A Hero and a Villain / Angel Santiesteban

The citation document sent to Angel Lazaro Santiesteban Prats to put him in prison.

To be a Cuban dissident in prison — who doesn’t tremble at denouncing the Castro dictatorship — and to be designated by Reporters without Borders as one of the “100 Heroes of Information,” is not only an immense honor but also makes Angel Santiesteban-Prats worthy of some “benefits” that only Raul Castro’s state security knows about and can grant.

And yes, Angel Santiesteban — before knowing that he was one of the 100 Heroes — suspected that something had happened. Mysteriously, that day Officer Abat came to the settlement to order the guards to have more control and security over him. Later, when he knew about this, he understood that it was apprehension and fear that made them send the officer to order such measures. Continue reading

Are the Castros Using Civil Crimes to Imprison Their Opponents? / Angel Santiesteban

The Cuban writer and blogger, Angel Santiesteban-Prats, imprisoned since 2013 by the Castro brothers’ regime, spoke from prison in an exclusive interview with “Zoom to the News” of NTN24.

The dissident, who is serving a sentence of five years for supposed charges of inter-family violence, criticized the Castro regime and said “I don’t believe in the alleged intention of political opening.”

He even claimed that “as in my case, the Castros are using civil crimes to imprison their opponents.”

“In no moment will there be an opening for a national consensus”: Santiesteban.

[site manager: Our apologies, this video is not translated.]

Translated by Regina Anavy

6 May 2014

Behind the Scenes of the First of May / Angel Santiesteban

The May Day parade in Cuba

“I have little to lose by going,” I heard him say to a civil worker in the military enterprise where they keep me stowed away. “And I say little because if I lose that, I’ll be up in the air.”

Those who were listening shook their heads in agreement; it was a general fact. “My son studies at the university,” said another. “He has to fake it until he graduates. He even has to be a militant in the Young Communists in order to open doors and be trusted, and when they give him the first opportunity to travel, he will stay.”

There was a poignant silence. “We have to do what we can,” said the first guy. “The little we have is a pittance; we have to care for it more than if we had a lot. I can’t give myself the luxury of losing even a hair.”

“The parade, I’m going to the parade,” said the single man. “I will repudiate…I’m going to scream and kill if it’s necessary. I have to survive.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

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

To sign the petition, follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

7 May 2014

Angel Santiesteban Among the 100 Information Heroes of Reporters without Borders

Angel Santiesteban’s struggle is not in vain.

The more the dictatorship tried to silence him by shutting him away in its miserable concentration camps, his strengths only continued to grow, so that now he is not alone in being recognized for his excellent literary work. The dictatorship established him in world history as one of the umpteen heroes who, like he, set themselves as a model, each minute, each second, in order to fulfill their sacred duty to defend liberty and the rights of all.

Continue reading

The Fake UNEAC Congress / Angel Santiesteban

(Image taken from the Internet)

Once again, the official intellectuals are summoned to “participate” in another Congress of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), to be used as political reaffirmation for the Regime, since they won’t do anything else, the same as on previous occasions.

Some will bleed for their suffering, the officials will pretend to listen, and it will even appear that something will be done in this regard, when the reality is that they will forget the problems, and they will remain only in the memory of those who are present.

The dictatorship, as it always does, will allow the media to publish or televise some sentimental intervention, to make us believe that it has been a space for free debate, and thus hide the hand of censorship that they constantly apply to us.

Those elected know that they would never be able to say what they hide, their true thinking with respect to the dictatorship, and as in a double game, they will also pretend that the first task is to save the culture, when in practice they only save their lifetime stay in power.

Those intellectuals — the majority — entered into the process when they were very young; today they are a litter of oldsters brought to heel who ooze from the wounds made by Fidel Castro and who have overcome profound humiliations: they carried out cynical condemnations and then couldn’t appear physically in society.

I remember when in the “war of the emails” — as a result of some negative characters returning to public view, repressors in the cultural sector in the ’70s — the majority of intellectuals attacked that possibility, and when the government understood that the protest was growing, they ordered the ringmaster, Abel Prieto, to block the bulls, and that they be the ones who watch the affair.

There were hundreds of letters, first nationally and then from every corner of the planet where there was a Cuban who had been harmed by those people. No one ever said that the guiltiest of all was Fidel Castro. They only permitted themselves to judge the people, pure fallen trees that already weren’t of interest to the State, like the comandante Papito Serguera and Luis Pavón, among others.

I dared to say, in my only email that I dedicated to the matter, that we do nothing by condemning the officials who were removed suddenly, when the intellectual author, Fidel Castro, was still in power, that those who they attacked now were no more than repressors, executioners who executed under the orders of the Castro brothers.

Now they had to endure the pretense that they, omnipotent leaders, didn’t know about the purges in the cultural sector, the persecution of homosexuals or artists who shaped some critical revelations in their work. The intellectuals – even in their letters – were not capable of questioning the centers of Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP).

They played their false roles of bulls seated on the steps while they watched the master of the toreros in the ring and the firefighter in the cultural sector, Abel Prieto, manipulate the affair behind closed doors with some conferences, to drain once and for all the spiteful feelings provoked by the constant reactions.

It will be another congress without solid contributions to the cultural process that strengthens the cultural sector.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

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

Translated by Regina Anavy
14 April 2014

The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths / Angel Santiesteban

When the 20 convicts who accompany me go out on pass for family reunions, I send them off with the joy that spreads to me from their happy faces. They are barely gone when I plunge myself into literature. Nothing will hurt my exorbitant creation, not even the knowledge that they will deny me the passes I should get according to the Penal Code. They return to violating my rights, now as a prisoner serving a wrongful conviction.

How could I be bored with the quantity of work that awaits me? I remember that night of November 8, 2012, when we were arrested and taken away by the Santiago de Vegas police, after being beaten in front of the police station of Acosta, where we were demonstrating our disagreement with the unjust detention of Antonio Rodiles.

Sharing a cell with the dissident Eugenio Leal, they released me at midnight, but scarcely had I advanced 100 meters when in the darkness of that road–and like a childish game–some seven guards who were waiting for me surged from behind the bushes to announce that I had to return to the cell. I did it happily, since my brothers in struggle remained there, and I felt humiliated at having been the only one to be set free.

Now neither do they notice in me any anxiety, except that which provokes me to want freedom for the prisoners of conscience that today they keep in different prisons throughout the island, the dream of democracy with the disappearance of the totalitarian regime, and free literary creation. Outside of that, nothing drives away my peace.

I am happy in this life because I have learned that I want to struggle even with my fingernails; it’s the way to grapple with the need to comply with our conscience, feelings, family education and patriotic readings.

All that impels me to leave the path of masks with which an artist can live in a dictatorship. I simply ripped up the immorality with which you survive in the Regime, and I decided to renounce everything I had obtained. I presumed a pure honest talent.

Beginning then, of course, I received the answer that totalitarian regimes have for these cases: first the threats, later the direct rebuff, beatings, fractures, censorship, the diabolic mechanism of the “injustice” of the organs of State Security, hidden behind courts that answer to their designs, and, finally, prison.

All that has only served more to multiply all my strengths, hopes, dreams, and my creativity. Now I am more conscious of the need for my country to attain the rights proclaimed by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose Pacts the Regime still hasn’t ratified in spite of having obtained a seat on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

The solitude of the barracks is a great stimulus for dedicating myself to writing, and the constant vigilance of the uniforms around me adds to my verve. I know they are beaten because they search for a way to get rid of my power without receiving punishment for their offenses.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

6 April 2014

Honor for Reporters without Borders / Angel Santiesteban

Dear Christophe Deloire,

Secretary General of Reporters without Borders,

“Honor to those who deserve it,” said our José Martí, anticipating my mother, who inculcated in my education the culture of gratitude.

Many at the start of my imprisonment have stayed at my side in this passage that has lasted more than a year; but Reporters without Borders has been the most outstanding, when, from the beginning, after reading all my proofs presented in the alleged “trial” that they carried out, and later augmented in the Review, they decided to support me without flinching one iota in my defense.

In a personal letter, where I also thanked them for their honest and brave stance, I described to them the feeling that embraces us when, from the darkest cell, behind bars, abused by the henchmen of the dictatorship, we get a sign of encouragement from the organization that you lead, calling on the totalitarian President of State to restore the rights that were taken away.

In my personal case, it provided me this extra strength, after two weeks in the hole on a hunger strike, that made me feel happy for what I do although they advised me and begged that I consider my life first and never choose starvation as a way of struggle.

In spite of the suffering of being deprived of the most valuable thing for a human being, freedom, and of missing our families and the free consumption of art, we feel worthy of such luck, if the state without rights persists in our faces.

I want a country without censorship, and when that happens, we will be living a new political, social and cultural stage, for the Cuba we need to build with the force of everyone. Until then, a grateful hug to you and your work team, especially to the warm and selfless work of Camille Soulier and Lucie Morillon, always attentive to what is happening on our continent with the lamentable regression in the matter of freedom of expression and the persecution of professionals of information, particularly their compromise with Cuban journalists.

All your work is laudable and fundamental for the quest for personal and civic liberties of those of us who humbly wish to contribute a light of truth from the center of total darkness.

Angel Santiesteban Prats

Lawton prison settlement. April 2014.

So that Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience,  please follow the link to sign the petition.

Translated by Regina Anavy
23 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

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

Photophobia / Regina Coyula

According to the still very useful UTEHA dictionary, photophobia is a medical term which means discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light. But the photophobia of my story has nothing to do with medical apprehension, but rather with social apprehension.

More and more I am hearing about people who want to take photos in public places and are told that it’s prohibited. It’s not a matter of taking photos of military units or the movement of troops, no. On a public street, in a pharmacy, in the agro-market, in a maternity hospital, in a night club, a stern employ arrives who threatens the photographer, who, generally, abides by the absurd order.

This paranoia can’t be spontaneous, it has to obey “training passed down”, where behind every camera lens could be hiding, horror!, an independent journalist, which is to say, a CIA agent.

The citizens, of course, say that in order to have legal force, the said prohibition has to be clear and very visible, and be endorsed by a resolution and not by the caprice of an administrator, director or the police.

If there is nothing to hide, why the fear?

 Translated by Regina Anavy

2 April 2014