Facing State Counterintelligence Part 1 / Angel Santiesteban #Cuba

Angel’s shirt after the beatings

Our adolescence was fertilized with novels and TV series that marked our aesthetics and personalities.

How many times did we read the novels, “Here the Sands are Cleaner,” “If I Die Tomorrow,” or the series “It Had to Be in Silence,” with most of us enjoying those fantasies of socialist heroes who, guided by Cuban “Counterintelligence” managed to outwit their enemies.

Over time they have become socialist fantasy trash and the young people of today consider them terrible literary works because of their insubstantial content and their unbelievability.

On Thursday, November 8, we went to present our respects to the parents of Antonio Rodiles, elderly people around 90 years old, and of course his closest accomplices and companions in their ideological ideas. We also wanted to demand the release of the unjustly detained lawyers Laritza Diversent, Yaremis Flores, and Veizant Boloy. We arrived at the Acosta police station and met up with the independent attorney Wilfredo Vallín in the offices there.

They refused to let us see them, from which I inferred they had beaten one or more of them and so they hid them from us.

We could not be fainthearted before the abuse

We stood in front of the police station, coming to be, if I’m not mistaken, seven human rights activists, or bloggers, or opponents, or whatever you want to call us, among them Yoani Sanchez of course, Claudio Fuentes, the professional photographer, Eugenio Leal, the activist Arabel Villafuerte, among others. The truth is that we found ourselves there because it pained us to know that there was an innocent suffering in Castro’s dungeons.

The operation was already closing in. Around us we found a group of “civilians,” military whom we know aim to repress. We were aware that our abusers were just three yards from us. At times I stared at them fixedly to unmask their intentions, dreams, fantasies, but their criminal visage prevented me from doing it. I assure you we were laughing, or perhaps it was a laugh of pity for them.

Someone warned that at the corner they were arresting those who wanted to join the group. They started to force them into the patrol cars and began beating them as usual. We were about a hundred yards away, and in the distance, perhaps out of fear and love, we thought it was Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. It wouldn’t be a lie if we said we were still for a few seconds, we all knew what approaching them would mean, but without any starting pistol we ran as one, I remember that Yoani went like a mother when one of her pups is stolen and she had already forgotten the words of Reinaldo Escobar, her husband, when he said before saying goodbye to be careful, and also the caresses of her son, whom perhaps she would not be there to hug when he got home from school.

The truth was that she went asking for an explanation of why he was being arrested and beaten. In the midst of the siege I watched her unchecked bravery and in a second the door of the patrol car where they had two arrested activists opened and they wanted to put her body into the car. There was a moment where I was frightened because her feet were under the back tires and the car started to move. But they pulled and pushed her. Yoani faced the police and her bravery made them small. Then a boorish official came wanting to provoke her, challenge her. And the brilliance of Yoani was to ask her from which tenement she’d emerged, and to say to her that she was showing no composure at all with her display of trashiness

I was right next to Yoani and I could see the eyes of the officer, and see she was disarmed, as if an iota of shame had escaped against her will because she saw that he was knocked out before the round even began. And to Yoani, whom she knew wasn’t in her weight class ideologically or in principles, she turned her back.

When the order came to grab us

Then we heard when they gave the order to grab us. They pushed us, separated us. I looked around while they were grabbing me and saw Claudio in a patrol car, they took Eugenio off in handcuffs and Yoani as well, and even put her in a patrol car.

When the patrol car came I gave in. I think we were not a force of resistance but of conscience, of justice, of the disorder that we had not originated. When they took me to sit in the car someone behind me said “get in, go,” and I was punched in the neck, without thinking I returned the blow, and they were devastating, as if they had suffered the greatest offense, or it was only that this horde of abnormals had been waiting for a tiny spark to explode into cowardly and abnormal violence. It was like they were waiting for the sound of a whistle to begin their cowardice.

I never imagined that this might be recorded, you already saw the beating they gave me. Although I have not seen the video, you know that watching YouTube from Cuba like everything else is impossible. The blows that hurt most were when they opened the back door on the right: they were like the kicks from a beast, and for a moment I thought they had fractured my skull, there were so many of them and they were so hard that the blows others were giving me on the ribs, back and legs weren’t important. I don’t know if they were beating me with a ring or brass knuckles, but the blows were so forceful they broke my head, my lip, and like an urgent warning of personal salvation, in my semi-conscious state, I decided to get up and get out of the car.

I will not describe more what you can see in the video. But one details that perhaps you can’t see is that, on leaving an officer who was at my back was bragging, he said, “You’ll see if he straightens up now,” and he squeezed me with his arm around my neck until I started to feel faint from lack of air, he did it with such force I thought he’d separated my head from my body.

They led me to another patrol car to take us to the back yard of the police station. I looked at the other cars and they were sitting there, like me, waiting. Next to Yoani there was a woman dressed in civilian clothes. Then they changed the car I was in and I sat beside Eugenio. The voice coming out of the station said, “Let’s get out of here, we have to get out of here,” but it was said with terror. I think they feared more activists would come or that the people who had watched were starting to move towards the entrance to the station.

The journey begins

There was a line of patrol cars led by the Chief of the Operation who traveled in a green Lada with yellow license plates. At the end there was a red van with more hired assassins. They drove around aimlessly, talking on cell phones, from which I infer that the operation had gotten out their hands. The whole time Yoani was making signs of freedom, of Victory, and the bystanders were watching her without understanding much, this severe lack of consciousness that most of the Cuban people have, covered with a mask of innocence and fear. We arrived at the Monumental — the highway surrounding Havana — an ideal place to massacre us and leave us in the gutter. There were no witnesses present.

They stopped the line of cars, there were about nine. Immediately two uniformed women who were so huge they barely left any space sat down next to Yoani. They were searching us, taking our documents. When it was my turn the Chief of the Operation pulled me to my feet by the handcuffs, and despite being able to feel the metal of the handcuffs in my bones, every time I looked at Yoani with that nobility, my strength multiplied

The Chief of the Operation started to kick me with his boot to make me open my legs for the frisk, but he did it with rage, I shouted that this was the best they knew how to do, beat a handcuffed man, defenseless, that they always did the same. Eugenio shouted for them to stop hitting me, that violence wasn’t necessary. While he searched me I took the opportunity to tell him that the dictatorships of the seventies in America had to wait thirty years to be judged, that now they were old men and they were being tried. That the violation of human rights doesn’t expire and that some day he would have to pay for his excesses. He shouted at me, “When I pay you already will have.” I suppose he was saying I would suffer first before him. He told me, “It seems that the five years you’re going to get in court soon isn’t enough.” I told him, of course, the judges are you, that it was all theater and you already decided the penalties before the trial. But I told him it doesn’t matter, here there is a body and courage to face it. “Yes, I know you’re brave,” he told me sarcastically. I’m not brave but neither are you cowards who beat people as a group because you are afraid to do it alone.

When they received the order we now had destinations. They divided us among the city. Eugenio and I were sent to Santiago de las Vegas. There they took me to the hospital because the jailer wouldn’t receive me in such a precarious state. The pains in my ribs were like stabbing needles, and blood was all over my body, coming out of my mouth and my head frightened them, plus the swelling in my lip and cheek.

There I took advantage, thanks to their oversight, to let friends know we were being held in Santiago de las Vegas. On returning to the station they took me to a cell. Before entering I saw Eugenio through the bars and Veizant. The lawyer who set off this chain of injustice when, like an attorney and a husband, he went to inquire about his wife, the attorney Yaremis Flores. We greeted each other with a nod of the head and I assured them that for me it was an honor to share those cells with them. Then he said he was worried about his daughter, because they didn’t know who had taken charge of the girl, he was very worried and like everyone, they had refused to grant him the telephone call which, by law, everyone arrested is allowed in the first 24 hours.

Between Kafka and Virgilio Piñera

Around midnight they took me out of the cell. I thought it would be for an interview. Then they returned my clothes and announced to me that I was being released. For me it was a humiliation, to let me go, to distance me from the fate of my companions was the worst thing they could have done to me. I begged the jailer to let me go back and inform them but he refused. I asked him several times and he said it was impossible. I was very sad, I didn’t know how to face that disdain, at least that’s how I saw it.

At the station door the Duty Officer gave me my ID card. The street was desolate, as is customary in country towns. I asked a passerby how I could rent a car and he pointed to the place. I walked 200 yards and saw a telephone. I called two people, while talking I saw emerge from the darkness two officials who told me I had to go back, “You didn’t want to leave? We’re going to make you happy.”

I hung up the phone but not before reporting what was happening. My interlocutors didn’t understand anything about what was happening. To Kafka and Virgilio Piñera it would have been difficult to imagine. In my daze even I didn’t understand, but I was happy they were taking me back to my brothers.

At the entrance to the cells, after taking my shoelaces and belongings, they took me to a small room where the Operation Official hit me in the ankles. After I sat down he handcuffed me and calmly took out his pistol, cocked it and put it to my head. I felt the weight of the metal on my skull which accentuated the pain from the blows I’d received before. Those seconds were the longest of my life. I don’t know how I got out the words, “At some point you are going to have to pay me.” More seconds passed in silence and he answered, “This is true, I’d better wait until you’re on the street and I can hit you in the head with a hammer and leave you like someone assaulted you to rob you.” He took off the handcuffs and pushed me outside to the jailer to take me to the cells. Outside there was an activist who they’d also arrested whom they were letting go, and he told me, with regards to the pistol to the head and the hammer that they had played out that scene of terror on him too, in the style of Alfred Hitchcock.

I told the others what had happened and no one understood clearly why they had let me go out to the street. Eugenio said they were sick, it was an aberration, and they did it to destabilize me psychologically.

Soon they called Veizant for an interview and told him he would be released, then that his wife Yaremis was being processed by State Security at 100th and Aldabo for a blog post that she had written in which, according to them, she had lied.

Eugenio and I were happy because there were two less in that injustice and this way Veizant could take care of his daughter, who was surely worried about her parents. The body aches were exacerbated to the extent that the nerves were relaxing. Eugenio and I passed the night talking about justice, history and freemasonry.

In the morning they released Eugenio. We hugged and loneliness is the worst enemy, although I preferred seclusion to my friends being detained. At midday four military came for me. They told me to come out of the cell. I asked them where they were taking me. “Wherever we want,” they answered.

When, slowly, because of the pains, especially in my ribs, they made a move to get me up, they wanted to panic me, I refused, and told them not to touch me, but they didn’t wait, they pulled me out by the hair while kicking me some more. They pounced on my as if it was the “pile” game we played as kids, only I was the one underneath; they put a boot in my chest, then my knee, another beat me on the same injured side, with a vengeance. I shouted to give it to me on the other side because those ribs were already broken, and that made him more eager, “Who told you not to obey,” he said, and continued. They tightened the handcuffs with this mania they have to tighten them around the skin until they cut off your circulation.

I was taken at full speed to the middle of the city, they ran the lights and even went zigzagging between the buses and cars. In a few minutes we were at the Aguilera barracks.

How unjust to use the name of our vice president of the Government in Arms!*

*Translator’s note: Francisco Vicente Aguilera was vice president of the Cuban “Government in Arms” formed during an early war of independence fought against Spain in the 1860-70s.

November 19 2012