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.

Not being satisfied with increasing the harassment of Angel, they decided to “honor” him. Nor were they original in this; they repeated a “detail”: The next Friday again all the prisoners would leave on pass, and Angel would remain alone with all those jailers, which the poor Cuban people are obliged to pay. He must be a very important prisoner to make them pay so much for the salaries of his many “guards,” a privilege that he shares with Raul Castro himself.

But before State Security knew that they held a hero in prison, already they strove to transcend the brilliant Kafka, speculating on new chapters of “The Trial” against Angel.

Not even Franz himself would have been able to imagine that the review of the judgment, delivered on July 4, 2013, to which they never responded, was archived because one paper was missing. They would respond when the state investigated. Then they went back to start the proceedings. This time the Court answered the Minister of Justice, who was the one who accepted the request for review, that the number 444/2012 didn’t correspond with the name of Angel Santiesteban.

They said that from the First Chamber of State Security, which was where it materialized. They are blatantly delaying the delivery of the file; they are hiding it because they know that they don’t have any proof that sustains the claim. This coming week, the attorney, Lourdes Arzua, who replaced the disabled Amelia Rodriguez Cala, returned to present herself in the Department of Revision of the Ministry of Justice, in order to point out and insist on the petition of the file from the Tribunal. Now we will see what they come out with this time. The capacity they have to manipulate and violate the law is infinite.

These days they have also confiscated a legal construction that Angel had in Vedado, Plaza Municipality. Part of the money he earned from his books went into that construction. Before going to prison, they had already seized an apartment, also in Vedado; it went to State Security. He didn’t want to denounce it because he felt ashamed to raise his voice for material goods when his country has lost things that are needed more: liberty and spirituality.

Raul Castro, you have not taken me seriously when I told you so many times that the free world has its eyes on Angel Santiesteban. There can only be heroes if there are villains. You yourself already have recognized that he is a political prisoner when you offered him “freedom” in exchange for renouncing his political position. You never imagined that an intellectual would not cede to blackmail and violence to make him desist from his convictions.

All that arbitrariness and violations of his rights do nothing but increase his strength and demonstrate that all those denunciations are true. Only a dictatorship imprisons those who oppose it; only a dictatorship uses Justice as a weapon to impart vengeance.

If you were a democratic president in a country where rights prevailed, Angel or anyone could call you a dictator or whatever occurs to them, and they wouldn’t go to jail for that. A democratic president can be upset or angry about what is said about him, but just by being the leader of a democratic state, he knows that this is the price he pays for having power in a system where freedom and rights prevail.

Only some days ago, you yourself said at the closing of the Eighth Congress of UNEAC, that “it’s very good that everyone has said what they think, although I do not agree; but I respect those who disagree, because I am an absolute enemy of unanimity.” Pretty words, certainly. Now comes the moment to put them into practice.

Grant Angel Santiesteban a fair trial with all the procedural guarantees; return to him the goods that were confiscated without a reason; free him until this new trial is held, when he will be absolved, because there is no proof against him and he DIDN’T commit any of the crimes that they impute to him. Show that your regime is not a dictatorship; free all the political prisoners and stop the harassment and the use of violence against the dignified Ladies in White; call for free and multiparty elections; stop the harassment of the independent press and all its journalists.

It’s up to you to show that you don’t erase with your elbow what you sign with your fist.

The Editor

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

To sign the petition, follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

3 May 2014