Santiesteban, Padura, Milanes and the Repression of Intellectuals in Cuba / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban

From Havana, Cuba, where he lives and is subjected to systematic police and legal abuse by the island’s military regime, because of his determination to be a free writer, especially in his blog “The Children Nobody Wanted,” Angel Santiesteban answered, bravely it must be said, the following interview questions from Armando de Armas for Marti Noticias.

The author faces accusations of domestic abuse, bodily injury, rape, forcible robbery, manipulation of witnesses, and in a trial without procedural guarantees, faces with the indifference of the complicity of artists and intellectuals who, lately, seem to support positions critical of the regime on the island.

What is the alleged crime the Prosecutor is accusing you of?

Several: “The Prosecutor says that in conformity with the provisions established in Articles 278 and 279 of the Law of Criminal Procedure, and with respect to EFP No. 15-709/09, of the Organ of Instruction of the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR), followed by a crime for TRESPASSING INJURIES, RAPE, ROBBERY, AND DAMAGES.”

Tell me about the nature of the witness the Prosecutor has found.

The alleged “witness” is a neighbor of my ex with obvious mental retardation. He has multiple convictions for robbery, theft, fraud, among others, for which he’s been sentenced to several years in prison on different occasions as stated in the record: two full sheets of continuous sentences.

What are some of the most obvious manipulations in the process against you?

In the video the “witness” recorded, we learn that he has been given gifts of clothes and promised other things including a wristwatch, and invitations to lunch and swimming pools. I have evidence that, with respect to the first version of the report that was given to my ex-lawyer, and that I photocopied, and in this new version there are changes in the statements.

They didn’t imagine that I would keep a copy of the first version. Now they have added to it, edited it and distorted it, etc. in the most cynical way possible. In my last interview on August 4, in front of my former lawyer, they gave me a statement that, before signing it, I asked him to scratch the space so it couldn’t be added to.

But even so, you can see that, after the final period someone put a comma, which they didn’t even take the care to write on top of the period, and added, “I refuse to face in court people who attest to the contrary of my statement.” This apparent single line gives the idea that I am afraid, that I don’t want to face those who say the “truth.”

On one opportunity my son said something to the Principal of his school to lessen her affection toward me, for my constant attachment to the school, and when a little while later I, like all days, passed by the school, she put him in front of me to repeat what he had said. And he told us that his mother had asked him to say it. Then the Principal offered to serve as my witness.

But later they went to see her and asked her how it was possible that she would defend a counterrevolutionary. And now she refuses to attend the trial. But there are so many injustices committed against me, that I could fill several notebooks.

Is this to say that your former lawyer betrayed you, was paid for her chicanery?

No, so far the lawyer has been faithful to me, what happens is that they frightened her, she’s over sixty, and could even be a witness for me if my new lawyer thinks she should. The one who falsified the record is Captain Amauri who, as I already explained, when he gave it to my attorney more than a year ago, that was another thing, luckily I took photos, and of the latest version as well.

I have both of them and can see that the latter one has been changed. In the interview they called me to, my attorney attended and I made my statement in front of her. At the end when I had to sign it, after reading what had been written I asked the Captain to scratch out the white space, then I signed it.

Now, blatantly, after the final period (…) something like this, they add a sentence where I say, according to what they added, that I refuse to face in court the people who think differently than me, that is, that I’ve declared myself a coward. Look, if they offer me a confrontation with Fidel or Raul I accept it, I am not afraid to talk even with God when I know I am right.

Do you think your case is of personal interest to the Minister of the Interior, Furry Colomé Ibarra?

I don’t know how that detail got out. On a sheet in the file it says, in italics, signed, sealed and stamped: This is a priority, and in typed letters: Case of Interest to the Minister, followed by a signature and the stamp of the Interior Ministry. The Minister is Colomé Ibarra.

Are we looking at the fact that you now find yourself practically defenseless before a court with no procedural guarantees of any kind?

This seems obvious, the results of punishing me for confronting them, for having a critical opinion of their management as leaders of the State. Here we know that the Police (Ministry of the Interior), Prosecutor and Court are the same thing, they are repressive tools of the State. In my case they haven’t done things because I am somewhat well know internationally and have received support.

Many who don’t have this impact are imprisoned with no one to defend them because they are unknown. An example of a violation of the Penal Code is that it says that after a case is accepted by the court, it can’t be returned to the police, except in the oral proceedings, if some variation occurs and the Court orders an inquiry. However, the Court has returned the case to the police twice. They know this is a violation, but they don’t even respect their own laws.

Do you think that your blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, is the fundamental cause of aggression against you by the military regime?

All my dilemmas have started after I opened the blog. I never had any trouble with the law, except that unjust imprisonment for accompanying my brothers to the coast when they left the country, and a traffic accident. But now I am rapist, thief, abuser, a criminal of the worst imaginable kind. I am ashamed of all these charges. Although my conscience is quiet I can not help blushing.

It all started from the blog. They beat me in the street after threatening me, and as it was not enough then made up this story about me me, but they’ve never been able to prove it, and it’s still without rhyme or reason.

Because they are accustomed to undertaking these processes without anyone questioning them, in my case, they should have known better, they have done the impossible trying to make it look legal, relating me in some way, for example, with this false witness I already told you about, but they know it’s not enough, they themselves find it hard to believe.

Then, this image that the military and its cultural apparatus want to sell through the figure and work of Leonardo Padura and others, about, let’s say, that nobody is repressed on the island for what they write, is absolutely false?

Here several writers, chosen for their international relevance, are allowed to published, but all through literature. They allow that in some interviews they are critical of social problems, the repressive organs pretend to be tolerant; but never very direct. They have never accepted criticism of Fidel Castro. Nor have they ever done so. There is a very well known phrase among Cubans that explains it better: “Play with the chain but never with the monkey.” Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, who never openly takes on the State, only in his literature is there an in-depth description of the social problems, they don’t publish his best known and controversial novels like The Dirty Trilogy of Havana or The King of Havana.

What is your situation on the island now, how do you feel?

My situation is ambiguous, I’ve spent two years of citation after citation to come to the police station. They detain me every time they don’t like a post. Last year I was arrested for hitting a child with my car in the public street, coincidentally it was July 25, the day before Raul Castro’s speech for July 26, his most important historic day and his greatest failure, it is the only thing Fidel Castro has ever done: pulled victory from the jaws of defeat; because he never knew how to lose, never knew how to listen when he was wrong. But fine, this isn’t the issue. The truth is I was detained at the police station until the following day when the official discourse was done, then two State Security agents showed up at the police station and released me with no explanation. They just told me to leave.

Do you think, for example, that a figure like Pablo Milanes or Padura would be capable of collecting signatures on your behalf?

I wouldn’t put them in that predicament, nor those who would like to sign but couldn’t do it for fear of reprisals. I’m satisfied with the signatures of those who are already free. In any event, I leave it to their conscience. In the case of Padure, we were going to the “Festival of the Word” in Puerto Rico, in those days, after seven months dealing with their allegations, an official who worked directly for the Ministry of the Interior showed up at the police station to impose a fine on me. So with that they prevented my going to the festival. The organizers of the festival had the idea to make a statement to demand justice and let their support for me personally, as an intellectual, be known, and Padura made them change their minds. He told them it would be better to wait. Maybe he has another version of the story, although I explained it to him on the phone beforehand.

With regards to Pablo Milanes, I remember when he sang at the “Anti-imperialist Bandstand,” some artists and bloggers demanded justice for Gorki Aguila, for which they were beaten and arrested, and, as far as I know, he never said anything about it, despite the impact it had on the independent media and international press. So I don’t know what to say about their positions. What I can assure you is that for them or other artists who have their rights trampled, or who are physically attacked, my signature will be among the first to support them.

How do you see the game playing out on the island: agreement among friends or a social explosion?

I believe an “Agreement among friends,” although in my personal opinion I would prefer a social explosion.I know that would come at a high sacrifice, almost certainly, it could even cost human lives. And that is what Cubans are afraid of, which makes sense. But in any event, for a long time the silence has cost lives, maybe more, if we compare them. You have to count from the first opponents, like Pedro Luis Boitel, those who were killed in the UMAP concentration camps, I assure you it’s a long list.

Today people are dying of disease and we don’t even find out, and I can tell you that because I live next to a maternity hospital. Perhaps I would be one of the so-called “collateral damages,” or direct. Clearly, if they let me write the script I would certainly write it and it would be ideal, but in life this rarely happens, much less coincides in the events of taking down the powers-that-be.

That the Castros will retire from political life while they live is very unlikely, even if they themselves wanted to, because how could they control what would come after and that we would judge them for their bloody crimes, and for all the money they’ve taken out of the country and wasted.

Receive my embrace and thanks for your concern and solidarity against the injustice that the Cuban government is used to exercising against those who dare to confront them. In every way I am resolved to continue to resist and take their attacks and what I can guarantee is that I am not going to back off. Who speaks for me and guides my actions is my conscience and my feelings.

October 17 2011