To the Righteous (?!) Women from UNEAC*, When is Your Statement Expected’

Lady in White Laura Pollan (now deceased) being dragged by security agents

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 3 June 2015 — There is not a single day of my existence in prison in which I don’t feel embarrassed for those women who, at the beginning of 2013, once I was jailed, made a supposed appeal against gender violence, when in fact it was later shown — by the silence they maintained before other forms of violence exercises against women in opposition to the regime on the island — that they were just intending to comply with government oder, dictated by Abel Prieto personally, spokesman and sinister mastermind, from the darkness of his office as advisor of Raul Castro, the main purpose of which was to smother international solidarity in my favor.

At that time, those women, especially the intellectual ones — whom I had travel with, shared book presentations, events in which they devoted odes to my affability; who I shared emails with daily, dinners, who organized surprise parties for me, and appeared with me in national and international anthologies — once they received the official order, the joined efforts to execute me publicly, just to receive the attention of politicians and cultural officials and looking not to be forgotten when trips abroad are awarded, with which the dictatorship usually rewards their most loyal subjects in the culture field.

It is true that, just when I opened my blog, some of them lavished me with “advice” for “my wellbeing”; opportunistic advice, that of course, I did not listen to. Thus, once they had to go on the attack, they should have tried to calm their dark consciences telling themselves “it was not for lack of counsel.”

I knew some of them well, very well, and I know for a fact what they really think about the government. I also know — backed up by witnesses — that those pretending to be more pro-government, forced to do so by paternal inheritance, have a discourse in the shadow, I mean when they don’t feel spied upon, even more aggressive than the discourse of many who are today in the opposition. Since survival in Cuba depends on faking it instead of being who you really are, people keep faking their delight like tender sheep that bleat praising the power of the totalitarian regime.

At that time, when they were ordered “to execute me” publicly, I did not defend myself. On the contrary, I supported their gender struggle and, as many may recall, I asked them to include in their demand to halt the public beatings of the Ladies in White who, in those days and still today, keep being abused by troops of women and men from the military wearing plainclothes.

If their demand was that honest, if their intentions were that noble and their feelings against violence were that profound, it should hurt them the same for any woman, regardless of her geographical region, the color of her skin and her political views.

Silence instead was the clearest of their answers: confirmation of their double standards and their foul play. Their gender struggle is just fashion, a political attitude of convenience, or a more opportunistic way to earn their cultural spaces.

Nonetheless, I refused to believe such a lack of solidarity. I was shocked, nor did I conceive that someone could advocate for women, putting all their criticism upon a disident like me (who, by the way, it was shown shortly after that the accusation was a hoax, and so far they have not apologized), leaving aside any abuse, whether it is domestic violence (which unfortunately occurs in Cuban homes often), or people who follow government orders (like those beatings that occur all over the island, in front of society as a witness and in front of independent  and foreign media, that capture the facts and support international complaints that these “worthy women” keep disowning even today).

When they savagely beat actress Ana Luisa Rubio, who was an icon of Cuban television, I appealed to the decency of those “righteous” women from UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union), who signers of every official call presented to them, and begged, I pleaded, for them to raise their voices in the Cuban cultural spectrum, to stand up for the civil rights of this colleague, to whom we owed solidarity and commitment as artists. Silence was once again their answer.

Ana Luisa Rubio, who was an icon on Cuban television, after beating by State Security thugs

Through national media, the so-called Intranet, painful pictures were exhibited in which Ana Luisa Rubio, the beautiful actress, appeared unrecognizable after a gang from the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) provoked her, got her to leave her home and attacked her and dragged her down the street until she was unconscious. However, not even when those images went all around the free world through the internet, which some of them have access to, none of these “righteous” women stood up to condemn such vandalism against a comrade.

Recently, two Ladies in White were stabbed on the street in public, while trying to keep opposition leader Guillermo Fariñas from being murdered. Their lives were in danger, especially Percibal Maria Arango’s, who was in intensive care at Santa Clara hospital. Her attacker, Jose Alberto Botell, who besides these two women, stabbed three men who accompanied them, rather than a conviction, Botell received four years in prison — as a prize — because their victims are (political) opponents.

Lady Writers and Intellectuals from UNEAC: Regardless of the personal interest that you have in hiding this inconvenient truth, you cannot deny that the government you “support” is one of nepotism, a sponsor and partner in gender abuse. That is why I know you only say you defend a government like that — nowadays, honestly, and knowing most of you like I do, I doubt it. It is clear to me that it is all about opportunistic positions.

If they wanted to clear their consciences, they would denounce what happened a few days ago, on Sunday, May 31st, when a woman, mother, black, middle-aged and a patriot, Yaquelin Bonne, was brutally abused, as shouldn’t be allowed to happen even against the fiercest animal. International media have been busy spreading the word with the terrible pictures of the brutality committed against this woman, whose only “crime” is to be an activist for the human rights of all Cubans from the platform of the Ladies in White, worthy Cuban women whose unique weaponry, which they have shown well, is to march  every Sunday in front of the church of Santa Rita, after Mass.

Hopefully some of you have the courage, even, to show up on Sunday in front of that Church, and see with your own eyes the most horrible manifestation of the gender violence that you claim to fight against. If you realize, the only thing that will prevent you from being beside those worthy Ladies in White will be your continuing to live in fear or the convenience to an official order. I doubt as intelligent as you are — because I am a witness of such intelligence — that you believe that these women, because of difference in political views, have no right to be defended.

In the silence of all of your lies the biggest and meanest is the defense of machismo, complicity with the horror of gender abuse. With each humiliated or abused woman you keep a timely silence and you lose a new opportunity before history to show real commitment to your positions as intellectuals; before your time, the docile silence, but above all, before your own gender, as women, for being accomplices and taking part in a state that does not stop the outrage against those women who defy their directives.

God forbid, at least this time, do not allow yourselves to be manipulated by the fear to a totalitarian power.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

3 June 2015

Border Patrol Prison

Havana, Cuba

*Translator’s Note: UNEAC = Writers and Artists Union of Cuba

Translated by: Rafael