imprisoning peaceful opponents.

Angel Santiesteban, unjustly imprisoned, has completed one year after a rigged trial for some crimes that his ex-wife and mother of his son invented together with the political police. They sought to silence his critical voice against the dictatorship, but they have not succeeded. No punishment, beatings or prison itself has made a dent in him.

And by keeping him locked up, the dictator hasn’t prevented his literature from continuing to be recognized in the world, which condemns the injustice against him.

Again in France, this time in Marseille, his book of stories, “Laura in Havana”, published in 2012 by L’Atinoir, will be presented before the public.

Raul Castro continues violating his own law, taking away Angel’s passes that he is supposed to get every sixty days. It doesn’t matter to Angel, because when his companions go to visit their families, he takes even more advantage of the time and the calm to continue writing.

The Editor

A meeting

We invite you to a convivial meeting with Jacques Aubergy and Rasky Beldjoudi, Saturday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. at the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai (House For All of the Belle of May).

Jacques Aubergy is a translator, bookseller and publisher. His publishing house, L’Atinoir, publishes authors of noir fiction and Latin American writers.

He will speak to us of his trade, how he chooses his books, and will make us know intimately and with passion some marvels of Latin American literature chosen by him.

He will also present the book, “Laura in Havana,” a collection of ten short stories by Angel Santiesteban-Prats, published by Atinoir.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is one of the greatest Cuban authors, presently in prison after having openly criticized his country’s system. His imprisonment has generated strong support from Reporters Without Borders and the world-wide community of bloggers.

An enthralling book

“The Eleventh Commandment” is a book by Rasky Beldjoudi, a resident of the Belle de Mai.

The name Rasky Beldjoudi will surely mean nothing in particlar to you. You have never noticed him, although it’s very probable that you have already seen him on Caffo Square or perhaps, one day, sitting next to you on bus 32.

However, Rasky is impressive, muscular, and his Belgian accent with a Kabyle (Berber) accent leaves no one indifferent. Since his infancy, Rasky has accumulated difficulties. From scholastic failures to precarious employment, he knew years of struggle and the hell of drugs.

In spite of an uneven road and a life story that is sometimes not very glorious, he succeeded in rising above the circumstances of his life and has just published “The Eleventh Commandment”: an enthralling autobiography, written in a remarkable style, full of humanity, and unbelievably touching.

Nicolás ROMAN BORRE

Saturday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m., Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai, 6 Blvd. Boyer, 13003 Marseille

Free admission

Event organized by Brouettes & Compagnie, the association CIN-CO and the Maison Pour Tous de la Belle de Mai.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

 

Translated by Regina Anavy

UNEAC Complicit In Its Silence / Angel Santiesteban

Previously I have said that in the circus exercise called court, which I attended with the sentence already dictated by State Security, as I was made to know long before by one of their henchmen, a fact that I made known publicly — and which the judges in the First Chamber of Crimes Against State Security executed, in their special headquarters for notorious crimes on Carmen and Juan Delgado, when it was supposed that my crime was common — officials of the Cuban Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC) attended, sent by their president Miguel Barnet to watch the show, like poet Alex Pausides, accompanied by the legal official, who said that to his understanding what the prosecution could present against me was smoke, like the report of that handwriting expert who said that the height and slant of my handwriting made me guilty.

At the exit, the poet and Communist Party member Alex Pausides as well as the legal official, said that I would be absolved given that what was presented, and according to what was exposed in the oral ceremony, I could not be judged, especially when I presented five witnesses who demolished those accusations.

caption

Dear members of UNEAC (take note). Angel Santiesteban, Revolutionarily, Me

Then, when they found me guilty, my lawyer went to UNEAC and left all the documents that corroborated my innocence and that they requested for presentation to Miguel Barnet, but we never received an answer, they kept silent.

Of course, I am not naive, I never expected a reaction from UNEAC, I always knew what they would do, but above all, what they would not do, and they have fulfilled my predictions.  I understood that they would take that posture because I believe in history like a religion, and I knew that history would yield that despicable stance. Their silence is their shamelessness.  And that shamelessness is now written in our history.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement.  April 2014.

To sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience follow the link.

Translated by mlk.

“I Only Know That I Am Afraid” / Tania Diez Castro

HAVANA, Cuba — For almost the first three years of his regime, Fidel Castro was not interested in Cuban intellectuals. He did not forgive their passivity during the years of revolutionary insurrection. They had not put bombs in the street, nor did they engage in armed conflict with the previous dictator’s police. Even those who lived abroad did not do anything for the revolutionary triumph. He never forgave them. Neither he nor other political leaders considered them revolutionaries either before or after the Revolution.

Che Guevara had left it written forever in his little Marxist manual Socialism and Man in Cuba: “The guilt of many of our intellectuals and artists resides in their original sin: they are not authentically revolutionary. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will produce pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees.”

But the pears that Che mentioned had nothing to do with human beings because an intellectual, writer or artist is characterized by his sensitivity, his pride, his sincerity. In general, they are solitary and proud.

But also they are, and that is their misfortune, an easy nut to crack, above all for a dictator with good spurs.

During those almost first three years of the Revolution, the most convulsive of the Castro regime — the number of those shot increased and the few jails were stuffed with more than 10,000 political prisoners — surely writers did not fail to observe how Fidel Castro was cracking the free press when after December 27, 1959, he gave the order to introduce the first “post-scripts” at the bottom of articles adverse to his government, supposedly written by the graphics workers.

It was evident that Fidel Castro, who controlled the whole country, did not want to approach them to fill leadership positions of cultural institutions founded by the regime, like the Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry, House of the Americas, the Latin News Press Agency and numerous newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations that were nationalized.

For minister of education he preferred Armando Hart. For the House of the Americas, a woman very far from being an intellectual, Haydee Santamaria.  For the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, Papito Serguera, and for the Naitonal Council of Culture, Vicentina Antuna and Edith Garcia Buchaca, two women unknown in cultural domain.

The first approach that Fidel Castro had with writers, June 16, 1961, in the National Library of Havana, could not have been worse. It was there where he exclaimed his famous remark, “Within the Revolution, everything; outside the Revolution, nothing,” and where he made clear that those who were dedicated to Art had to submit themselves to the will of the Revolution, something that is still in force.

The maximum leader left that closed-door meeting more than pleased on seeing the expressions of surprise and fear of many of those present, and above all by the words of Virgilio Pinera, one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century when he said: “I just know that I am scared, very scared.” That precisely was what the new Cuban leader most needed to hear from the intellectual throng: Fear, to be able to govern at his whim.

Two months later the Fist Congress of Cuban Writers and Artists was held, and UNEAC was founded.  The intellectuals had fallen into line.

If something was said about that palatial headquarters, property of a Cuban emigrant, it is that the Commandant was allergic to all who had their own judgment, and for that reason he would never visit it, as it happened.

It is remembered still today that in a public speech on March 13, 1966, he attacked the homosexuals of UNEAC, threatening to send them to work agriculture in the concentration camps of Camaguey province. The “Enlightened One,” as today the president of UNEAC Miguel Barnet calls the Cuban dictator, kept his word. Numerous writers and graphic artists found themselves punished with forced labor in the unforgettable Military Units to Assist Production — UMAP.

These Nazi-style units were created in 1964 and closed four years later after persistent international complaints. If anyone knew and knows still the most hidden thoughts of the intellectuals, besides their sexual intimacy, it is the Enlightened One, thanks to his army of spies, members of the political police who work in the shadows of the mansion of 17th and H, in the Havana’s Vedado where UNEAC put down roots.

In 1977, one cannot forget the most cruel and abominable blow that the Enlightened One directed against the writers of UNEAC when his army of political police extracted from the drawers of the headquarters the files of more than 100 members — among them was mine as founder — so that they were definitively and without any explanation separated from the Literature Section of that institution.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014

Translated by mlk.