Second Open Letter to Raul Castro from Angel Santiesteban

First page of the handwritten letter

First page of the handwritten letter

Mr. Ruler:

On February 28 I completed one year of unjust imprisonment, after a trial where I demonstrated my innocence with multiple proofs and witnesses. In exchange, the Prosecutor couldn’t present one single consistent proof against me, except the malicious – in addition to being ridiculous – one of an expert calligrapher who, after having ordered me to copy an economic article from the newspaper Granma, the Official Organ of the Communist Party, gave an opinion that the height and slant of my handwriting showed I was guilty.

All this happened four years after the supposed event, where they saddled me with a crime that I didn’t commit. To make things worse, this whole circus that went down against me was corroborated by the henchman Camilo, an official of State Security, long before the Court passed sentence.

Being detained – after a demonstration of support by other compatriots in opposition – this official announced to me before witnesses that I “would be sentenced to five years of privation of liberty,” a declaration that he published on the Internet, one month before the official pronouncement of the Court, an organ that should be impartial, should act independently, but that in addition to clearly following the rulings of State Security, perpetrated another flagrant violation during the judicial trial, upon adding to my penalty one more year than the maximum established by the Penal Code.

My case, like many others, shows that after the coming to power of your family, the Castros, there isn’t even a minimum of independence among the legislative, executive and judicial powers, which exists in all nations that are truly democratic.

These powers are managed by you at your whim and convenience. And history shows that when these powers are manipulated by the same entity, whatever the ideology, we are dealing with a dictatorship, where the only thing left to us is the possibility of interrupting and having influence with our opinions in the fourth power: communication, the news, achieved thanks to the development of the Internet, and to thereby circumvent your iron control on the media. And for that I have been punished. Continue reading

File 444: New Proof of My Innocence / Angel Santiesteban

Cuban police, according to the TV series “Patrol 444.”

The accusations against me began a few months after I opened my blog, The Children Nobody Wanted. And when the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) informed State Security that they were handling an invitation for me to attend the Festival of the Word in Puerto Rico, I was immediately summoned to the police station to impose on me a bond of 1,000 pesos, to prevent me from participating in that cultural activity. I remember that while I refused to make the payment, a Major who casually answered to the name Kenia — like my accuser — picked up the telephone to call Miguel Barnet, the President of UNEAC, so he would help convince me to pay, and make me give way before my defiant attitude of preferring to be in prison.

I had been accompanied by a writer friend, a brother, one of those whom life presents and who suffers for you more or as much as those who were born from the uterus of my mother. With the best intention, he pleaded that I accept payment of the bond before the threat of being sent to the cell. Finally I accepted that bond months after the accusations, and the file was archived for being considered insufficient, corroborating the constant contradictions of the prosecutor, who was changing statements, enlarging them, taking them away, and lying openly, because that was the way to silence the possibility of being denounced from abroad.

Years later, precisely during those days of the Festival of the Book in Havana, I approached the bank to collect the bond, placed by the one who paid it while I was detained in the police station: The bank denied the payment and sent it to the police station and from there to the prosecution, to discover – as if there weren’t sufficient proofs presented of my innocence – that the ones who imposed the bond, and so took possession of the bureaucratic paperwork, was State Security.

My writer friend had called me alarmed, impressed by the scarce decency and the rough methods used against me. I was punished as a common prisoner, my friend told me, but in the main chamber of State Security’s Provincial Tribunal, in the special venue for distinguished cases of Carmen and Juan Delgado. Now he confirms that the bond was imposed by the “political police”; he said he was impressed. I learned that my case was numbered “444″ like a television serial that is shown these days. My friend is sad. I laugh at such ridicule, such cowardice, and I imagine the day when the truth will come out into the light and unmask the cunning politics. What would they think, those people who support the government or stay silent in order avoid prosecution?

Time and patience, my mother counsels me. Today I oblige her.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. February 2014.

 Translated by Regina Anavy

24 February 2014

Castro Logic? Covering up an Injustice by Making it Worse / Angel Santiesteban

Neither the righteous nor the sinners

The settlement where I find myself detained is a fine example of the slave labor that exists in the Castro brothers’ dictatorship.

The prisoners are up at five in the morning, and they keep them going almost until midnight, or perhaps longer, according to the immediate work needed. The food, in addition to being scare, is poorly prepared and sometimes rotten: acid picadillo, raw undercooked chicken and, countless times, stale bread. Eggs, rice and a tasteless, colorless soup is the constant menu.

These prisoners endure the long march because it offers them the possibility of visiting their family every 27 days for 72 hours. They go from one pass to another, moreover enduring bad treatment and the usual blackmail that can make them lose the pass if they don’t complete their work in the time demanded.

In my case, as I don’t collaborate with the reeducation program, my regulation pass for my punishment is for every 70 days. State Security suspended my last passes. They don’t want me immersed in civil society; I represent a great danger. It wasn’t just for the fun of doing it that they constructed my crime.

Really, as I made known to Major Cobas and the rest of the repressors who accompanied him, “You will not be able hurt my ideas in any way.” When I preferred to be taken prisoner rather than emigrate on a boat to Miami, it was because I felt fortified for the experience that awaited me. The worst thing about hired assassins is that their injustice is without limits, and to justify my not leaving, they have withheld the pass from these ruined hands that remain captive, without carrying about the extreme submission, that they accept full-time.

To cover up the injustice committed against me, they have made it greater. I would have to decipher the true intention they pursue; perhaps it’s to provoke criticism of me by those prisoners and at some moment generate some retaliation upon seeing me at fault for their punishments. I remain alone awaiting their reactions. The dictatorship observes. They are interested only in maintaining power for the dynastic clan of the Castro brothers. What’s certain is that nothing provokes me to break. Their abuses redouble my resolve.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, February 2014

Please follow the link to sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

7 February 2014

Cuba and Its Parts in Conflict / Angel Santiesteban

We know that in more than a half century of command, the only thing that has interested the Castro brothers is to keep their damn power. For that they have submerged the nation in profound poverty. In order to maintain their prolonged rule, they have converted the country into a state of terror.

They have filled the prisons with young people who, not having another option, have preferred to become delinquents rather than becoming submerged in the profound, generalized economic crisis. Also the professionals, after pursuing advanced degrees and becoming professionals who would be in high demand in any other country, are obligated to commit crimes of embezzlement. The lucky ones have found a way of leaving the country definitively, or by employment contracts between the states in question, and with meager pay, which helps them to moderate their miserable lives.

Another part keeps hoping to emigrate, and while that wait goes by, they repress their longing to think, criticize, demand better, because they fear reprisals from the political police for daring to dissent from the government program, and they survive on remittances received from the exterior.

The minority remain, those who don’t have even a remote possibility of emigrating or receiving remittances, and although they may also dissent like the rest, they have no other option but to cling to the structures of power to receive the inferior surplus that they let escape for those who get close, which is barely sufficient to breathe and to survive.

Power is maintained thanks to the blackmail of this minority, which they use as a repressive force. The so-called “white collar” crimes are very common, because they toil like prisoners, in economic control or directing construction works.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, January 2014

Please follow the link and sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

15 February 2014

Details of Insularity / Angel Santiesteban

Historically, we Cubans have been separated politically, and although diversity is healthy for free thought and democracy, we have been marked by the extreme of what we wish to attain and defended it at all costs.

José Martí never was understood by those upper military leaders who accompanied him, and his death, in a certain way, was caused by them. Before, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes also had his political enemies inside the mambisa rebels, until he was removed as the President of the Republic in Arms, and replaced with Salvador Cisneros Betancourt; then they left him alone and without protection in San Lorenzo, and there is a version of someone confessing at some moment that it was a betrayal of the high command of the insurrection.

Political struggle has been a constant in Cuban history; inequality existed even within the same parties. The day that we learn to listen and understand one another will be the day we have the force to change our society. But first we have to start with ourselves, an unfinished subject for all Cubans. Until then, unity is till a pending issue, and the freedom of Cuba is compromised.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, February 2014

Please follow the link to sign the petition to have the dissident Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuba Makes Claims to UNESCO Contrary to Common Sense / Angel Santiesteban

How do you explain to Mr. Herman Van Hooff, Director of the UN Regional Office of Culture for Latin America and the Caribbean for UNESCO, that Cuba lies in all its public statistics?

Director Van Hooff declared this past Wednesday, February 5, that “Cuba holds a recognized position at the world level with high indices of implementation of the objectives of education for all.” (As reported in the newspaper Granma.)

To read the official reports and be guided by them is to fall into a fraudulent game. For a full appraisal, if you want an honest one, I advise you to read the blogs and news reports of independent journalists, who by practicing ethical principles in writing the truth, are beaten, harassed and imprisoned, for writing about the prevailing daily reality in the Cuban archipelago.

Those of us who have kids can say how truthful the daily journals are, making us the unique source able to bear witness, only to take the chance — without any interest other than expressing the truth — of being put in a punishment cell: The schools lack teachers from the primary levels, the great majority of them without skill or the base of minimal knowledge indispensable for the job, to such a degree that the pupils correct the teachers’ basic spelling mistakes on the blackboard.

This began with the great fiasco of “Emerging Teachers” — luckily the last of the mega-plans of Fidel Castro, who thought that only by having the idea occur to him and his fondness for incentives for the pedagogues would the country’s grave problems in education be solved with these “teachers.”

They were a force of teenagers without a base of knowledge facing the classrooms. They committed the most brutal crimes of a human being, like killing a pupil by beating him with a chair in the basic secondary school Domingo Sarmientos, in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton, which only came to light through independent journalism. Continue reading

The Common Position and Selective Blindness / Angel Santiesteaban

The worst blind spot is the one you don’t want to see.

While the European Union was planning to change its Common Position, the totalitarian Cuban regime was imprisoning the opposition on the eve of receiving the presidents for the CELAC Summit.

In these moments of economic crisis, there is no greater urgency for the European countries than to address and to reverse their rates of inflation and unemployment. They’ve thrown aside ethics and scruples in order to decide to open up relations with the Cuban regime, never mind the fact that there are violations of human rights, imprisonment of the opposition, violent beatings of those who demonstrate peacefully and assassinations of the most outstanding leaders.

We know that the Castro brothers won’t permit any imposition that would give space to the dissidence. They won’t even sign the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which in this 21st century, should be the minimal condition of any State to earn respect from the international community. That would be the small contribution that the European Community could give to the Cuban people, and it would be the only credible step for Raúl Castro if it’s really his intention to offer openings and improvements to Cuban society in general.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, January 2014

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

10 February 2014

Books in Cuba: When a Preface Steals the Limelight / Juan Juan Almeida

Over-fulfilling the goals of the books programmed to be delivered to the printer, now they’re regulating the presence of the second edition of “History of a Liberator, 1952-1958″ in all the independent book stalls, libraries, whether they’re provincial, scholastic, universities and even childcare centers, bookstores and Cuban consulates abroad.

The reason: Ex-president Fidel Castro edited the preface of this sleep-inducing volume that, boring as a funeral, was written by Georgina Leyva Pagán, the wife and life companion of Julio Camacho Aguilera, a member of the Central Committee of the Party and octogenarian constituent of the so-called Rebel Army, whom many people from Santiago surely remember for his inefficient management as first secretary of the party in Santiago de Cuba, between 1985 and 1987, as much as the fact that he generated a contagious conga popular in the teasing style that said, “Ay Camacho, Camacho, we are drunk all the time”.

Such an epic reference book isn’t an analytical study (or auto-analytical) about the harmful consequences that the indiscriminate use of alcohol causes to the intellectual health of a state official. It’s a selective compendium and testimony in which, scarcely separating guilt and innocence, emerges a series of data that with extraordinary invention, stained with something of imagination, permits the reader to confuse once again the spirit of that group of men who decided to twist the economic, political and social direction of our Caribbean island in an evil direction.

With theatrical gestures, like some impressive disciple of Bertolt Brecht or Konstantín Stanislavski, the publisher of such an ominous tome didn’t read the fragments of the same but centered her attention on the ceremonial torch of an inevitable preface. “Gina, in her book, helped me to remember and understand with more precision the thinking that propelled me in those intense years I lived, although, yes, I’m aware that more than a preface I’m writing a chapter of history.”

Anyone could predict what would happen later. The ex-leader and convalescent, but still powerful preface-writer, usurped with grotesque impertinence the leadership of the author, who, trembling, could only conclude, “The Commander-in-Chief, with his prologue, saw the long view of my humble book.” And naturally, the surrounding biodiversity, with its habitual dose of consideration and drama, applauded.

It was no surprise that the launching of the deafening preface, since the book passed to a second level, was attended by José Ramón (El gallego) Fernández, the ex-minister of education and immodest professional wreck, José Ramón Balaguer, an excellent practitioner of karate, but a man skilled in measuring the pressure of national politicking; and Guillermo García Frías, who in reality, owing to his constant lack of literary receptivity, no one knows even what he’s doing in a bookstore, which he proved by serious cracks in his strategy of control.

Perhaps Guillermo only was practicing his usual quiet subversion.

Also present were Miguel Barnet, Abel Prieto, Rafael Bernal and other exploiters who, captive of a useless sytem, in order to coexist at the margin of popular necessity, opt for pretending and/or forming part of that great herd of sheep who obey the voice of the shepherd, even when he is absent.

Translated by Regina Anavy

3 February 2014

The Submissive Members of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba / Angel Santiesteban

Abel Prieto is second from left.

What could you hope for from an intellectual movement of a country that is convened to sign a book supporting the shooting of several youths who tried to abandon the country by taking boat passengers hostage? It’s worth adding that they didn’t hurt anyone, and that the foreigners who lived through the experience later demonstrated against the death penalty for those who were sentenced. However, through telephone calls, cited them to provide their signatures, nothing more and nothing less, to show they accepted these deaths.

The cowardice of the Cuban cultural movement was never more miserable than in those days. When I received the call and said no, I could note the confusion of the functionary who called. It was as if he didn’t understand the forthright negative answer with which I answered him, and taking advantage of his hesitation I told him to let me know if other books to sign for those who didn’t agree. Precisely in his confusion, I understood that prior to this he hadn’t received any other negative response. At most, some shielded themselves behind the invitation and accepted, saying they’d to to UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) office at some point.

I didn’t have to assure myself that many who signed were in total disagreement with the extreme measure. But — miserably — they confessed to me, and thus I make it known, that many recognized and signed because the measure augured extremism and possible persecution against those who didn’t show their sympathy and support for the plans of the Castro brothers. The majority justified that the measure was to save the “Revolution,” since if plane and maritime kidnappings continued, it could start an invasion of the island. In a certain manner, all the signers splashed themselves with blood when the bullets were fired and broke the skulls of the prisoners.

But no one was like the poet Roberto Fernández Retamar, a member of that Council of State, and thus one of those who pulled the trigger against those young people, who didn’t have any other longing than to attain a future far from the misery they lived in their short years of life, understanding that the future didn’t look any better.

From that same house of the mentioned poet, UNEAC planned the public attack against me at the suggestion of the ex-minister of culture, today the advisor to Raul Castro: Abel Prieto, who obscurely handled and manipulated the cultural sector in order to counteract international discomfort at my imprisonment.

Before long they will celebrate another Congress of UNEAC, like the ones that went before, and no substantial change will happen beginning with the proposals that they will discharge there. “It will pass through our lives without knowing what they passed.”

As the great writer Virgilio Piñera predicted, FEAR has been the spirit that has accompanied the cultural sector for the last 55 years.

We already know the answer to the initial question.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, January 2014

Please sign the petition below to have Amnesty International declare Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience. Follow the link here.

Translated by Regina Anavy

5 February 2014

Cuban Cynicism as a Form of Survival / Angel Santiesteban

“In each neighborhood revolution” CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution)

Pretending has been the best weapon of survival developed against the dictatorial model of the Castro brothers. Lying was a requirement that always made them happier than constructive and professional criticism, which was not in favor of their caprices. Thus they educated our post-revolution generations to exercise and perfect the art of lying.

A friend’s CDR president maintains herself through the family remittance sent from the north, after her sons reached that country on a raft. Nevertheless she is ready to snitch on someone who defends a social change, not for ideology — she has no opinion of this — but to assume the role that she has played and to exercise the saying “Every man for himself.” The important thing is to survive. Some benefit could come from harming other people. This has been demonstrated in most of the mid-century dictatorships, through vigilance and persecution.

Beginning with the decade of the ’70s, disguising what you think and feel has been the theater of the Cuban human species. From those flags that they hand out to receive the presidents of the socialist camp beneath the sun — bearing up under thirst and hunger, without the right to abandon the scene and return home because you would be branded an enemy and a traitor for the sole fact of being tired and trying to return to your famiy — amorality began, along with the loss of social and individual values. Continue reading

The Cuban System Isn’t That Absurd / Angel Santiesteban

Slogan on billboard is “We’re doing fine.”

There are few times in a nation’s history when the inhabitants of a country agree unanimously. Now with the prices of cars for sale, one of those scant opportunities has occurred.

Many have drawn upon Kafka, Cortázar, and Virgilio Piñera, but I guarantee that this is even further removed from reality.

The first question Cubans ask is if the person who has enough money to waste on a car would be able to go in person to the sales agency, since they know that they would be captured there. If no one, with the highest salary possible, can save this money, then it necessarily means this is black-market money from some lucrative business, like drug trafficking. You would have to come to the conclusion that the cars are a special offer for these traffickers, and an offer of paradise for prosecutors, the most unequal in the hemisphere.

We have and will have socialism

Cuba is a plaza for criminals, prohibited for honest Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. January 2014

Translated by Regina Anavy

29 January 2014

Farewell To Revolutionary Sport / Angel Santiesteban

Life gives us the opportunity to use it at the whim of our possibilities of talent, for personal gain. In life we engage in a search for what we can be as good professionals, if it makes us happy to do it, and in doing so we discover that we add glory to the society around us, and we make our family proud. This is the perfect formula to feel fulfilled, amen, if we are also well-remunerated.

The outstanding sportsman, Lázaro Rivas, ¨Illustrious son of de San Nicolás de Bari,” could feel like that (except for feeling well-remunerated). He gained the world title in his weight class, in Greco-Roman wrestling, among other awards. He brought glory to his town and to Cuba, until his official retirement in 2011.

In recent days he disappeared physically as a consequence of a brawl with another sportsman. His family members came to say goodbye to his body, as did two trainers and some friends. The corresponding sports officials were not present, nor was the government. That was, in sum, the gesture of gratitude that the State awarded him for his efforts.

The precarious infrastructure on which sportsmen count is no secret to anyone, above all those at the bottom layer, to accomplish their feats. Your would have to appreciate more their human capacities and persistence to achieve such rewards, a great part of those being at the top and refusing opportunities in professional sports where they could earn large sums of cash, the only thing that would guarantee them economic sustenance after the official retirement pension given by the Cuban authorities.

I was witness to seeing the legendary boxer, Teofilo Stevenson, roaming the city to find ingredients for a sancocho (a type of soup), that some shops kept for him, to feed the pigs that he raised in the swimming pool of his house. He also participated in the familiar theater of pleasing foreigners who visited him and were itching to pose for a photo with their idol, after coming to an agreement to pay 100 euros, to put on the table some bottle of good whiskey, and in the best of cases, moreover, invite him to a restaurant, to obtain this souvenir.

The also distinguished fighter, Félix Savón, has had to accept this manner of survival. Visitors leave with his photo and a gesture, or a stench of knowing that their admired gladiators live off handouts. I got to know a Czech who visited them. Many ballplayers live off public charity; they eat and drink at the expense of their fan club.

Thanks to the opening of the State, above all in baseball, those older players with fewer performances are permitted to go to small clubs that can pay for them in some way, either as athletes or as trainers, so they can live of their savings, some years without destitution.

Among them are the pitcher Lazo, today contracted by a club in Mexico, and before that Victor Mesa in Japan. At least the most distinguished athletes have that opportunity of survival. The others, those whose names have been erased from the collective memory, today are ghosts lost in society, sons whom no one wants. That’s the destiny that revolutionary sports assures.

We would say that a large part of the most talented have made the most difficult decision: to abandon their country and their families, without knowing when they will return. A sad fate for Cuban sportsmen.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison settlement. January 2014

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy and Regina Anavy

10 January 2014