Prison Diary VI. The Inside View of the Trial / Angel Santiesteban

Some friends have asked me not to continue responding to the letters and posts of those who have sought a few minutes of fame at my expense, which, for the most part, are blogs that join the fray publicly for the first time despite the efforts put into them; others, are read only by the official Nomenklatura and written by people who have never been important except to their families, I suppose, and who for the first time, and also possibly for the last, received some ephemeral public attention in the virtual world, which encouraged — with luck! — their irrelevant and dull lives.

I’m sure the suggestion of these friends is reasonable, in fact, every time that I draft the answers I understand them, but I am an extrovert and I need to be very timely especially with those who manipulate their letters to confuse and, thanks to the high level of ambiguity consciously used, to distort the reality of the facts confusing their readers.

This occurred, for example, with the witness heard or referenced used by the prosecution against me. That witness mentions another woman, my friend, whose name he made public without consulting her or asking permission, and if that is not enough he put words she never said into her mouth. Both my friend and her husband, who was with her at the times referred to by the prosecution’s witness, have expressed feeling very offended by his lack of ethics and a high level of deceit.

The conversation I had with this friend of mine went through my cell phone and if I had said a single word that betrayed my guilt, that word now would be evidence that the prosecution filed against me as the investigator reviewed all my calls and my emails.

I can only repeat endlessly until my last breath — and this is what I have been saying in every answer I provide — I demand hard evidence to sustain the conviction that has been imposed on me; evidence other than the word of a manipulated person, a friend of the accuser, who repeats what she was told; proofs that are not those “contributed” by a Lieutenant Colonel calligrapher who swore, violating all the legal and scientific conventions on the legal value of a handwriting expert, that my “slanted handwriting” is proof of my guilt.

These proofs were exposed by a video made of a testimony of a false witness whom the prosecutor wanted to sneak in, and who was immediately discarded when we recorded him explaining how he had been bribed and forced to testify against me. This video was enough to prove my innocence. He disproved, for its falsity, all the lies the Court fabricated to hide my innocence. But — I repeat — it’s impossible to hide it. It’s impossible to deceive people even if they have a minimum of understanding.

The Government, Prosecutor, Courts, Police and every person who signed a letter condemning me for the alleged violence I’m accused of and for which they sentenced me, not one has presented a single proof against me.

Enough already with the talk and insinuations; it’s not sufficient to imprison anyone.

They say and accept that I got in their way; that in political life, to my regret, I earned recognition and respect; that my blog began to have ten thousand visits a day, and they saw me become too close to those on the island defending the truth, like the project For Another Cuba and the signatures for the U.N. covenants; projects that, I know, worry and frighten them.

They recognize that my presence in front of the police station demanding the release of Antonio Rodiles was found unacceptable for an intellectual, that the of the beating they gave me traveled the world; that thousands of people all over the world were terrified by the image of my blood-soaked shirt; that I maintained a hunger and thirst strike for those days; and above all, they confessed their helplessness because of the obvious evidence of their abuse of me and the international pressures.

They admit that I bothered them by not compromising when the State Security official Anibal told me to stop my political actions. That they took as a taunt my returning to the same place where they beat me the next day, accompanied by Rodiles’s wife Ailer Gonzalez, and his father, all three of us wearing T-shirts with the image of Rodiles demanding his release. That every day, during those 19 days of injustice, we sat in front of the police station until they released him, which they did only after the swelling had gone down and his black eye had disappeared.

And officers Camilo and Hannibal had warned me. And to stop me there was nothing they could so other than show me more sophisticated objects, more sophisticated instruments: the “Revolutionary Courts” that they both boast about.

The culpability of State Security is as obvious as that of those who have supported the typical and predictable campaigns against me looking to raise a smokescreen to hide their misdeeds. History will be responsible for each of us and will put us in the exact place that we have earned. That’s for sure.

However, despite the media campaign, I fought with the tools that my circumstances allowed me. I have exhibited my strong evidence, I’ve put it in front of their eyes, including the much talked about video of the false witness who retracted,  yet the Police and Prosecutors prepared to convict me for the rest of my days.

Whoever bites once, does it forever. So they brought military and State specialists, that is people forced to respond without the slightest intention of questioning orders, to flesh out versions that always favored the Prosecution. So they blatantly lied in court without the slightest pretense, dismissed my solid witnesses, some of them with no affection for me, but who took the risk to do their duty consistent with their consciences.

This was the case with my son’s teacher, the school principal and — a detail that has not been mentioned — a member of the Communist Party, whom the Delegate to the People’s Power went to see to pressure her, because “how can you defend a counterrevolutionary?” In a gesture of dignity I respect, she responded that she was defending a student, the boy, that he was the most injured because he — my son — had confessed to her that his mom had asked him to tell lies to denigrate my public image.

Another witness, thanks to the level of friendship he had with the accuser, testified that my ex had told him on several occasions that she “was preparing a number eight legal case against the father of her child.” By then my ex and I had been separated more than two years.

There was another witness with him I only exchanged a polite and cordial greeting, because I was visiting a family that lived in the back of his house, and I was obliged to park my car in front. At exactly the day and time when my ex said she ran into me in her house, I was passing through the home of this witness whom I heard strongly rebuking her son and, unable to contain myself, I asked her not to be so violent in the reprimand, he was just a boy.

She explained he had broken the windshield of a car and the owner was demanding 900 pesos. Then I said, according to what she herself remembered at the trail, that a windshield could be replaced a hundred times, but a child, no. She, according to what she told the court, didn’t forget the day because thanks to me she wasn’t unjust with her son: later she learned he hadn’t been the child responsible for breaking the windshield.

There were two other witnesses: a Lodge brother, who need to re-pass his exam for Master Mason which was coming up in a few days, and his mother, who prepared us lunch that day.

So in summary, the Court decided to ignore them in favor of the Prosecution’s witnesses, and did it with blatant lies and contradictions that can be seen in the judgment. Before the ease and agility with which the Court accepted everything against me, I was left in a legally hopeless state.

Instead they accepted a hearsay witness, who repeated what his friend told him, a witness who wasn’t present at the alleged events which I was accused of and yet they validated his “testimony.” (Editor’s note: According to the dictionary: Witness: 1. Person who testifies to something or attests. 2. Person present or who acquires direct and verifiable knowledge of something.)

As of today, no one has responded to my questions:

Why did the trial take place in the First Division of State Security, or specifically on the special site for “relevant” cases in Carmen and Juan Delgado, as they communicated to my attorney.

Why was my sentence announced by the Official Camilo, from State Security, a month before the Court issued it?

No doubt many do not want to see how obviously my case was rigged, and I understand their interests. And although I do not share them, I respect their complete right to be unjust.

A State of Laws?

Some friends have also told me to use the law to accuse those who have lied, but that would be another naivete. Friends, brothers, international public opinion: we do not live in a State of Laws, this is the Biran Ranch — the Castros’ ancestral home — where the foreman obeys the orders of the owner. We live in a feudal state with no rights where the only thing that protects us is to do whatever the King says, without question, because if you question, they will send you to where I am today: behind bars.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

La Lima Prison, March 2013

27 March 2013

Prison Diary V: March Cold / Angel Santiesteban

The Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, which featured his experience as a Jew as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, says: “I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, “homeostasis,” i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

His words definitely define, underpin and summarize my current existence. I live my days answering the call to my conscience, responding to my need to work to achieve a political change in my country that returns hope to Cubans and ends the sacrifice of families seeing their children leave for other lands to look for better conditions.

Later Viktor E. Frankl says: “(…) what matters is not the meaning of life in general terms but rather the specific meaning of every individual’s life at a given moment. To put the question in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to a chess champion: ’Tell me, Master, what is the best move in the world?’ What happens is, simply, that there is no such thing as the best move, or a good move, apart from a particular situation in a game and the particular personality of one’s opponent. We should not search for the abstract meaning of life, because everyone has within him his own specific or mission to carry out; everyone has a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Thus he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated; everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Through reading, my creative writing and my devotion to expressing myself in my blog, my strengths are multiplied.

I am determined to continue, whatever the sacrifice, to achieve our dreams and that they may complete the liberation struggles of the nineteenth century, with  Marti’s ideal as a banner. We can’t forget forget that God keeps all our tears.

We are not far, my nose tells me events predict the change that will finally return to us the meaning of life, with democracy as the only door to a better Cuba.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

La Lima Prison. March 2013

25 March 2013

Prison Diary IV. Cuba: Urgent Legality / Angel Santiesteban

Cubans are guilty until proven otherwise. This is how justice works on the archipelago. If they suspect you they arrest you, then they investigate, and if they don’t find something to prosecute you for they send you to jail anyway for the benefit of the doubt.

Thus defendants swarm in prison without evidence to warrant their being their. People who claim to be innocent but can not always prove it, therefore they will be condemned.

The sentences “by conviction” judges determine by smell and perception; they are the ones who decide whether they are guilty or not.

Also, for decades, through the Heads of Sectors, the names of those who should go to prison are given, because they are considered criminal elements and they could commit crimes, but in fact they are not, perhaps not what they thought.

There are cases in which the Heads of Sectors, who are something like the owners of the destinations of the couples where they are located, have sent men with beautiful wives to prison with the intention of separating them and making then available for their morbid purposes, they invent this classification of “dangerous”; on other occasions they imprison a sister who resists being their lover, or simply because an enemy pays a price to get them out of the way and expand their business by suppressing the competition.

Sometimes they have chosen someone for inclusion on the blacklist for a look that they dislike or they don’t like your face, or other impression according to their character or the nature of their personality.

An injustice that causes daily arrival of dozens of young people that nobody wants, young Cubans.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

La Lima Prison, March 2013

22 March 2013

Prison Diary III: My Innocence Proved / Angel Santiesteban

It’s inconceivable that four years later I had to prove my innocence. It wasn’t enough to say it, if I didn’t present proofs of it, among which is the videos that unmasks all the diabolical revenge against me, with the invention of false witnesses.

If the prosecutor and the accusers present this false testimony, and their plot is discovered, they are forced to dismantle their strategy of 54 years in prison for Angel.

What else do I have to say to prove my innocence? Are the extensive irregularities against me not enough? Where is the evidence against me, except in the manipulated complaint of the Lieutenant Colonel who says my slanted handwriting indicates I’m guilty?

It is not also enough that they have given me an illegal sentence? Why take two years presenting proof and witnesses that I’m innocent? Why don’t they ask the Cuban government to present a shred of evidence that is not the crude joke of my slanted handwriting?

Has it occurred to anyone to think what would have occurred if my friends hadn’t filmed the witness? What would be my condition now with one person saying he saw me at the scene of the events?

It frightens me that it is not enough to dismantle a false witness and that someone still comments that my last statement doesn’t confirm my innocence. It makes me ashamed to say over and over: I am innocent.

Why do they ask me to prove it and in other ways pander to State Security?

  • Why are all Cubans guilty until proven otherwise?
  • It’s not enough to have more than proved my innocence.
  • The Investigators and all of Counterintelligence could not prove my guilt with their lies.
  • To present my innocence I don’t have just my own words, there is clear evidence:
  • Three and a half years of waiting and building a file. In Cuba these cases are adjudicated within a few months from the time they open the investigation file.
  • Perhaps most striking is the video of the false witness. After that, what more do I to present?
  • There were 5 witnesses who testified to the infamy against me and his declarations about my innocence were unjustly rejected with another absurd lie. It was also published on-line.
  • I was sentenced to a term that has nothing to do with the accusation.
  • The entire defense by my attorney is on the internet, publicly available.

I call on all those who are interested in knowing the truth to read these documents and to not keep asking me to write that I am innocent.

I said it, and I did so in court. I proved it and therein lies the injustice against me.

I don’t believe there are honest people who, after reading the documents on both sides and seeing the video of the false witness, can dare to say that I have not affirmed my innocence.

I hope that it’s for lack of time or being too lazy to read, and not a provocation.

I did not want to leave the country when the opportunities presented themselves, I wanted to be here, in this prison, with my proofs, to confront the Government, with its injustices, and those who prepare and carry out its orders, who will go down on history as soldiers of the regime.

I appeal to your conscience, just trust in it.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

La Lima Prison

Guanabacoa, Havana.

Documents of interest:

Recurso de Casación

Solicitud de apelación de la sentencia

– Video of the false witness Alexis Quintana Quindelán, who confessed lying under the direction of Kenia Rodríguez who had promised to pay him with personal benefits.

18 March 2013

Prison Diary (II): Book Fair / Angel Santiesteban


UNEAC 50th Anniversary Gala: Esteban Lazo, Abel Prieto, Raul Castro, Miguel Barnet and one other official. Photo EFE/Alejandro Ernesto

Prison Diary II. La Lima Prison.

Book Fair?

In the last days before going to prison, I managed to read several letters from friends who remembered that Book Fair in Havana where we got together and, in addition to sharing the culture, embraced the writers of this island and those who don’t visit us.

“The ’newest’ generation”* was a family that was ready for any call from its members to defend ourselves against bureaucrats, officials and the political police who constantly harassed us like mad dogs for the slightest thing, sometimes just for an expression between a group of intellectuals or for a story reading, or simply because a lot of intellectuals came to your house, and writers like Amir Valle, Jorge Luis Arzola or Daniel Morales can attest to this.

The killed that emotion of our meeting at the Book Fairs, and now it’s nothing more than a space to catch and convict intellectuals without the least scruples, and as if that weren’t enough, like in a gladiator arena, we began to fight among ourselves, but not even for our lives and ideals, as it was in my case, but simply to defend their chance to survive as best as possible. One refusal, and they would start down the path of ostracism, and not everyone was there for them.

And so the members of my generation preferred to emigrate and save their work and their families and find a dignified life where their children wouldn’t suffer what they had to bear because they knew the ordeal that would come down on them from above if they expressed adverse opinions.

In any event, the Book Fair ceased to be a cultural plaza, now it was taken over by the political and military, as happened in the majority of books presented, and for this type of work major editions are planned.

Hence, what I am sure of is that one day those intellectuals who sought shelter elsewhere will be back, and we will develop a generation, already mature, with our opinions, but above all, with the love of culture, art and literature that has always been the great banner of our generation of the children nobody wanted**.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translator’s notes:

*A post about Angel and his role in “the newest generation” can be read here. Following is an excerpt: By Ernesto Santana Zaldívar. HAVANA, Cuba, June, – In the ’90s, the generation of the Novísimos (the Newest) brought to Cuban literature themes and narrative forms that marked a certain rupture with the previous generations. Angel Santiesteban, born in 1966, became one of the most emblematic creators of this time, not only for the prizes he won, but also for the acceptance he achieved with readers.

**”The Children Nobody Wanted” is the title of a Angel’s book of stories about Angola, and of his blog.

12 March 2013

Angel Santiesteban: General Chronology of an Outrage II / Amir Valle

Angel and his son Eduardo Angel Santiesteban, whom they tried to pressure to implicate his father.

By Amir Valle

Part Two

II. The Judicial Web of Outrage

False Evidence

On July 29, 2009, Angel Santiesteban was detained, accused of having raped his ex-wife, Kenie Rodriguez, from whom he’d been separated for 4 years and who lives with an employee of the Ministry of the Interior. It’s been shown that Angel was not there and she refused the medical tests necessary to validate her claim.

A new claim by the ex-wife, Kenia Rodriguez: she accused his this time of stealing the family jewels. But she refused to point out the jewels in photos and the claim had no effect.

Another new claim by the ex-wife, Kenia Rodriguez: this time for stealing money of various denominations. Angel Santiesteban showed that he still had not been in the place of these events. She offered no proof and the claim was dismissed.

A month later Angel Santeiesteban is in a nearby place (60 yards) where he runs into his ex-wife Kenia Rodriguez; he is accused of harassment, but this time the claim is not accepted.

Fifteen days later, there is a short-circuit in an electrical system in disrepair about which her neighbors had warned Kenya Rodriguez’s, causing a fire in the house at a time when she was not inside. However, she filed a complaint against Angel Santiesteban for attempted murder. Angel freely proved that he was not there, but the next day they summoned him and imposed a fine of 1500 pesos. They told him that he could not travel in the coming days to the Festival of the Word, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to which had been invited.

Days late they assigned a new police investigator, who reactivated and placed in a new file all of the false charges, previously discarded. The established sentences for the alleged crimes totaled 54 years.

 Judicial Irregularities

They present a single witness, who during the confrontation starts screaming at them not to force him to testify against Ángel Santiesteban. Leaving the police confrontation, the witness visits Angel’s house and explains in front of neighbors that he was forced to testify against him. His words are recorded on a video. On learning that Ángel Santiesteban`s defense had the recording of the false “witness”, they removed him from the case.

The case file does not appear in any of the places where it should be, according to the law. Finally, they acknowledged that it had been sent to an official named Ribiero, in Villa Marista, the central prison of State Security (Cuba`s political police).

Between September and October 2011, the defense attorney claims that he was pressured and harassed for defending Angel. Angel is forced to hire a new lawyer: Miguel Medina Iturria, who can prove the falsity of the most serious charges, so the charges are removed from the indictment. The Prosecutor now requests 15 years instead of the previous 54.

After three years of waiting, in October 2012, the trail is held. The defense attorney shows the inconsistency of the few pieces of evidence presented, including the report of a Calligraphic Expert Perito that Angel’s guilt is based on the fact that he writes with “some” slant, and makes the letters “very suspicious in size.” Nevertheless, Angel Santiesteban is condemned to five years in prison when, as also demonstrated by the defense, if the crime had been proved a fine as punishment enough, according to current legislation, giving weight “to the social and citizen merits of the defendant`s behavior.”

III. – Embarrassing evidence of the Infamy

Since the beginning of the dirty campaign to make the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban Prats into a criminal, numerous sites on the internet have said that the trial for alleged common crimes against this recognized figure from Cuban letters was an unfair trial, rigged and full of irregularities, and is an attempt to throw a cloak of silence about the true reason for the retaliation of the Cuban political police: the strong criticism against Raul Castro`s regime and totalitarianism published by Angel in the blog “The Children Nobody Wanted.“

We have enumerated here the most scandalous violations, among many others, demonstrated by the defense attorney, Miguel Iturria Medina, during the trail and in the appeal against the verdict of the Havana Provincial People`s Criminal Court.

1 – After the police dismissed for months, as unfounded, the accusations presented against Angel Santiesteban by his ex-wife Kenia Rodriguez, a new investigator was assigned who revived all these false accusations and opened a new file with them.

2 – The accusation presented a false witness: Alex Quintana Quindelan, who later, in a confession recorded by the defense (you can see it on Youtube), demonstrated the falsity of the crimes Angel Santiesteban was accused of and that Angel Santiesteban`s accuser lied under the direction of Kenia Rodriguez, who promised to repay him with personal goods.

3 – The file, which according the Law should remain exclusively in offices of the police and judicial authorities, was lost for months and was rescued by the defense from the hands of the political police at Villa Marista, an institution of State Security.

4. – The incriminating evidence of the alleged rape and aggressions that Ángel Santiesteban perpetrated against his former wife were shown to be lies during the trial with numerous medical and legal evidence, demonstrating Kenia Rodríguez’s strong interest in damaging at any cost the moral and social integrity of Angel.

5. – The evidence of the accusation of the supposed aggressive attitude of Ángel Santiesteban against his former wife psychologically affected their son: Ángel Santiesteban Eduardo Rodríguez, whose testimony was disproved by the child’s teacher, Yahima Lahera Chamizo, who told the defense attorney that the boy had confessed to being pressured by mother to testify against his father, and even the child’s own later statements. Neither of these statements was taken into account by the Court.

5. – During the arrest of Ángel Santiesteban, in November 2012, for accompanying other opponents to a police station in Havana, demanding the release of an opposition a lawyer detained without charges, “Camilo,” an agent of the political police, after making death threats with a gun, said, “is the five years in prison, we are going to give you not enough?” What is “odd” about this statement is that it was made the day before the Court of Justice delivered its judgment.

6. – The five-year sentence applied in this case is excessive and does not correspond to the provisions of law for the offense for which he is convicted: “of three months to one year in prison or a fine of one hundred to three hundred shares*.” In this sense, the defense argues that it has also violated the provisions of the Governing Council of the People’s Supreme Court in its Instruction No. 175 dated July 21, 2004, which guides the courts when possible penalties do not exceed five years’ imprisonment, assessing the substitution of such penalty by other measures established by law, preferably those that do not involve incarceration.

Finally, as has been said on many websites where this injustice is denounced, it involved violations sufficient to invalidate the entire process against Ángel Santiesteban Prats.

*Translator’s note: With regards to fines, “shares” are established in Cuban law, the value of which may change with time. Thus, the law itself does not need to be changed in response to changing values of money, so a “share” could be any amount.

6 March 2013

Angel Santiesteban Prats: General Chronology of an Outrage / Amir Valle

By Amir Valle

Part 1

The renowned Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been sentenced to five years imprisonment for writing against the Cuban dictatorship from his blog “The Children Nobody wanted”. The news now travels the world.

As part of the strategy of overwhelming repression practiced by the Cuban political police since the arrival of Raul Castro to power, they are trying to criminalize the opponent accusing him of crimes that the defense has proven he did not commit.

The most notorious and shameful of this injustice is the interference of the political police at the procedural and judicial level, proving once again that the Cuban leaders operate as dictators imposing their political designs on all branches of society. The numerous violations in the case against Angel Santiesteban Prats clearly demonstrate that in Cuba for 54 years there has been no separation of powers, necessary in any truly democratic society.

Unjustly condemned, Angel Santiesteban demands a new trial, with respect for all legal guarantees and without the interference of the Cuban political police, as occurred in the trail that resulted in his current sentence.

1. The preparation of the outrage

Ángel Santiesteban is a writer who, as of 2006, was cited by the official Cuban culture as “one of the great storytellers emerged in the revolutionary period.” Two of his books: South: Latitude 13 (on the war in Angola) and Blessed Are Those Who Mourn are considered classics of the short story in Cuba. But because of the critical content of his books of stories, each publication of his books was made possible after many struggles against censorship and the books were never promoted outside the island.

Disillusioned by the plight of his people, after a trip to the Dominican Republic where his friend the writer Camilo Venegas explained to him what a blog is, he decided to write his own blog and in 2008 created “The Children Nobody Wanted” which offers a very critical vision of the national disaster to which the Cuban government has condemned our island. He requested that his blog be hosted by  the Cuban Book Institute and was denied, so he posted it on the site, “Encuentro on the Red,” belonging to the Cultural Encounter Association of Cuban Culture.

Many intellectuals in the service of the dictatorship tried to convince him to abandon his criticism. He also received political pressure from the police to stop writing. The Ministry of Culture decreed a complete silent censorship against his writing and intellectual work. He began to denounce these pressures in his blog.

He was beaten in the streets of Havana by fake criminals. There is evidence that they were agents of the political police. One piece of evidence: as one of the alleged “criminals” beat him, he told him this was what he got for being a counterrevolutionary. Other evidence: in response to a critical post against the official propaganda manipulation of the “Reasons of Cuba” TV program, on March 21, 2011, that same program refered to his blog declaring him to be an “Enemy of the Revolution.”

As has been shown by the independent lawyers defending him, a sustained campaign of criminalization began against him, trying to crush his prestige, accusing him of crimes he did not commit. The initial request from the prosecution for a sentence against him asked for 54 years, as if he were accused of genocide. One by one the defense shot down all the fabricated evidence and the most serious charges are dismissed, and the sentence request was reduced to just 15 years. Authorities expanded the process, hiding his file, which, as later demonstrated, was in the hands of an officer of the State Security. After three years, he was finally brought to public trail and the process concluded with his being sentenced.

In November 2012, while accompanying other opponents at a police station in Havana, demanding the release of an opposition lawyer detained without charges, he was arrested, severely beaten and threatened with death: A political police officer named Camilo put a gun to his head and threatened to kill him. He then told him that he wouldn’t do it there, when he was in public, they would make his death look like an accident. He also told him, “Isn’t the five years in prison we’re going to give you enough for you?” when the court had not yet ruled.

On November 26, 2012, he wrote an open letter to President-dictator Raul Castro, accusing him of all the repression to which they were subjecting him and other opponents. He also denounced, in a video, that the political police were threatening to kill him.

Days after this letter, the decision of the Court in the trial against him was communicated to him: he was sentenced to five years in prison when the “invented crime” only deserved a fine, the only evidence being the report of an expert calligrapher who assured he was guilty because of the “slant” and “suspicious size” of his handwriting. Although the lawyer proved the falsity of other evidence, several irregularities that in fact invalidated the trial, and presented evidence that invalidates the calligraphic “proof”, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

He appealed to the Supreme Court, the highest body of Justice in the country. Without taking into account that his lawyers showed numerous irregularities that invalidate the criminal process, this Court upheld the sentence of five years imprisonment for “housebreaking and aggression.”

On February 28 he is locked in the Cuban prison of Valle Grande, as has been denounced in numerous well-known reports internationally, where they violate the human rights of most prisoners. Days later he was transferred to the “La Lima” internment camp, outside of Guanabacoa, an installation for prisoners convicted of minor offenses.

4 March 2013

Kcho: To Clamor for Slavery is Contrary to the Ethics of the Artist / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 13 August 2012 — The painter, Alex Leyva (aka Kcho) has stated in a session of the Parliament of the Assembly of People’s Power, in which he serves as a “deputy,” that artists should work for the people voluntarily and for free without receiving any monetary compensation.”

At a meeting of intellectuals and artists he attended last February, he also declared that, in general, the state should impose a 100% tax rate on both working and non-working citizens since, according to him, “those of us who are Cuban all emanate from the work of Fidel Castro.”

In his particular case it should be understood that—during the years he was at school, which he quit at an early age—Kcho attended the Gerona School for Special Education, which provided schooling for children with learning difficulties. You might recall the documentary on his work in which subtitles had to be used so that what the artist said could be understood. Thanks to the work of speech therapists, we can now at least understand what he is trying to say.

How is it possible that an artist can ask his compatriots and colleagues to work for a system that exploits them. Of course, it is understandable given the way he explains it. Whenever the Marta Machado Artistic Brigade —named after his late mother, whose greatest achievement was giving birth to him, developing his innate talent and setting him on his way—calls a meeting to “help” the people, it serves as nothing more than as a means of self-promotion and a way to loot municipal and provincial coffers, whose funds he coldly and larcenously extracts.

A few years ago I was invited by the National Union of Cuban Artists and Writers (UNEAC) to visit a camp set up by Mr. Kcho in Candelaria, Pinar del Rio province to provide “artistic” aid to residents who were victims of a hurricane that had left them homeless, impoverished and virtually without food.

After visiting the site and listening to accounts from the camp’s neighbors, I learned that what was actually ravaging the place was the presence of voracious brigade members, who, in spite of the shortages being suffered by the population, were demanding fresh salads, fruits, desserts, wines and other refrigerated luxuries.

The most appalling thing to me was that these expenses were paid not from the artist’s own funds, but rather by the state, specifically on the orders of Fidel Castro. All the televised propaganda that reported on this project served no purpose other than to give a politically false impression.

But the greatest horror experienced there was that the most scandalous orgies were organized under the camp tents. Kcho and the painters who made up his retinue chose girls they found beautiful to serve as companions. They were selected from art schools or taken from their homes with promises to rescue them from the deprivation and hunger they were enduring.

This was done with the consent of their parents, and the support of the school and regional officials, who introduced the girls as a way to satisfy the sexual pathologies of Kcho and his cohorts. Those who went in as young ladies were something quite different when they came out. Many turned to uterine scraping in an effort to undo their pregnancies.

Of course, pigs roasting on a spit were a daily occurrence, at least on the days Kcho chose to be present, since he only occasionally made the sacrifice of sleeping under a tent. He justified his trips to Havana with the excuse that he had to go look for provisions, allowing him to flee the toil and misery left behind by the natural disaster, and to sleep peacefully in the air-conditioned house at “El Laguito,” given to him by his “comandante,” Fidel Castro.

It was worse at Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth), where he plundered the culture budget to such an extent that there was no money left to pay artists. Year’s end was drawing near and they had not been paid for two months. Might this be what he means when Kcho talks about working for free — a way for him to enjoy luxuries and binges with his friends? With money from the culture ministry he bought televisions and refrigerators, which later, after his stint with the brigade appeared to have ended, were given to family members. The residents observed how his uncles and cousins came looking for these appliances. Is this not theft? And none of it was hidden. So ignorant is he that the did it openly in front of people who, in general, prefer to remain silent to avoid losing their jobs, which are their families’ the only source of income.

His depredation became so great that many of the island’s artists considered going on strike if they were not paid by the end of the year. To get the matter resolved, someone had to call “Ministry of Culture,” which issued a bank transfer to help the artists and calm heated emotions.

That same official, a fan of dominoes, once invited Kcho to play a game, and to this he responded no, because he couldn’t bear to lose. Of what free work, then, would he be talking if he doesn’t know how to lose. Of course, it’s not about him, he gets thousands of dollars for his work, for which we congratulate him, not for asking his compatriots to be slaves which goes against the essence of an artist. It’s absolutely certain that Kcho didn’t read Marti, because he doesn’t know that the Master wrote that Socialism is the highest stage of slavery.

In one of my published books, The Children Nobody Wanted, in fact, the designer chose a photo of an installation that Kcho made with several rafts and inner tubes, precisely because it expressed the pain of Cuban youth who feel forced to emigrate, and in which he was able to consummate the dreams of several generations who through their luck on the sea in hopes of a better future, and of the other great part of the same youth who never get there, so their lives and dreams are truncated, works whose titles speak for themselves: The Road to Nostalgia, The Infinite Column, In Order to Forget, In The Sea Nothing is Written, The Jungle, The Sons of William Tell, Delaying the Inevitable.

Until Kcho was lifted up by power, his work was a reflection of his generation, since then it has become many things, but sincerely and without rancor, we must recognize that his talent has evaporated, and that for several years it’s been a repeat of the same: the pot and the palm.

Indeed, back in Gerona, his birthplace, friends, neighbors and acquaintances were always ready for this mania many painters have for drawing on any available piece of paper, and sometimes on napkins Kcho would make some sketch for what would later be a painting.

So he gave his friends these sketches warning them they couldn’t sell them. Some, when they were financially pressed, managed to get a few bills from tourists, and when Kcho learned of it he lashed out against them and ended the friendship. In his little understanding it was as if he didn’t comprehend the neediness of those around him, nor that with their sale they managed to subsist in the daily misery, and that the best measure of a friend is when he can, with his art, provide food and comfort to those with whom he shares a friendship.

Summing up the case, in addition to knowing that the human being Alexis Leyva isn’t one of the great lights, the money he raises for his work, for which we applaud him, and the benefits he extracts from the government, which we criticize, and what he has achieved through his disjointed and unintelligible fanatic adoration of Fidel Castro, has made him the favorite son of the dictatorship, and has led to a level of disconnect with the Cuban reality, such that like a robot he only expresses fatal words, lapses before the history that will recall him and the opportunist he is.

Like many artists he’s only interested in living in the moment, and it is not his fault that he lacks the capacity to assimilate a little bit of the knowledge of history, and not knowing the future, when all the horrors he committed in defending Fidel Castro and his followers are exposed before his eyes, then we will hear that he didn’t know, that he could never have imagined, and, like now, we will have to simply look with pity on his bulk that gets fatter every day at the tables of the Palace, the Council of State. That is his pay: the giant shrimp, huge lobsters, and the arm of the dictator around his shoulders as he poses.

August 13 2012