Yoss, I Give Thanks to God Every Day That I Am Here / Angel Santiesteban

Yoss, I don’t know how to harbor rancor, neither would I have a reason why, your open letter was in that moment your opinion and – mistaken or not – I wanted to respect that. I only asked that you be more objective, in the interests of  justice. I felt that you were shooting at me from a firing squad, without knowing the story nor the evidences that I provided, as you afterward well came to recognize, and one should not even give an opinion about something if one doesn’t have all the necessary elements to make a judgment.

Yoss, I don’t know how to harbor rancor, neither would I have a reason why, your open letter was in that moment your opinion and – mistaken or not – I wanted to respect that. I only asked that you be more objective, in the interests of  justice. I felt that you were shooting at me from a firing squad, without knowing the story nor the evidences that I provided, as you afterward well came to recognize, and one should not even give an opinion about something if one doesn’t have all the necessary elements to make a judgment.

Yoss, I possess and I offered all the proofs that demonstrate my innocence, I have overwhelming evidence of everything, and not only words as they have against me. Evidences against words.

In a few days more my lawyer will add other new evidence for the Review, which will leave still more naked the Prosecutor, the informer and the Tribunal in front of all the injustices that they committed against me, eliminating any doubt about their real and only purpose: to condemn me for dissenting.

At any rate, as in the trial and later the appeal, I hold no hope, because I am not naïve and I have always known who are the ones who want me in jail and who desire my punishment. What’s more, Yoss, I was warned and threatened – as I declared in advance – that I would be sentenced to 5 years and this was a month before the Tribunal pronounced sentence. They did it in front of witnesses.
The appeals that I lodged through my lawyers had the purpose only of demonstrating my innocence to the world, which definitely is the only thing that interests me; the only thing that concerns me is History, and it was exactly that interest that led me to take off the mask of a successful intellectual, touring Cuba and the world, in order to take up my ideals before my time. I know that with all the proofs that I present, they will not matter because the verdict was and will be in the hands of State Security and not in the hands of the Courts nor in any of corresponding bodies, which have carried out and will carry out the arbitrary and unjust orders that they have received.

It is a pity, as you also recognize, that Cubans do not have access to the Internet, as there are evidences that you are missing, the necessary evidences so that any honest person, once he has seen them, would recognize that I am innocent, and there they are, in hands of the world, except for the Cubans on the island.

I never asked that they believe in me, I have always asked that they check, by their own means, the evidences, so that later they can evaluate it.

Recently a friend visited Cuba. He arrived, convinced of my innocence because he had followed the case, had evaluated it, having the multiple evidences in my favor and the conduct of the Court, its arbitrariness and contradictions to the point of lying with impunity against me and putting on a flimsy show with the intention of condemning me. So this friend, during his visit, and because of the friendship that linked us together, was able to have a conversation with my ex, and he assured me that while they were talking she began to believe him, by what had to do with an appeal to her intelligence and sanity: he had seen all the evidence, he saw the put-up job that she along with the police and the Prosecutor’s Office had hatched, and as well everyone was being manipulated by some tears and a perfect performance. When they had finished, he was completely terrified to find out how her performance was able to give a vision of a perfect victim; then Yoss, if those who saw the evidences can be manipulated, imagine those who have not seen them.

Recently my son – who is already grown and thinks for himself – told me that a few days before he had been with his mother in her home in Calabazar, and upon hearing a noise in the patio, he saw her take a huge knife and go out defiant, threatening whoever was out there, and my son watched in silence. A woman with this temperament could never be harassed or abused by anyone.

With regard to the mother of my son, I just ask God to forgive her; I say this with all honesty, because cynicism is not one of my traits. A day before entering the prison my son tearfully confessed to me that his grandmother called him “traitor” solely because he loves me and he looks for me as I do him, and on the first visit that I received he let me know that his mother threatened him with the loss of the emotional ties with his maternal family if he decided to take any action in my favor.

A few days ago I found out from him that he had failed his grade. Sure, we agree that my son has been the most harmed, but his mother in her spite overlooked it for the sole purpose of hurting me. For myself, I can only provide that my son and I are very happy when we are together, which corresponds to the love that unites us.

During a past family visitation, he wanted to come with me to the inside of the camp in which I was held and where access is forbidden to family members. Violating this regulation, I took him to my bed, I introduced him to the other inmates with whom I lived; I did it so he would leave calm and relieved. I remembered the movie – excepting the distances and time – “La Vida es Bella,” I told him that this place was like a “camp in the country.”

He has been manipulated, but has grown up and has, as he has told me, a burden on his conscience for not having defending me in his moment. I told him, and honestly it’s what I think, that God “writes crooked paths straight,” and He will know why He wanted to have me here, and I thank him for it.

My ex was born and raised in “La Güinera”, a slum neighborhood and therefore hostile, where from a very early age the characters are hardened to survive the social jungle, and which she brags about having broken out and successfully left. Moreover, it is to say that whoever dares to confront her will receive a strong response, “La Güinera”-style.

I repeat once more and hopefully it will be the last time, that when she made the accusations, we had passed two and a half years separated and living in different homes. Earlier, in the first year of separation, she had had lodged an accusation against me, from which I was acquitted, thanks to the fact that even the State Security was not interested. From that time on, they used her for new accusations against me.

Whoever is interested in the truth can also find out the addresses where we lived as a couple and there they will have evidence that there was never an argument nor altercation between us. Only, and to everyone’s surprise, the day we separated we got worked up and I asked her that she not be there when I returned, that she go to her home. It was as simple as that, at my return she was already not to be found. The neighbors testified that they had never suspected that we were having problems, they saw us as a happy couple. That occasion was the first and only time we raised our voices. Those who adjoined my apartment in Calle 11 No. 304, between H and I, Vedado, offered to be witnesses for the trial, but the Court the rejected them.

When I realized that my ex would not cease with her false and constant accusations, I distanced myself, moving to the dwelling of my partner, at a distance of some 20 km from my own, because my ex had rented only 200 meters. With all the immensity that is Habana!

There is no worse blind person, nothing, than the one that he who does not want to see. And believe me that I do not exaggerate when I assure you that at the moment of entering prison, my ex had asked a cousin the loan of a house just two stops from the house of  my partner, and where I was residing, so that we would have only one avenue to travel: Rancho Boyeros. She did it without need, leaving vacant the apartment in Vedado, where it was rented out before passing on to be the property of her aunt, who does not live in it, thanks to a bartered exchange. Sometimes my son is the one who stays there. What could it be called, this marked interest of hers to have me close?

Sometimes I think that the lack of information and of the Internet turns the Cubans on the island into skewed beings. Since my punishment was not upheld, the Tribunal had to lie in the sentencing, which may also be seen in the document that is scanned on the Internet, I was penalized without evidence and “MISTAKENLY” with an article that doesn’t even have to do in the supposed case of having committed the crime. “COINCIDENTALLY” said article adds a year(s) more to the punishment, that which invalidates whatever sentencing, forcing to them to repeat the trial.

Why this fear of having a fair trial? They know that a new oral hearing cannot repeat the outrages of the first, because now they are being watched by the international press and public opinion.

If that were not enough Yoss, seek, inquire with your friends and acquaintances, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and ask whether at any time they have heard of a sentence that is like this or similar to the one in which they imposed on me 5 years, corresponding to a similar offense. Has any of them taken to prison someone who is a first-timer, as in my case, in which the tribunal recognizes one’s professional achievements, as was in my case by being a writer who is nationally and internationally prominent?To all of this one has to add that prison only applies when the sentenced, by reliable proofs, poses a danger to society or to the alleged victim. I reiterate that since it all began until the day of judgment, they spent more than three and a half years.

Yoss, I  thank you, that you have investigated, gone deep, and I continue to earnestly ask you to keep looking for that what you are lacking in order to believe in my full innocence, and, I assure you, you will reach it when you see the video of the false witness whom they bought in order to compromise me. Ask people we know, whose names I do not mention, so that you do not to not miss the ethic. They will be able to give you the video which will clarify any glimmer of doubt that remains for you.

In regard to friendship, Yoss, in your letter you were confused, you were excessive, you seemed like the friend that knows everything about me first-hand, and to be a friend is more than a greeting of acquaintances, of colleagues who have ridden for years in this profession of writing. Friendship is an eternal brotherhood, a reason to live, and I have my reverence for my friends. I swear to you that in the future I would like to be able to say of us, for me it would be an honor, to have that doorway to the feelings of the other, his limitations and his values; for me, friendship is a profession, a garden with the most delicate flower that one can offer, full-time, and it was precisely that which happened, that your letter had the effect of being buried alive, a bullet shot to the temple, it being unfair because of me, as I of you, I know nothing more than that which we can observe in our daily happenings.

I was always sure in your case that there were hands, helping the officials, that gave you false testimony. You have to take care Yoss, there are people who appear that they are not such, but they were crushed in their time, and there were those who became agents of State Security and I know, that generation for the most part had no other option than to agree to collaborate, some have confessed so to me. Not only have they confused you, with their unfounded comments, also to some foreigner who steps forward they give their false and distorted testimony, always against me, of course; in fact, they knew I would be imprisoned when nobody could believe it and claimed that they would prevent my entry into the prison, there were these obscure characters who asked my son if the subpoena from the Tribunal had arrived yet.

As for your understanding about the abuse against the Ladies in White, that in my case, erases any possibility of resentment between us.

Finally, it made me laugh, your petition not to be named to a Cabinet, where I would be, anything more nor less than “Minister of Culture”. Yoss, there is nothing further from my mind than that dream, my dream is another: to write in my country without being censured or be persecuted for what I believe or profess, nor any other Cuban. Moreover, when the reality is not the best for the people, I will always be in the opposition, that is the duty of artists. My dream of writing in freedom, as simple and difficult as that, unites us and then and there we will see each other and deepen this friendship that we need to be bullet-proof, because there is no other way, and that I would like to share with you as with the rest of my beloved friends. Until then, there is nothing else to do but hope.

They lied to bring me here, as it is customary for them, they said that I would go into a hospital for a medical check-up, but I already knew that the dermatologist who attended my spots had not issued any order for me to be checked up, and this is what they did when they got me out, they took me directly to the 1580, and as in a lousy screenplay, brought to my punishment cell a female doctor whom I refused to let treat me. They also wanted to avoid certain visits that I could receive in La Lima and I was warned by Lieutenant Coronel Rubén, of section 21 of State Security. Since I have been a prisoner, they visit me to see the result of their dirty work, reveling in my custody. From my arrival in the 1580, I have refused to receive them. According to the prisoners of more years who have traveled the island from Pinar del Rio to Baracoa, the 1580 is the worst prison of Cuba, it is made precisely for violating laws and for doing the dirty work. I wish to repeat that I thank God every day that I’m here. I’m the last one they should bring to this hell.

Heaped in that solitary place, without water or light, without personal hygiene, on a bed of poured concrete, I would remember Edmund Dantes, shut up in If Castle.

And so you see Yoss, by luck or misfortune, to see these men surviving so much calamity, to see them swallow glass, metal, cutting off [their] arms or on hunger strikes with the only hope that someone will hear of their misfortunes and violated rights, and despite everything, to resist the constant beatings, it nourishes my imagination, it multiplies the creation for me and allows me to continue fulfilling this mission of reflecting human pain, of showing readers this hidden face of the time in which we are slated to life.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison 1580. April 2013.

2 May 2013