Cuba, We Who Are About to Die Salute You / Ángel Santiesteban

From Reporters Without Borders

So Orlando Zapata gave himself up with the only weapon he had. Guillermo Fariñas then went to the edge of the abyss, from where it is assumed there is no return, but his spiritual energy carried him and brought him back; besides, the fight is not over, that was only one chapter. Both Zapata and Farina are examples to follow.

Cuban bloggers have endured intimidation, arrests and kicks. And yet it seems little to us if we compare it to the infinite pleasure of communicating, delivering opinions for those who prefer silence out of the fear of retaliation.

The agents of the political police understood that they’re clumsy. Although they continue to engage in physical aggression, now they walk a fine line. They have set in motion the machinery of their means of communication and counterintelligence. Yoani Sánchez was the first, then the blogger Diana Virgen García.

Just around the celebrations of July 26, 2009, the most important holiday of the regime, I was arrested. My ex-wife, after four years of separation and having a relationship with a senior police officer named Pablo, the superior of the Sector Chiefs of the municipality of Plaza, went to the police station at Zapata and C, and accused me of rape. Luckily, at that time I was far from the place that she chose for the false accusation. I was with friends who served as witnesses in the presence of my current partner.

The officer who notified me about the case told me that my ex suffered from a mental disorder, and it was possible she would have to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He said that after making the complaint, he explained to her that she would have to take it to Legal Medicine to corroborate that she really had been raped: it was the only way to present such an atrocity before a trial. She refused. Then she showed a medical document where she was diagnosed with an injury to her ear, and a picture of some marks behind it, such as scratches. The officer let her know that in order for the document to be found valid, she had to return to the doctor with a policeman he would assign to her. She also refused to consult the doctor. Regarding the photo, the officer insisted it would be valid only if it had been taken by police specialists, but as there were no visible marks, it didn’t make sense that experts would appear.

Then my ex rescinded the above allegations and said that she was accusing me of stealing some family jewels. The officer began to ask her for a description, to later corroborate it with her family and friends, so they could guarantee that the jewels were really hers, and to compare them with some photo where she was wearing them. She again refused.

She then asked, as if playing a children’s game, that they take another statement, about my stealing money in several currencies, CUCs, dollars and euros, whose total sum barely surpassed $100.

The officer who assisted me could demonstrate to her, with several witnesses, where I was at the time declared by my ex, while she couldn’t present any witnesses or evidence that would incriminate me.

The officer said I could go without imposing any injunction on me. A month later, I passed about sixty meters from my ex. The next day she tried to accuse me of harassment, but they did not accept the complaint

Fifteen days later, at the place where my ex lived, at dawn, there was a short-circuit in some wires near a bush of dry leaves, and a fire broke out. The firemen took more than an hour to arrive. The neighbors had warned them about the power failure and that an accident could happen. My ex was not at home, but the next day, when she appeared, it was at the police station, and she accused me of attempted murder.

However, several caretakers for neighborhood businesses at the residence saw no one near the place; in fact, it’s nearly three meters high and there are two locked gates that the firefighters had to break down.

Twenty-four hours later I was summoned by the police, and witnesses showed where I was at the time of the fire. And they agreed to let me leave. Then, a senior official insisted that I would have to post a bond of 1,500 pesos. Obviously, it was not by chance that days before I had received an invitation to the Festival of the Word in Puerto Rico, signed by the writer Mayra Santos-Febres. With the imposition of the bond my leaving the country was prevented, along with the possibility of being able to communicate with the international media.

Days later they changed the police officer on my case. The new one was announced as Captain Amauri, and in a short time, he was apprised of all the imaginary complaints for which the prosecutor requested more than fifty years in prison.

There was an alleged witness. I don’t know if it was a matter of one complaint in particular or all of them, but the fact is that the day they began the cross-examination, he shouted that they couldn’t force him to testify against me, that he did not know me.

On leaving the police station, the alleged witness presented himself at my house and before my neighbors explained what actually happened. He videotaped the confession.

Then, last July 25, I was summoned to the station because the alleged witness, the only one they could manipulate, had made a complaint against me of threats: “coercion” to not testify against me. They held me for 18 hours without food or water. Only when Castro’s speech for the celebration of the assault on the Moncada barracks was finished did they release me, without the alleged victim having appeared.

I came home and copied 100 CD’s of the confession of the “witness” and delivered it to the police and to whatever media of disclosure exists in this country, although they don’t function. And like the gesture that quiets the orchestra, there was silence.

Today the authorities don’t know what to do with me. They have a totally manipulated trial where the court rejected my witnesses. They know that I have the video where the witness points out the manipulation, the promises and the pressure on him to testify against me.

That’s the way things are. I remember a school friend, who loved Cuban literature, who asked me, days before I started to post on my blog, if I was prepared to face the devastating machinery of the system. I was silent for a while. I thought about the urgent need to communicate about my environment and social problems. I replied that I was not naive, that I knew how far they could go, and I remembered Martí and Lorca.

I must admit I never thought the Cuban political police were so twisted. I never imagined I would get involved in such disgraces. Anyway, it’s always one step more to freedom. The desperation of the system is a symptom of fatigue.

Translated by Regina Anavy

February 9 2011