Cuba: The fight against Ebola is the new theater of war / Juan Juan Almeida

Every interesting story has light and dark parts, epic actions, and a protagonist who inspires. The rest consists of weaving reasons and emotions together by way of origami.

The Cuban government knows very well how to put into practice its habitual juggling act in order to locate itself opportunely at the center of all news flashes. Cuban doctors have been sent to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and by taking advantage of this, the government feeds the false image of having no self-interest in this new theater of war, where everything is tested, even human sacrifice.

We could see that during the recently-concluded Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America Trade Treaty of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP) the moment of emotion was at the meeting of the heads of state, delegations, and invited personalities with the Cuban collaborators from the medical brigades, who that same night, October 21, left for Liberia and Conakry, Guinea.

Hail, Caesar; those who are about to die salute you. They know that if they become contagious they can’t come back to the country until they are cured or die. A hard but wise decision, because the island is not prepared to receive the sick without activating the usual chain of errors that, as we already know and even have suffered, facilitated the epidemic proliferation of conjunctivitis, cholera, chikungunya, dengue fever, and a long list of contagious etceteras.

The photo of the Summit is beautiful, but the Summit didn’t provide much. A declaration with 23 points of agreement and little money. Cheap politicking. The illness continues unabated. According to data offered by Mr. Bruce Aylward, the Assistant-Director General of the World Health Organization, the situation is alarming. They have confirmed cases of infected people in seven countries, and it’s estimated that by the beginning of this coming December, if things continue as is, the number of people infected with Ebola could reach 5,000 to 10,000 cases weekly.

It’s clear that the Cuban government wants to pursue more than just aiding and combating the mortal virus. With this new crusade, in addition to confronting an emergency, it will receive a spurt of dollars to spend excessively without needing to justify it. The government is developing a strategy to favorably influence the UN vote on human rights and the American embargo. A key point.

It’s clearly persuasive. There is no greater veneration in the human condition than for the action of saving lives — even more captivating when the effort means risking your own.

We can criticize them or see from the computer how General Raul Castro and his buddies are gaining space in Realpolitik (practical interests and concrete actions). The other option would be to equal or, even better, to surpass them. To silence, with real actions, the humanitarian chatter of the Cuban revolution, its hapless friends of ALBA, and its cousins in the TCP.

But for that we would have to be ready not only to  help the needy but also to define who we are and what exiled Cubans can do. To act together with international organizations who work in the center of the crisis. To buy medical and hygienic supplies, protective uniforms, stretchers, gloves, disinfectants, and instruments for the centers that treat the sick. It’s not difficult.

Certainly we can continue believing that we create a homeland on the Internet, or we can grab the limelight away from the revolutionary government. But that, paraphrasing the title of the bolero, is for you to decide.

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 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

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

Amidst Rumors and Disinformation, Angel Santiesteban Continues Missing

{*Translator’s Note: Angel disappeared from prison on July 21, 2014. As of today he has not been heard from for 29 days.}

Five days* have passed now since the disappearance of the writer Angel Santiesteban in Havana, barely hours after he wrote a post from Lawton prison,  in which he announced to the world that there were strong rumors that the Regime’s prison authorities would transfer him to a higher security prison.

After his disappearance from said prison last July 21, without the Cuban authorities informing family members of anything, another rumor started circulating: supposedly, Angel Santiesteban had escaped. In a telephone call that the writer’s son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban, made to the prison, worried at not knowing anything about his father, a minor official confirmed the rumor. “I don’t know if they did it to scare me, to make me more nervous than I am,” said the 16-year-old, on the Columbian television program, Night, Channel NTN24. In conversations with family and friends he has said that he feels this lie by the regime’s prison officials is a bad sign. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban and the Path of the Fugitive

By Armando Añel, July 30, 2014

The confused news that comes from Havana indicates that either Angel Santiesteban ran away from the prison-settlement where he was unjustly imprisoned or the political police have launched a fabrication to condemn him to a longer term of imprisonment and keep him isolated.

In any case, we must wait for specific statements from the novelist and blogger. Today we know that his children saw him in prison but they couldn’t speak freely with him: a member of State Security was with them the whole minuscule time they were with their father.

I don’t believe it, but if Santiesteban effectively took the decision to flee — in spite of the fact that, as his sister Maria de los Angeles Santiesteban said, at another time he could have remained in the exterior without major inconvenience and he didn’t do so — I congratulate him.

Begging pardon from friends and colleagues who disagree, one never should surrender to a delinquent regime. In Cuba no procedural guarantee exists, and we all know the degree of superlative helplessness that the citizenry suffers. A product that the Castro regime has exported to countries like Venezuela, where the case of Leopoldo Lopez shows that these gestures of chivalry are counterproductive in societies hijacked by the State.

I chatted with Idabell Rosales for a moment. Santiesteban never should go into prison voluntarily. Not only because of the rigged trial that he suffered previously and that made his sentence absolutely unjust, but also because in countries like Cuba all the gear of social coexistence, of daily structure, is flawed in advance and twists the logic of personal relations.

During these last months, in the face of the campaign for his freedom, he saw with clarity the degree of vilification by the Cuban intellectual class not only on the Island or among the pro-Castro creators, but also in the exterior and in a part of the media-oriented dissidence that he says “laments” his detention but travels half the world without advocating for his freedom.

To live in Cuba is to surrender to a darkly surrealist reality, and to yield to the jailers of the country as he did in 2013, seemed to me and seems to me to be doubly absurd. Fugitives don’t hand themselves over. But I respect, scrupulously, the author of The Summer God Slept and those who defend that type of attitude, brave like very few. It appears that God continues to sleep. Although, as Carlos Alberto Montaner said, we also know that He will wake up.

Published in NeoClub Press.

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience. Follow the link to sign the petition.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Completely dismantled, the farce against Angel Santiesteban continues in an unknown location

Angel continues being held in an unknown location, transferred illegally and without being able to communicate to his family, a few days after his son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban Rodriguez, told the truth about what happened when he was only a child. He now is a 16-year-old adolescent.

Forced and manipulated by his mother — Kenia Diley Rodriguez — and Castro’s State Security, he has told now that the objective was to harm his father and declare against him. He said that he never saw anything of what his mother said Angel had done to her, and that everything is a plot in order to punish Angel for his dissidence, and that his mother, for motives of “love,” collaborated with the Regime to lie.

It’s important to clarify that the ex-partner was the one who abandoned Angel and the two-and-a half-year-old boy, a little before she started to make up false accusations against him.

She abandoned him after deceiving him with a lover who had made promises to her that later he didn’t keep, and she, disenchanted with that lover, decided to try to win him back, something she couldn’t do, because he had already formed a stable partnership with a very well-known and beautiful Cuban actress. Kenia, disgusted and jealous, formed a new partnership with an agent of the political police, and from that moment the false accusations rained down. Continue reading

S.O.S. Imminent Transfer: Am I more dangerous than the murderers? / Angel Santiesteban

In the most total secrecy, State Security is preparing my transfer to a military unit of border guards.

In the last few days, a rumor started that now has become plausible, inasmuch as the prison authorities are waiting for my transfer in order to bring me to a Minister or a Vice-Minister of Construction who keeps convicts for “diversion of resources,” and in no way can they clash with me, fearing that I will get information from them and later divulge it in my blog.

After a prisoner escaped and managed to reach Miami, State Security ordered that the surveillance on me be strengthened, so they set up a 24-hour command post and kept every movement that I make inside the settlement under supervision.

A few minutes ago, they just ordered a welding of some bars to secure the place where they’re taking me, and the bars have to be placed in the frontier-guard unit before morning.

Evidently, they will keep me more guarded and isolated there. Another chapter begins in this journey of injustice, for my dangerous crime of thinking differently.

I reaffirm that I am stronger than the first day of imprisonment. It’s an honor that they commit these extremes against me — for exercising the craft of thinking and expressing my opposition to the dictatorial regime that has suppressed our country for more than a half-century — while they accept murderers, drug traffickers and rapists, whom they barely harass or watch, like they do in my case.

Long live Cuba, and let it be free.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, July 2014.

Follow the link to sign the petition to have Amnesty International declare Angel Santestieban-Prats a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Regina Anavy

21 July 2014

Are Anguish, Bitterness and Loneliness Only Names of Havana Streets? / Angel Santiesteban

A voyage to the end of all things.

By Antonio Correa Iglesias, June 6, 2014

Angustia (Anguish), Amargura (Bitterness) and Soledad (Loneliness) are not only names of Havana streets. They also are discovered feelings that seize and condition that which we call Cuba, the infinite island, which Abilion Estevez and Virgilio Pinera call the fate of being cursed, a portion of earth that floats in the sea, a sea that is the beginning and end of everything, where weightlessness and drifting are forms of keeping afloat.

But the island is also longing and folly, desire and debauchery, hatred for those who have made Cuba a prison of 111,111 square kilometers, as Reinaldo Arenas reminds us in his Leprosorio. The island and its agony accompany us each morning when we prepare coffee, a coffee which reminds us where we came from, and by those smoky silhouettes of a woman we remembered the amazing knitting grandmother who  helped the homesick and the spoiled greet the dawn. How Cuba hurts, and hurts much more when we find in a literary exercise a daily reality like that which Angel Santiesteban Prats describes for us in a clear and visceral voice. Continue reading

The Tribal Unity of the Dissenters / Angel Santiesteban

I want to mention the appearance of laziness inside the Cuban opposition, because — in my opinion — this is what most corrodes our political force and does the lamentable work of the common enemy.

And I’m not even referring to those who must be sprinkled among us doing the terrible and cowardly work of the satraps, but also to that partitioning of ideas and movements, where each one thinks he’s better and more important, and that his work will be most recognized.

I have listened to those who talk about themselves and their work, and — even recognizing their merits — later I have seen how they end up lowering themselves, diminishing themselves as human beings. They leave much to be desired from those feelings that — I take for granted — all fighters for human rights should have.

Comprehension and respect are important to co-exist with others and above all, you know what, not thinking you’re better than anyone else… Just as there are a lot of people who don’t like me… it makes sense to assume that I can’t like a ton of imbeciles… no?

Sometimes, the daring of confronting a regime isn’t sufficient when we ignore common sense and let them impose that mechanism educated in misery that they have imposed on us since birth. Continue reading

Response to my Blog Readers / Angel Santiesteban

Messages come to my blog mail, some elegant with congratulations for “my upright position” before the dictatorship; others, interested in my health, like this one that I answer in which they ask questions because they don’t understand why I’m in prison, then recognize that sometimes there are contradictions. And of course, this happens so much that I thought I needed to answer. With the most possible brevity, I’ll try to answer many questions in one single answer: this post.

Everything that is sanctioned in Cuba with a maximum sentence of five years is recognized as a “minimum severity” conviction. There are three types of sentences: “maximum”, “medium” and “minimal severity”. As my punishment was for five years, according to the present laws for prisoners condemned for “minimal severity”, they had to place me in a settlement.

The prisoners of “prioritized” character (meaning the most dangerous, condemned for murder, trafficking of people or drugs, economic crimes, rape, pederasty, etc.) are always sent to prisons. Continue reading

The New Man in Cuba in Search of Anabolic Steroids / Juan Juan Almeida

You don’t need to be an expert critic, clairvoyant sociologist or a wise politician to understand that when you grow up in a totalitarian and absolutist country like Cuba, flooded with numerous afflictions, it’s normal to feel small.

Thus, because of the great restrictions on individual freedom, the meager access to modernity and a determined idleness, every day more young Cubans, trapped in the wrong time of an epoch that doesn’t move on, however much it’s announced, and doesn’t arrive, evade reality by finding refuge in sex, drugs, alcohol, emigration, robbing, lying and in a new sickness that, although it’s not recognized as such by the international medical community, is now all the craze.

The consumption of anabolic steroids has grown into an epidemic, especially among adolescents and young people, who want to improve their physical and esthetic qualities. They also are sure they will lose body fat, which is in vogue. Continue reading

What Can an Independent Lawyer do in Cuba? / Laritza Diversent

In Cuba, professionals can’t work for themselves in the specialty in which they graduate. Legal counseling and consulting are not recognized as self-employed activities, the only actions that a lawyer can perform independently. The few that make this decision have to do it for free.

It’s also difficult to form an autonomous association. The red tape required to legalize a non-profit organization assures that the State has absolute control over it.

To these limitations economic dependence is also added. The lawyer who doesn’t work for the State doesn’t earn anything. In order to survive, in a system where the economic crisis is permanent, independent lawyers collect extra honoraria, even when the regulation on the practice of advocacy, among other causes, considers it a serious shortcoming to receive honoraria that are not established or are better than those officially approved, whether in cash or in kind. A double morality is imposed by these conditions on the practice of advocacy in Cuba, and with it comes total submission to the system.

See Artículo 59.3 inciso c, Resolución No. 142/84 “Regulation on the practice of Advocacy and the National Organization of Collective Law Firms.”

From Jurisconsulto de Cuba, by Laritza Diversent

Translated by Regina Anavy

9 June 2014