Santiesteban depends on us

By Lilianne Ruiz

Havana, Cuba, April,  After having been more than a week in a punishment cell, Angel Santiesteban was seen Tuesday, April 16 by his lawyer Amelia Rodriguez Cala, who was denied a visit on April 11.

The prison’s own officials had declared that Santiesteban was in a punishment cell and carrying out a hunger strike.

Since the week before April 9, in which it had been announced the visit by the official Cuban press and a group of foreign correspondents to some jails, it had been proposed that Santiesteban be transferred to the Salvador Allende military hospital in order to receive treatment for dermatological problems.  Santiesteban refused.

Then he was informed that they would give him a pass to visit his home. Santiesteban called his family to advise them and told them that he would call again to pin down when they should expect him on Monday, April 8.  But the second call was never made.  He was transferred in handcuffs and by force, in an illegal manner, from the Lima jail to the jail known as 15-80 in San Miguel del Padron, in order to prevent him from interacting with the press.

It was known that Santiesteban tried to resist the transfer and this had been carried out Sunday, April 7, in the night. Besides the arbitrary transfer from a regime of minimal severity in La Lima, to a regime of maximum harshness in the 15-80, the writer was thrown into the punishment cell for having demanded his rights.

The government of Raul Castro published in Granma, the official organ of his party, and on its official website Cubadebate, Wednesday, April 10, the visit made by some select journalists to see a part of the jail system; but it has refused on all occasions to allow the human rights mechanisms established on an international level see the situation in Cuba, and in particular the inside of the prisons.

Next May 1 it is expected that the Cuban government will appeal before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in the Periodic Universal Review, in order to examine the Human Rights situation on the island.

Cuba still has not ratified with the second signature the United Nation’s Human Rights Accords, and in the last review received the Council’s recommendation that it ratify as soon as possible.  To which the Raul Castro regime responded “that it needs time to analyze the contents of the Accords and to harmonize them with national legislation.”

Santiesteban, like many other Cuban political prisoners of whom there is news — as is the case of Ernesto Borges Perez, Sonia Garro and her husband — was hidden from the press in this announced visit.  Maybe, as we know, in order not to ruin for the correspondents the script agreed upon with the government, and in this way to give to the Cuban delegation before the UN’s Human Rights Council the chance to boast that the press visits Cuban jails.

In the case of the prize-winning artist Angel Santiesteban, the determination to destroy him symbolically and physically began for the second time with the opening of his blog The Children Nobody Wanted.

Because Santiesteban is a man marked by the experience of Cuban imprisonment: at 17 years of age he was held in the La Cabana jail for having gone to say goodbye to his uncles and sister who were “illegally” (in a boat) leaving the country, and they were all captured and accused of “counterrevolution.”  All were sent to different jails in Cuba; even the young Santiesteban, who at 17 years of age had only gone to the coast to say goodbye to them.

The national and international prizes, won for his work and his talent, did not erase Angel’s dissident brand, who unlike many Cuban intellectuals could not be bought with foreign trips nor privileges of any kind.  Neither was he paralyzed by fear.

He was judged without legal guarantees, in a fraudulent process as the monitoring of the details of the process itself indicates.  He himself commented on an opportunity:  ”It was so incredible that first we thought that the trial would not be held.”  In the end, it was shown once more that in Cuba there do not exist, within the system and through that legal recourse, independent mechanisms of protection for the citizen who finds himself in the sight of a complex apparatus of State Security.

The only thing left to us Cubans is the effective memory of us that people of good will in the world have of us, that they work for solidarity with those who suffer and that they formally impose limits on the Castro government, so that it recognizes once and for all the rights of the Cubans, higher than the ideological monstrosity that serves no one and that is the excuse brandished before the world in order to continue destroying, incarcerating, assassinating, with total impunity within our borders and without recognizing the political opposition.

In the next week, Santiesteban’s lawyer must present a revision of appeal of the case.

May 1, while Cuba is being reviewed in the Periodic Universal Review, some influential people in the world may remember that phrase by Vaclav Havel who also suffered a communist dictatorship:  ”They lie when they say they don’t lie.”

That day, where will Angel Santiesteban and the rest of the Cuban political prisoners be, standing and rebellious?

Published on Cubanet

Translated by mlk

20 April 2013