Bolivia Suspends Relations With Cuba For Hostility And Constant Grievances

The government of Jeanine Áñez accuses the Cuban authorities of interference. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, La Paz-Havana | January 24th, 2020 – The interim Government of Bolivia announced this Friday that it is suspending diplomatic relations with Cuba, due to the “permanent hostility and constant grievances” of its Government, although it clarified that it is not a total rupture.

“This determination is due to the recent and inadmissible expressions of Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and the constant hostility and constant grievances of Cuba against the Bolivian Constitutional Government and its democratic process,” highlights a statement read in La Paz by the acting Foreign Minister of Bolivia, Yerko Núñez

“The Cuban Government has systematically affected the bilateral relationship based on mutual respect, the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs, the self-determination of peoples and the sovereign equality of States, despite the willingness of the Government of Bolivia to sustain cordial relations,” concludes the note. continue reading

Núñez, who is the acting chancellor when interim chancellor Karen Longaric is out of the country, showed on local media a Twitter message from Bruno Rodríguez in which he denounces “vulgar lies of the self-proclaimed coup in Bolivia”, referring to the transitional president Jeanine Áñez.

In this regard, the acting chancellor argued that the interim government of Bolivia “has to enforce sovereignty,” before what he described as “slanders” of the Cuban Executive.

Bolivia’s embassy in Havana remains, although the ambassador and other diplomatic personnel are expected to leave, with only officials in charge of procedures to serve mainly Bolivian students in Cuba remaining, according to Núñez.

However, the agreements between both countries are paralyzed, he stressed.

The Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the suspension of relations is a measure similar to the rupture, with only a minimum diplomatic representation maintained in Havana; not all staff will be  withdrawn, in order to attend to the “humanitarian affairs” of Bolivians with family in Cuba.

Bolivian former president Tuto Quiroga applauded the decision on Twitter. “Bolivia finally breaks with the gerontocracy Castro dictatorship. The Cuban embassies are centers of conspiracy and agitation in democratic countries; venues of vampire, colonial and repressive colonialism in Caracas; and offices of doctors’ enslavement.”

The president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, revealed last Wednesday that the Government of Cuba kept 80% of the payments that Bolivia made for the work of Cuban doctors stationed in her country under the government of former president Evo Morales. She also said that only one-third of the Cubans were actually doctors.

“The program signed with Cuba that included the work of doctors, communicators and technicians, according to official statements, now reveals that less than a third were health professionals,” said Añez during a speech at the Government Palace on nation’s day.

“They had a salary of $1,040 USD, a stipend of 68 Bolivianos per day (USD $9.50), and air transportation expenses paid by the State, making a total of about 9,000 ($1,302 USD) Bolivianos for each of them,” She added .

Áñez regrets that only 20% of the money went to Cuban workers, since the other 80% was used to “finance Castro-communism, which has subjected and enslaved its people.”

The interim president also hammered the opacity with which the previous government treated Cuban doctors, without informing the State about the actual expenses on the island’s missions. According to the figures provided by the president, Morales handed over $147 million USD to Cuba as payment for doctors in his years of Government.

“With that money we could have performed 7,355 kidney transplants throughout the country, which would have represented half of the kidney patients in Bolivia,” said the president.

After Añez statements, the Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, responded angrily on his Twitter account. “Vulgar lies of the self-proclaimed coup leader in #Bolivia. Another sample of her servility to #EEUU. I should explain to the people that, after the [Cuban doctors] returned to #Cuba because of the violence they were subjected to, more than 454,440 medical appointments did not take place”.

The foreign minister added that “Two months without a Cuban medical brigade in #Bolivia translates into almost 1,000 women who have not had specialized assistance in their deliveries and 5,000 surgeries among those more than 2,700 eye operations not completed. They are not just figures, they are human beings.”

The Bolivian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Bruno Rodríguez expressing his “profound annoyance for and rejection of” these words.

Translated by: Rafael (Tampa, Florida)


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Xiomara Cruz Miranda Left Havana To Get Medical Attention In Miami

Xiomara Cruz Miranda upon her arrival in Miami this Tuesday. (Courtesy of the New Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 of January, 2020 – The Lady in White Xiomara Cruz Miranda arrived in Miami on an American Airlines flight from Havana on Tuesday, to be treated for a disease she contracted in prison in the middle of last year without receiving effective medical care. Her relatives have reported constant irregularities in her diagnosis and treatment.

Cruz Miranda received a humanitarian visa after months of efforts, initiated on August 14th, as Berta Soler — leader of the women’s group — told 14ymedio.  Ángel Moya (Berta’s husband), has been another major activist on the Island.

In addition, on the other side of the Florida Straits she has had help from other fellow activist: exiled María Elena Alpízar, as well as Iliana Curra and Mercedes Perdigón, both political ex-prisoners, and from others in exile who started a petition addressed to the US congressman of Cuban origin Mario Díaz-Balart. continue reading

“Thank God she must be landing already, everything went well on this side, now we are awaiting her arrival. There is a team of doctors there, focused on improving her well-being and on getting her a diagnosis. The Cuban American National Foundation invited her and will take care of all expenses. An ambulance is waiting there for her and everything is ready to assist her as soon as she arrives”, indicated Soler.

“With everything that happened with Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas any activist is at risk when they enter a hospital, because State Security has doctors at their disposal, doctors who will always follow their orders. We don’t trust them and thus of doctors who do not receive orders from the Cuban regime,” she added.

At the airport, she was received by the Cuban doctor Alfredo Melgar. “First, will get a comprehensive diagnosis of Xiomara and then we will put her under treatment,” Melgar told the New Herald, who accompanied her to the hospital. The doctor asked the community for help to welcome Cruz Miranda and her daughter, who accompanies her on this trip.

Martha Beatriz Roque had also announced the news on her social media yesterday (on Monday): “With God’s favor she arrives tomorrow in Miami,” she celebrated.

the Lady in White’s state of health has worsened in recent weeks, with a last relapse that began on December 26th and extended until January 10th, but it remains unclear what disease afflicts her.

From the beginning, Cruz Miranda has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, but her relatives and friends have expressed doubts to the point of accusing the Government of having inoculated her with a virus to make it difficult  — or worse — to prevent her from continuing to exercise her political opposition. That suspicion aligns with that expressed by Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who has been denouncing, for months, that the regime has infected him with HIV.

Xiomara was sentenced in 2018 to one year and four months in jail for “threats” in a trial described as rigged by Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. The first prison she went to, was El Guatao (West of Havana), and  subsequently she was transferred to a prison in Ciego de Ávila.

Last August, the Government granted her conditional release when health problems arose, and she was transferred to La Covadonga hospital in Havana, where she was admitted into intensive care.

Relatives have also considered that the Lady in White has cancer, as mentioned by the Cuban Alliance for Inclusion and the Cuban Women’s Network in a protest note condemning the situation in which the Government held the activist and asking international organizations to take action for her safety and her defense.

“Her muscular pains worsened, as well as the intermittent fever. Doctors have confusedly declared, everything from a disease caused by an unidentified bacteria, to even mentioning cancer. Which has baffled relatives, friends and fellow activists, who request her release to take her to another country in order for her to receive proper medical attention immediately,” both women’s organizations were asking for last fall.

Translated by: Rafael (Tampa, Florida)


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Ferrer Case: The Repetition of a Modus Operandi / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 8 December 2019 — The arrest of opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) on October 1st, on false allegation of “kidnapping” and “beating” an individual, has plunged into a new whirlwind of criticism the Castro regime, which as usual insists the detainee will be prosecuted as a common inmate, which fits perfectly within the “continuity praxis” of the administrator in office at the Plaza of the Revolution.

The international repercussion of the case brought in condemnation from the European Parliament, which, through a resolution voted on November 28th, requested the Government of Havana to immediately release the opposition leader. Amnesty International has already pronounced in similar terms — requesting Diaz-Canel’s government to allow them attend the dissident’s  trial — along with relevant personalities, inside and outside the Cuban exile.

The Havana regime sees with great concern and greater clumsiness how these chestnuts are charred by fire, as evidenced by the disgusting report released last week — on the eve of the aforementioned European Parliament Resolution — by the National News of Cuban Television where, by means of gross manipulation, events, videos and photos taken of Ferrer, were distorted to the point it makes you sick, and a collage of tampering and false allegations to present the detainee as a vulgar criminal, natural-born angry and violent, was conclusive. continue reading

One of the moments of this botch-up shows in a very low video resolution — something very curious and inexplicable in a country that already has high-definition channels — someone with a physique very much to Ferrer’s, who at some point hits his forehead against a table several times  in front of impassive officer, as harmless and meek as a nun on Easter night. This would presumably prove, according to the script of the report, that any injury found on Ferrer’s anatomy would be self-inflicted.

Personally, I believe that, according to comments on several sites, the one who is hitting himself in the manipulated report is not Ferrer but a carefully chosen double. It is exposed by some gestures and subtle notes of his voice, both, by the way, easy to alter using current digital technology.

But even if  Ferrer was self-injured in that video, it should be taken into account the two months he has been kidnapped by his captors, suffering all kinds of threats, humiliation, extreme physical and psychological torture, and isolated in the midst of absolute helplessness, all of which, humanly speaking, would excuse this moment of self-aggression.

Note, however, that such violence is never directed at the officer who undoubtedly harasses him. For all this, even in the hypothetical case that this video shows the actual Ferrer hitting himself, it would not count against him.

That we are facing one of the many cases staged by the dictatorship, typical of its modus operandi and where it outrageously lies, was demonstrated by those who patiently investigated this vulgar fiction of hit men from the 21st.

The Cuban regime displays itself to such a discredit already, such a degree of impunity shown for more than half a century, so vulgar, so recidivist, such unscrupulous liars, that I haven’t believed a single word of theirs for a long long time.

Not even certainties as definitive as the roundness of the Earth sound like truth to me when they come from them in that news channel that now tries to lynch Ferrer.

That a national report highlighted Ferrer’s identity in details — something meticulously avoided by the authorities for six decades to deprive its opponents of visibility — only denounces a high degree of despair. Although this shot could end up shooting the dictatorship in its own foot. As things are right now, it could a double-edged sword and bring them the opposite result: instead of annihilating Ferrer, it could end up giving him an unusual importance inside the country.

But the fearlessness of the event never ceases to outrage. Personally, I will always prefer to face a tyrant rather than a cynic. At least the first, despite his mighty arrogance — or just for that very reason — has the courage to clearly present the rules of the game: “It is what it is because I said so.”

However, cynicism is topped with cowardice: it is like that guy that does not dare to show himself as the true arrogant bully that he actually is — which has nothing to do with the tyrant at all — but also insults your intelligence when expecting you to believe all that foolishness he spits in your face.

The same thing happens with the henchmen — from Cuban political police — when they wear civilian clothes in their unpunished operations so as not to expose themselves… as cowards!

It is the classical duet “Communist Party-State Security”, when it organizes the repudiation mobs and the public beatings against peaceful opponents — where a perimeter secured perimeter by local police is mandatory, “seasoned with the occasional enforcer in an official uniform, orchestrated to “humanely” protect the beaten “scum” [Fidel Castro’s favored term for dissidents] from the fury of angry people who “spontaneously” defend their revolution — as well as the same cynicism of Ferrer’s case.

The dictatorship clings once more, in its wreckage, to the same old board: everyone who dissents from the flock is nothing more than a piece of shit, a disposable lumpen, a mercenary paid by the CIA and US Government. But this old trick, — repeated over and over — is already decaying and suffers beyond repair, which is why, today, only their greatest fans swallow it.

But a lie repeated a thousand times will never be more than that, a lie a thousand times repeated, and there is a fact here that cannot be buried: José Daniel Ferrer, beyond the empathy that he generates or not inside or outside Cuba, has the undeniable merit of having developed the most extensive, active opposition organization, one that has kept a more visible, systematic and constant civic resistance against Castro dictatorship over the past two decades, and has done so against all odds, out of a civil struggle, without violent methods and showing his valor.

This is, despite the gorillas’ tantrum and their disgusting lies, a truth that regime of Havana can no longer reverse.

Translated by: Rafael

Tragedy in the Darien Jungle: a Warning to the Returnee / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 17 June 2019 — Several weeks ago we received the news of the tragedy of the Armila River, in shock. On the night of April 23rd, dozens of Cuban families were mourning when more than fifty young people, who traveled north into Panamanian jungle, died dragged by a sudden flood.

Despite its obvious dramatic and seriousness of the news, it found, however, relatively little exposure on international mainstream media and Internet sites, which clearly shows, why Cuban matter can be considered more profound and harder to solve, than other Regional conflicts now in the spotlight -meaning- Venezuela and Nicaragua unfortunate situation of  under their respective dictatorships.

Perhaps if these deaths had occurred among young people from these two countries (Venezuela and Nicaragua), the tragedy would have had a greater impact; but when the news is about Cubans fleeing from Castro regime, relevance is reduced because more than half a century of dictatorship always have its toll of attrition. It appears today that the loss of our emigrants retains all its tragical nuances only if it is suffered within a Cuban home from the perspective of the father in despair or an orphan child.

Cuban authorities, of course, looked the other way. In its cynical logic, this Panama doesn’t seems the same that a loud  psychologist -from the UJC (Cuban Youth Union)-traveled to, with her humble  salary,  to boycott the 2015 Summit: for the dictatorship she is regarded as a model citizen and these (deceased Cubans) are nothing but dead maggots. [The name given by Castro regime to anyone willing to leave the island seeking freedom.]

In contrast to this new Castro regime massacre a few days ago, a “new official position” emerged: the elite of the “Revolution Square” recently made it clear to Cuban diaspora, that in their “draconian” Law of Foreign Investment 118, in effect since March 2014, it actually does not exclude Cubans from being able to invest in their own country, however, holding eager ones back, reminds them, this offer is only  for those whose net worth and residence are stablished abroad.

Needless to say, such a statement, excludes a private sector that struggles to survive in the Island, in spite of all obstacles imposed by a dull system, obsessed in demonstrating that “the anticipated bright future” is incubated in its state own socialist enterprise.

These two -apparently unrelated- news show the complexity of a failed society whose dictatorship not only coax civil and political liberties of my people, but as collateral, grabs with an iron hand their economic rights aswell.

Even so, in recent years, the increased tendency of some Cubans whom after residing for several years abroad -oblivious of reality in the island and having neglected their citizenship- has now returning to reside  in Cuba for good, through an insulting process called “repatriation”, humiliating euphemism given by the same (officials) who have deprived them of their right to travel and return freely, as if Homeland belonged to a few (in power) and not all of us instead.

Personally, I cannot understand under which mysterious reasoning, those who one day emigrated, stung by dreams of prosperity and from a complete certainty that they would never achieve it under a totalitarian police regime, come to conclusion, that only because they return with a few saved dollars  – even thousands, or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, in this case the amount is not relevant – today they will have more guarantees of success.

The naive ones must be aware of a bunch of snitches, there are still around each block (in the neighborhood), either by twisted conviction or primitive envy, they will inform about their every move, the moment they (private entrepreneurs) start a small business. Today the “juggling” needed to get goods in the Cuban (domestic) market, whether formal or informal, would make “Cirque du Soleil Stars” look like rookies; besides “an army” of crooked state inspectors and corrupted police officers -awaits in their neighborhood- “sharpening their teeth” to extort them; that there is no humane way to run a business in Cuba legally, because the very law that rules businesses is exquisitely designed to prevent it, and everything will have to occur “as illegally and secretly” as when they left, a case among many, in the exodus of 1994.

It is true, that everyone knows their own “Maleconazo” (1994 riot) and everyone understands their own reasons, but nobody should be so naive, assuming a false distension of the authorities after “the mirage of the Obama era”, because -sooner than later- they will collide with a reality as suffocating as the one that made them flee before. To expect something different would be like “building castles in the air”.

And it’s not about Trump’s strengthening US positions,  no; but Cuba remaining static because the dictatorship of Fidel and Raúl Castro – now with the new administrator Díaz-Canel at the threshold of the door, with the same Masters – remaining entrenched at the same position and betting on poverty for my people as a strategic weapon of control in order to stay in power.

Probably, at this moment, many returnees  regret the possibility of reversing the film, and have come to the conclusion that under such circumstances, it is not enough to own the capital, but rather to live ruled by institutions that protect and stimulate with sincere enthusiasm, producers  and small enterprises – contradicted reason  to major investors desperately needed in  today’s Cuba.

Whoever studies this Foreign Investment Law will advise that, it does not even wink at emigration, that it does not even imply any priority or preferred treatment, as anyone would expect. Rather, owners of the slum “place excuses beforehand” and clarify that everything will be on equal terms: in our case, the State Employer Company will also  mediate to pocket 90% of our wages; Cuban authorities will designate, with no exception, each operator and engineer within these companies – among which the State Security will infiltrate their henchmen – and will keep 60% of all benefits.

Such carelessness raises such unfair rules of the game, that so far no one bites the hook, and Mariel’s Special Development Zone sits idle and dusty as a witness – a project that so far has attracted only 15% of investments and profits expected by   Castro regime.

Then the question that follows: Why if the Foreign Investment Law has failed to appeal the rest of the world, it would appeal to Cuban Diaspora that knows the bird by its color? What make clown Bruno Parrilla, chameleon Malmierca, pub  administrator Diaz-Canel, and their boss, Raúl Castro, think, that emigrants will fall for a scheme they know better than anyone else?

Why would exiled Cuban entrepreneurs take chances under current circumstances, knowing that all profits will go directly to finance repressive forces of regime? Why is it, our fellow emigrant choose to pay $10,000 to traffickers on the Straits of Florida or Central America, and does not even consider investing his own country? Why do their relatives in Miami  follow the same reasoning and support them?

Would third world emigrants -who take up the same coyote route- take chances on a  reckless venture should they had $10,000 to finance a family business? What powerful reason convinces Cubans that no capital is worth in this broke Cuba that flee from out of despair? How to understand that in recent years Cubans took more than 2.3 billion dollars annually out of the country to buy abroad to supply the black market –figures coincidentally similar to the 2.5 billion annually that experts set as a goal for the Foreign investment that Cuba needs to get out of this predicament? The similarity of these figures denounces the scale of the absurd.

All of this, must be taken into account by Cuban emigrants when planning on coming back. Should that effort is fueled by nostalgia of those little details and simply prefer to keep those many things that cuddle their romantic heart, oh well, “go for it”, !A natural desire of returning to the womb and your home, no matter how distorted our reality is, but you should never be so naive to set sail on a return trip assuming that something has changed in Cuba: you must be certain that in the meadows of your childhood today, you will find burnt land, and a country that in many respects it resemblance the darkest phase of the “special period” (worst crisis of the 90s).

Future returnees must be aware they return to a harsh battlefield. There are  more than fifty Cuban corpses that have been swallowed by the Darien jungle to prove it, as a clear warning. Meanwhile dictatorship ensures nothing happens, that tenseness will be a matter of a few months, that we should not fear hunger since chubby generals will guarantee everyone “Hutia meat and Ostrich milk”, that there is nothing to worry about or bringing ghosts from the past, because the “special period” was already buried thanks to the brilliant directives left by the enlightened Fidel Castro.

And to top it off now they tell us that emigrants can invest in Cuba, which should only be taken as proof of despair, coming from a regime that will never cease to despise us. The one thing despots do not tell is that once their money has been invested, their business has failed and their assets confiscated, returnees will face the only two choices left: either they end up in prison or try ,desperately,  the same route back again through Darién jungle. Luckily, we are certain, or hopeful, that “Liborio” might be poor, but his not a fool.

Translated by RAFAEL

The Next Day / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 2 May 2016 — The owner of the media owns the country as well: This phrase is corroborated daily here in our “captive island.” We must make an extraordinary effort to follow radio and television newscasts, and to try to interpret the other side of the news. It is really an insult to the intelligence, the repetitive crass way of manipulating information they exercise.

Of course, a large part of the population stay away from it “not to complicate their life” but the saddest thing is that, when faced with cameras and microphones of reporters on the streets, fear paralyzes them and unscrupulously, they lie to “caress the official ears” and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately this is a comfortable attitude, lacking of civility and within their inner circles, usually express themselves critically against the regime. continue reading

Every year on May 1st, meek like frightened lambs, they will act like professional simulators, smiling when facing the cameras, showing off a false joy and support for the regime and its “eternal leader,” an attitude that will change drastically when at the end of the parade, back at home, they meet with an empty refrigerator and begin to rummage through their meager pockets, looking for some coins in CUC (hard currency) to buy a bag of milk powder in the “black market” to ensure a glass of milk for next morning, for their children (if they are still in Cuba) or for their elderly parents , aware that the present is slipping through their hands, in a country WITH NO FUTURE.

Translated by: Rafael

#Cuba Angel Santiesteban: Is Going to Jail Like Going to War?

Interview with writer Angel Santiesteban

Jorge Ángel Pérez

Jorge Ángel Pérez, HAVANA, Cuba, 23 November 2015 – Angel Santiesteban has authored one of the most outstanding works of our literature. For that, he has received numerous awards in Cuba and abroad. As a young man he won the UNEAC Prize with the book “Dream of a Summer Night,” and then the Alejo Carpentier prize with “The Children Nobody Wanted.” This title also served as the name for his blog, with which he has been expressing himself in recent years. “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn” was also prizewinner with the “Casa de las Americas award.”

After this brief recount, anyone unfamiliar with his work would say he is a “lucky one” but the truth is that he always gets what is most important: the laurel of his readers. Life in prison is one of his recurring themes. Whoever starts reading his texts will discover it from the first line in many of his narrative pieces. It turns out that he was already in jail twice, and in a bunch of police stations. About prison and his work we talk for a long time, in my house, a few days ago. And now, while I transcribe our conversation, I learned that he was nominated by Reporters Without Borders to receive the Citizen Reporter award which was just awarded to a group of Ethiopian bloggers. continue reading

Jorge Ángel Pérez

Jorge Ángel Pérez: Angel, not many Cuban writers have lived through the hell of prison for two terms. Were they useful for the writer those two stays?

Angel Santiesteban: Prison has been a rare source of “food”, describing the events I experienced, what I witnessed, turns out to be my armor. Thanks to writing I did not lose my head. I think living intensely those instants gave my writing great spontaneity. A writer of great imagination can write a great book without the need to be locked up, but we cannot deny that anyone who was there will tell it more openly …

Jorge Ángel Pérez: This is proved by your books and “Men Without Women”, by Montenegro

Angel Santiesteban: I think so. Being in prison helped me have the spontaneity and sincerity required in literature. That openness will always remain. That is why as I walked those two times to that hell, I thought of the stories I could find, how would they serve my work. To think that I was in search of material to write saved me, it made less harsh those stay.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: Finding those stories …

Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban: I found them there and they were the ones that saved me. Going to jail is like going to war. The prisoner and the soldier have much in common. The two are away from home. The two are withdrawn. Both have sexual desires they cannot fulfill. The two are under military control and that can be abusive and impose itself, often in a humiliating manner. Every day you are in danger of losing your life; in prison by the hands of a criminal and in war the enemy can kill you.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: While there you found stories that would serve you later, but the truth is you did not go voluntarily to rummage in jail and in prisoners’ behavior.

Angel Santiesteban: I went because I was led, bound. The last time I went to jail because I believed, and still believe, I could do something for my country to be better, to make it democratic. Fidel once said that a better world was possible, and I went to seek a better world, to look for that better Cuba. That cost me jail. Because I wanted to get that world I began in my house, in this country that I love. My literary teachers had told me that the important thing was to write, it was my work I should look after, the first thing was to write, and publish, get readers. Write, write and write. Many friends, and those teachers, they thought a writer does not have to do anything else.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: And don’t you think so?

Angel Santiesteban: No, I don’t think so. That’s a lie, although I believed it for many years. For a long time I devoted myself only to writing. I put together my work, I published books and keep quiet …because of fear.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: And where did you leave that fear?

Angel Santiesteban: It is still with me. It never left, but I learned to accommodate it. It never forsakes me the fear of going to jail. There you can die in an instant, and that’s terrible. Fear comes when I think that I can not be with my children and with my family at the moment they need me the most. Imagining that moment impress me a lot. It scares me to think of the possibility of they getting sick and  can not help them. My daughter did not attend college when I was arrested the last time and that made me feel responsible.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: And who was responsible?

Angel Santiesteban: Viewed in a simply way it should be me, but the real blame lies with those who arrested me. It was the unjust detention what distressed me. It was the possibility that her father went to jail again that made her sad, because of that she decided not to go to the classroom, because of that she missed the class, because of that she will have to justify her absence.

I imagine how many times she thought she would have to go back to visit the prison to accompany her father in his confinement. Who are the real culprits for her distress? Is it me? It makes me very happy she studies. I want her to graduate, and nourish her desire to study, but a young student will not feel very comfortable in a classroom knowing her father is imprisoned unjustly.

It was also distressing when I saw them coming to the prison. Seeing seventeen or eighteen kids visiting an inmate is not comforting. My first confinement had to do with my accompanying my family to the shore line when they wanted to leave the country for good. I ended up in prison, but I had no children. The last time they were grown already and they studied.

Their father was arrested for going around seeking democracy. And they knew what that could cost me.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: What is democracy for you?

Angel Santiesteban: Speaking my mind out loud and that nobody bothers me. Saying what I want and that everyone understands that this right exists and it pertain to all of us, that everyone understands that there are different ideas the ones professed by our rulers. Is it so difficult to understand that? I think it’s good to talk, and that the differences you have with those in power do not take you to jail. That’s democracy for me.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: And are you willing to talk to get this democracy?

Angel Santiesteban: Of course, that what this is all about. I can talk to a Communist if he is able to listen to me respectfully, if he allows me to act according to my principles. I have that right, although they take it from me I know I have it. I can also talk with a liberal. I can converse with those in power and those who oppose to them even though we don’t agree on everything. I wouldn’t talk to those fomenting terrorism. In that table I want to defend my right to express myself. If I have a political activity now is because I intend to find that democracy where everyone can live in, even with their differences. I would love it if in the future someone talks about me, that if I am just mentioned in one line , that’s what they say about me.

Jorge Ángel Pérez:  And about your writing?

Angel Santiesteban: I prefer it is talk before the effort I put into getting the dialogue, about my dreams of democracy, it must say that I faced those who would not let me express myself. That I want, and it must be said very briefly in just one line.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: Just recently you were arrested in a police station. Why?

Angel Santiesteban: All  I can say will be a speculation, everything would be an assumption. I don’t have the truth. I think it was something more than a threat, they intended to revoke my probation, which would take me back to jail.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: Why do you think that?

Angel Santiesteban: I was told there was a complaint from my ex-wife, the mother of my son. They showed it to me and I recognized her signature, but she told our son she had not accused me. They could forge her signature to intimidate me. I haven’t seen her in a long time, so there was not such a threat, but then (freelance journalist) Maria Matienzo went to the police station inquiring about me, and she was told I was imprisoned for armed robbery, however (Antonio) Rodiles was told the same thing they said to me; that I broke into the home of the mother of my child.

They never agreed among themselves to give the reasons for the arrest. I believe, and this remains an assumption, that it all had to do with a text I wrote the day before being arrested denouncing the imprisonment of Lamberto Hernandez Planas, where I commented on his hunger strike, the risks for his health, and I also demanded his immediate release.

Everything has to do with my political activities, my opposition. I did not threaten anyone and much less committed an armed robbery.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: What happened afterward?

Angel Santiesteban: Afterwards my son tells me that his mother had not accused me, certainly the ones who had arrested me knew, they stopped showing the alleged accusation of my ex. The next day I was taken to the provincial court. When we arrived, the police officers accompanying me wanted to know in which room the trial would be held and someone said to take me to an office. There the president of the court was waiting for me and told me that my freedom had been revoked. There was a brief silence and then she continued. She said that despite the revocation order she would set me free, and suggested that I behave, that I should behave.

Jorge Ángel Pérez: And do you think you could go to prison again?

Angel Santiesteban: Maybe, but I hope the excuse to be less dubious that the one that took me to jail last time. If they were less awkward they should send me, if there was a next time, on a fellowship in Paris or Berlin. Never to jail. That’s the worst thing you can do with a writer. Can you imagine what you could write there?

Jorge Ángel Pérez: I do not want to imagine it, it frightens me.

Angel Santiesteban: A writer will write everything he sees, everything will serve him. A criminal will hear the stories of others and perhaps they will serve him for the next wrongdoing, but a writer will analyze every detail, every gesture, every story, and then he will not be able to resist, he will write, and people will read it, people will find out what happens there.

Being in prison is like walking through the bowels of the country. Imagine that reader when reading those rotten descriptions. Everything I saw nourish that desire to write, to publish in my blog, to write stories, to do what I think is best for my country. There I wrote a lot. I wrote stories, from that stay in jail came out a novel. From the stories they told me during those hours I spent at the police station could emerge many narrative pieces. And there’s also my blog. From there I will continue telling, without stopping, without them get me to stop.

Published in Cubanet

 Translated by: Rafael

More Counterrevolutionary (?) Artists Speak up for Their Freedoms (Part I) / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban “on probation,” Havana, 5 December 2015 — On Saturday, November 28th, there was a meeting at the “Fresa y Chocolate” center in Havana, of the Assembly of the G-20 as they have been called, this group of twenty directors of the seventh art — which has the desire and the priority that the dictatorship accept, finally, a Film Law with which they can obtain a space of personal freedom for their art. That is, to be able to conquer creative liberties in favor of independence from the bureaucracy that has, until now, made them in their entirety bow down to the government. For all we know, so far, they have not sent the hit-men to intimidate the “G20”. continue reading

Although the Government has not yet presented its real face — because of the scandal that would arise when dealing with internationally recognized filmmakers — it is possible that they are cooking up something against this group so difficult to re-educate. So far they pretend to ignore them, perhaps betting they’ll wear themselves out.

The firefighter that the dictatorship has used in the past twenty years for these acts of insurrection, is the well-known Abel Prieto, who served once as President of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), then as Minister of Culture, and today, as tyrant Raul Castro’sAdviser.

But  they have worn out this character Prieto to such an extent that a large percentage of artists do not believe his words anymore and consider him a kind of Cardinal Richelieu, creator of intrigues and persecutions against those who do not abide by his directive. It is clear, there is no other character that could dialogue with this group of artists, so it would not be surprising that at some point he wears the “matador suit” and must enter the ring to face the bulls.

Public censorship in the UNEAC Congress

But returning the purpose of this writing, I should describe the events of the last meeting of the G-20, admitting in advance that the filmmakers are hostage to the so-called “Revolution” whose makers became dictatorship figures almost from the beginning. The totalitarian system maintains a tight grip on artistic production, maintaining an exhaustive and constant eye on this genre that attracts such a large audience; and because as the government knows what is at stake if it accepts granting them “independence”, it refuses to untie their hands and minds, preventing them from doing and undoing what they please with their art, because they know that soon, it would bring discredit, criticism and ridicule from art, without their being able to act against them.

The  most direct and effective effort so far, has been the attempt to expose and demand a debate at last congress of the UNEAC, when the filmmaker Rebeca Chávez proposed opening the subject and the sinister official Abel Prieto acted as a censor in the most violent and despotic way imaginable, and radically prevented the director from presenting the needs filmmakers have today.

This “Cain” in disguise as Abel, feverish for power has become today the most intransigent cop, and the more fanatical persecutor of those creators who dare to raise discrepancies with the cultural power or political power, and all this when he should be the bridge between artists and the government instead.

The functionaries commit censorship and fraud

The vast majority of those attending the Congress were offended by that political official’s outburst, from a man who was once a colleague, someone who pondered, defended and represented art in general, but the more power he has gained in the Nomenklatura the more he has been betraying the principles of commitment to genuine art. Understand that, “delegates” chosen in the congresses of the guild, are, mostly, the most “committed”,  those who, having passed through the scrutiny, and so they were unable to rebel against official orders — although they were the most unfair — and in the most disciplined of fears they remain quiet before the abuses and injustices of the dictatorship.

Film directors demand the censors show their faces

At the Assembly on the 28th of November, a fraud perpetrated in the election of the authorities of this congress was exposed, as those who got the most votes from the artists, were later replaced by the docile ones, whom they exchanged for the chosen ones in order to take to that meeting the most submissive and manipulated to lift their arms in favor of the government and, ultimately, to refuse these spaces of freedom that urge the artist and the times they live in. Replacing elected ones by the meek ones has been a common practice for years; and in some post I stated that I witnessed these frauds, where Abel Prieto pointed his finger at those who had showed him such pusillanimous attitudes.

The filmmakers, dissatisfied with the government’s attitude and its envoy Abel Prieto, decided to continue gathering to achieve their aspiration, approval of a long-awaited Film Law. And in that sense Gustavo Arcos was very specific, talking about movies currently censored by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), also raising concerns about the state of the national cinema, and calling for the discussion to be sustained with the counterparty which denies the Film Law.

He recalled the times that Fidel Castro met with the filmmakers “to save the cinema” and that — since the ancient dictator is no longer in power — that interlocutor who, without revealing his face, denied the necessary Film Law from the shadows should be sought, including Raul Castro, Diaz Canel and, according to some of those present, Alfonsito Borges, that grim and mediocre “administrator” of the culture who has done so much harm, and now serves as ideologist of the Party Central Committee, and demand that he answer why he considers that the Cuban films that are censored are also “counterrevolutionary” and to explain “where, how and why these films are against the Revolution, and have a dialogue with the decision makers and probably those considered counterrevolutionary: Alfonsito Borges, and I do not know the others (…).

As for me, I feel that the filmmakers have been too patient, waiting for the routine, when a plan B with stronger actions should have been in place, because that is the only way that things in this country will evidently be resolved, by forcing a discussion. I do not know how much Raul really knows about all this because I am very surprised that Abel Prieto himself, who is his adviser, opposed or at least slowed down, keeping his cards close to his chest, right there at the congress of the UNEAC, the so-called Film Law.”

And in full assembly state security appears imposing their terror (to be continued).

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translated by: Rafael

More Counterrevolutionary (?) Artists Speak Up For Their Freedom (II) / Angel Santiesteban

Eliecer Avila, back right, blue shirt. Screencapture

The latest: the government’s reaction

In the midst of the Assembly of the G-20 (as a group of twenty film directors call themselves), while the filmmakers debated the need for the approval of a Film Act and continued to denounce the hairy hand of censorship with Abel Prieto as its visible creator, as recently happened against Juan Carlos Cremata, a scream alerted that State Security was trying to expel one of those present.

It was Eliecer Avila, who was attending as a member of the general public until he was discovered by an agent of the regime. When the agent entered the room to expel him, he was rebuked by some of those present, although most preferred, as usual, to keep silent, because they knew that he was one of those shadowy figures who swarm cultural institutions and is responsible to pursue, monitor and warn them, and to make them regret their “mistakes” later on. continue reading

Everyone in the room stood up and approached the door where the official from ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry) and the agent of the State Security pressured Eliecer to leave the room, telling him that his presence stained what they were trying to build there.

Eliezer said he did not understand their attitude as he stayed quietly in the audience and had not even spoken about what was discussed there. The “segurosito” –little security guy — (he  wasn’t even five feet tall) responded publicly that he (Eliezer) was a counterrevolutionary and offended them with his presence at that cultural space. Eliezer defended himself saying that he was a revolutionary; his wife supported him, saying that “they were revolutionaries.”

By that time, I had managed to approach and I said it was me who was not “revolutionary”, so before removing Eliezer they would have to remove me. Many filmmakers were amazed at the impudence with which the censor appeared before them as they debated how to end censorship. Freelance journalist Luz Escobar, berated him to read his name and the position he occupied in the ICAIC, to which he replied, “Everyone here knows me.”

Finally, Eliecer, despite assuring he was revolutionary, which didn’t matter to either the “seguroso” nor the ICAIC-official, refused to leave the room and the meeting continued with those present on their feet. They agreed, through voting, try to reach a bridge of dialogue with the pertinent state authorities.

It is unfortunate that once again they usurp spaces from artists, because only they had the right to ask Eliezer to withdraw from the room if they felt he should not be present. I guess State Security will demand that the next Assembly of the G-20 will take place behind closed doors.

However, looking at the gains from these troubled waters, I think that the presence of independent journalists has alerted the dictatorship to an understanding that the issue of the filmmakers is getting out of hand and becoming international news, and although their media prohibit publishing that information, they can not prevent us, independent bloggers, from doing it.

Hopefully our presence there has forced the dictatorship to accept that they must negotiate with the G-20 to restore what belongs to them in their own right: freedom of creation, something that never should have been seized with the justification of making a  “revolutionary” cinema.

I thought I had finished recounting the events at the Assembly, but something told me I should wait; we could expect some reaction after that altercation. And this December 3rd, TV reported a meeting of the plenary of the UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), led by the government firefighter Abel Prieto, where they pledged to “not allow artists and their spaces to converge with the counterrevolutionaries”.

Abel Prieto and Raul Castro

It was the stubbornness I expected from State Security, the Communist Party and the leadership of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba; the coherent response of the dictatorship to a dilemma that is getting out of hand.

I am sure that this time the “counterrevolution” which is how they call us, the ones who are fighting peacefully for freedom and democracy, will push for the necessary dialogue between filmmakers and dictatorship to finally take place.

Last minute phone call

I received an anonymous call from a “concerned” person about my likely attendance at the inauguration of the New Latin American Film Festival.

Angel: Hello, -I said.

-Unknown: Santiesteban?

Angel: Yes, speaking.

-Unknown: I am calling to give you advice -says the enigmatic character

Angel: -Ok, I am listening – I insist.

Unknown: -Just to tell you, you will not be welcome at the opening of the Film Festival.

Angel:-That does not sound like an advice, is seems more like a threat.

Unknown:-Take it as you want, but don’t regret it later.

Angel:-I will be present anywhere I please -I say upset.

Unknown:-Do not think that we will again allow you to interfere with your presence as you did at the “Fresa and Chocolate” meeting room. We do not want you at the Karl Marx Theater, neither at the opening nor at the closing.

Angel:-Well, you do your part that I will do mine. -and I hung up.

I did not want to go anyway, but it mortifies me they want to manipulate their instruments of fear.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, “on probation”

Translated by: Rafael
17 December 2015

#Cuba, Cubans celebrate the 17th of December. Or do they cry for it? / Angel Santiesteban

For Cubans, as long as I can remember and from the history I learned, December 17th is a sacred day in which St. Lazarus calls his devotees to the shrine at El Rincon, on the outskirts of Havana, to make promises, to thank him for favors received or to ask him for health for next year.

The General-Without-Battles Raul Castro and President Barack Obama decided to make public the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States — after sealing the deal with the exchange of hostages, three spies of the Group of Five who were in prison for one American hostage accused of spying for the northern country, Alan Gross, and an agent of the Cuban intelligence accused of treason continue reading

— in such an important date for Cubans, and that way, tarnished the tradition, because even for the more pagan or “communist”, on this day they light a candle asking for health and prosperity for their people.

Since last year, along with the tradition there is the fatal remembrance of an agreement that brought neither prosperity nor a decent opening that shows any willingness from the dictatorship to respect human rights and move the country towards a prosperous and democratic future. It has only been observed by the US President; docility and patience, like the stability of his country would depend on that diplomatic exchange.

This year, when the day of the first anniversary of the agreements comes, we Cubans must light two candles: one for our St. Lazarus and one for the funeral of that presidential pact. The only thing that has been brought by the opening of embassies, is a new stampede of Cubans fleeing their homeland and it far exceeds that of the 1994 Rafter Crisis.

The talks between the two governments eventually convinced people that the only thing to expect is more instability and economic strengthening of the totalitarian regime. The pilgrimage of Cubans throughout Latin America is overwhelming. The latest scandal of the islanders still remains unresolved in Costa Rica; there was a bottleneck with thousands of people stranded in emergency camps because of Nicaragua’s refusal to let them pass through, preventing them from reaching the United States. We could not expect less from President Daniel Ortega, disciple of the Cuban dictatorship.

The Castro mob likes to steal important dates of national traditions. As if was not enough usurping Christmas, banning it, and noting as “counterrevolutionaries” those celebrating it, they chose January 1st as the starting date of the so-called Revolution, that is, the dictatorship disguised as populism, plunged us into the most extreme misery of all and led millions of Cubans to emigrate. Now, they desecrated December 17th, a holy day of a saint who always annoyed them because of the huge number of devotees he has.

Translated by: Rafael
18 December 2015

#Cuba Abel Prieto, Interior Minister / Angel Santiesteban

Abel Prieto, 2nd from left, next to Raul Castro, 3rd from left

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 23 November 2015 — Former Culture Minister Abel Prieto, adviser to the “President” Raul Castro, has distanced himself so much from the realm of Art that today he could be the Minister of Interior since, for several years, he devotes himself to pursue creative sheep who dare to challenge or abandon the sheepfold constructed by the dictatorship to keep artists and intellectuals bowed down.

That friendly editor, devotee of “Lezama’s work,” union-based politician, president of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), Minister of Culture, and finally presidential adviser, has distanced himself so much from the affairs of his colleagues that today, he only responds to the imperatives of the dictatorship. continue reading

How can he forget the persecution launched against intellectual Antonio José Ponte, who he personally accused publicly, expelled him from the UNEAC and shut the doors in the culture area, to the point of making him leave a meeting of writers. Ponte’s being abroad today, it is largely due to him.

The same thing happened with the writer Amir Valle: he also suffered Abel’s harassment and his name could not be pronounced in his presence. He ordered him to be excluded from all cultural events in the country. Amir also thanks Abel — largely or absolutely –for prohibiting his entry to the country upon his return from Madrid, where he traveled in 2005 to present a novel.

Recently, Abel Prieto aggressively challenged the filmmaker Rebeca Chávez during the last congress of the UNEAC, when she and some directors wanted a film law to be approved, that benefits the filmmakers and cinematographic arts in general.

He did not even care that the lady in question has supported the dictatorship for decades; nor that she was the wife of writer Senel Paz, a prestigious intellectual, and back then a UNEAC official — afterward he resigned from UNEAC —  a generational comrade and, as far as is known, his friend.

For most attendees, the aggressiveness and lack of chivalry of Abel Prieto, who completely lost his marbles, uncovered his true character and commitment to the system, turning away from the cultural issues and artists.

From left to right: Former Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz and Abel Prieto former Minister of Culture — photo taken many years ago

In my case, he also did his part: he organized that “spontaneous” campaign to collect signatures against me among the women of the UNEAC. Alleging gender violence, they put me as a paradigm of the perpetrator knowing I was innocent, but simultaneously — this is the most painful — they became accomplices of state violence against the Ladies in White (Women for Human Rights), who systematically and publicly are subject to beatings every Sunday after Mass in the church of Santa Rita. The same attitude assumed when actress and human rights activist, Ana Luisa Rubio, faced a mob that responded to the State Security and disfigured her face in a beating.

From left to right: Current Cuban President General Raul Castro Ruz and Abel Prieto, advisor to the president (old photo)

Abel Prieto, in the presence of other artists said that I would serve the five years in prison to which I had been sentenced. Then, when on April 2015, when the deadline was met, I was denied the Probation I was entitled to, I knew he was not lying, that of being Adviser to the President was not mere investiture.

For many years, that jocose intellectual who betrayed his colleagues was assuming the role of a district chief of police. He was mutating to become another Papito Serguera in the era of Pavonato. In fact, he is a role model if you want to be boosted by the dictatorship. It may be true that saying: “When people get used to power, they do not know how to live without it, and to remain there, they accept the meanness and most desperate and deep contradictions.”

There he is for the dictator. Then he can be used for what he already is: a recruit of the Interior Ministry

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, 20th of November, “on probation”.

 Translated by: Rafael

23 November 2015

Havana Regime Continues to Violate Human Rights / Angel Santiesteban

The regime in Havana continues to ignore the CIDH (International Commission of Human Rights) and keeps violating human rights.

From Angel’s Editor: As I’ve been doing for 3 years, I make available to readers of the blog “The Children Nobody Wanted” the correspondence I keep with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which is systematically ignored by the Castro dictatorship.

Two-weeks from “celebrating” the first anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, let this be an illustration, one more if possible, of what the regime understands as “reforms” and as “humans rights “. continue reading

The delay with which I published them, is because, just yesterday, December 2, 2015, I received the documents dated September 16, 2015.

It is important, although Angel Santiesteban has the appropriate precautionary measures and his case is constantly monitored by the CIDH, on 5th of November last year he was the subject of a new arbitrary detention for 24 hours; he was subjected to a summary trial in which he his Probation was revoked and right after, “it was reversed again”, in what became the final chapter in this “Kafkaesque process.”

Of course, the decision of the retrial continues in a limbo. What will be waiting for Mr. Dictator?

Angel’s editor

Translated by: Rafael
3 December 2015

#Cuba SOS: Angel Santiesteban Arrested Again (Updated)

Angel Santiesteban-Prats. Military Prison, Jaimanitas.

Just reported from Havana, that this afternoon Angel has called a relative and has said he was arrested for not having signed the Probation (order) last week and because there is a new accusation upon him.

As we do not have the details, we will wait until he can tell us himself, about his situation to not make room for speculations.

Angel’s Editor

Translated by: Rafael
4 November 2015

SOS: Angel Santiesteban Arrested

A few minutes ago I received a call from a relative of Angel Santiesteban-Prats to inform me that at noon Angel was arrested again. Upon contact with his family, they still did not know why he was arrested and what he is accused of.

He said he would call later in the afternoon and still they have no news of him.

We imagine that it is a reprisal from Castro’s regime for having denounced the life-threatening danger political prisoner Lamberto Hernández Planas is in, on hunger strike, for having been the victim of a new maneuver by the State Security to revoke his parole and prevent his work as an independent journalist.

Once again, as usual for almost three years now, we hold the dictator Raul Castro responsible for the life and integrity of Angel Santiesteban-Prats.

As soon I have news, I will keep updating.

Thanks for passing this on.

Angel’s Editor

Translated by: Rafael

4 November 2015

SOS: Angel Santiesteban Arrested

A few minutes ago I received a call from a relative of Angel Santiesteban-Prats to inform me that at noon Angel was arrested again. Upon contact with his family, they still did not know why he was arrested and what he is accused of.

He said he would call later in the afternoon and still they have no news of him.

We imagine that it is a reprisal from Castro’s regime for having denounced the life-threatening danger political prisoner Lamberto Hernández Planas is in, on hunger strike, for having been the victim of a new maneuver by the State Security to revoke his parole and prevent his work as an independent journalist.

Once again, as usual for almost three years now, we hold the dictator Raul Castro responsible for the life and integrity of Angel Santiesteban-Prats.

As soon I have news, I will keep updating.

Thanks for passing this on.

Angel’s Editor

Translated by: Rafael

4 November 2015