Angel Santiesteban Before the Dawn

Alfredo Fernandez

Angel Santiesteban

HAVANA TIMES — As soon as I heard the news that the writer Angel Santiesteban will be going to prison for five years, what automatically came to mind were two of the many writers who had difficult relationships with “socialism”: the Cuban author of Antes que Anochezca (Before the Dawn), Reinaldo Arenas; and Poland’s Czeslaw Milosz, who wrote The Captive Mind.

Like Santiesteban, both of them had serious problems when they loudly denounced what was happening in the “socialist” systems in which they had lived at some point.

Mi?oz, a survivor of World War II, lived in post-war Warsaw where he suffered “real socialism,” where his oppression was almost similar to that of his previous floggers, the Nazis.

Reinaldo Arenas — who was punished both for being a critical writer and for his sexual preference outside the canons of those times — left the table set for the regime to not only take his “freedom,” but also his literature. Though he died more than two decades ago, Arenas is still not published in Cuba.

Soon, when Angel Santiesteban changes his civilian clothes for a horrible gray denim uniform, nothing new under the revolutionary Cuban sun will be happening. He was told of his sentence prior to the trial by a “courteous” state security agent.

“Soon we’re going to put you away for five years” said the agent, who said his name was Camilo and who in his eagerness didn’t lie to the writer. Subsequently, the trial, the defense and the appeal were all duly arranged.

Angel Santiesteban — a Cuban writer, a member of Cuban Writers and Artists Association (UNEAC), a winner of the Casa de las Americas and the Alejo Carpentier literary awards — is now a criminal who must be accountable to “socialist” society by giving up five years of his freedom for “domestic rape and injury”, according to Santiesteban’s blog.

It seems to me that Santiesteban is no more than a guinea pig. Like Reinaldo Arenas, he dared to go beyond what’s allowed of intellectuals.” “Outside the revolution, nothing,” Fidel stated in his “Words to the Intellectuals” at the beginning of the revolution.

In his literature, Reinaldo Arenas incorporated the bonus of open homosexuality, while Santiesteban’s “fiction” — replete with accounts of prisons, corrupt cops and beings endlessly mired in society — was added to by his blog, Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children that Nobody Wanted).

Could this be the real reason for his coming imprisonment?

Undoubtedly Angel has become the latest guinea pig for teaching a lesson to other UNEAC writers how dangerous it is to have contact with dissidents. He wrote “Look what will inevitably happen if you follow in the footsteps of Santiesteban. This warning is just in case you forgot Padilla, Maria Elena Cruz Varela and others. They’re examples so you can see who we are.”

That and nothing else seems to be what Cuban State Security is saying to UNEAC, still stuck in the closet of self-censorship, simulation and mental paralysis – though it’s timidly trying to stretch.

A jail cell like Angel Santiesteban’s is waiting for whatever writer who calls for the same drastic short-term changes in the country.

The extreme deterioration of Fidel Castro along with Chavez’s absence from the media are enough to make even an atheist believe that Santiesteban will never serve all of such an obscene sentence, and much less now, because when the writer awakes he’ll already have his free thought.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.


12 thoughts on “Angel Santiesteban Before the Dawn

  • March 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm
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    I said “Every country which has tried democracy and stuck to it” …sticking to it is an important part of the fix.

    Among their abundant natural resources, Cuba has fertile soil, large mineral deposits (nickel, copper, iron, cobalt) and a modest quantity of oil (and possibly much more). Add to that outstanding tourism potential.

    The problems of the Cuban economy are not due to a lack of natural resources, but to a lack of capital investment and the nature of their socialist economic system. The aging demographics due to an unsustainably low birth-rate and constant emigration of their young and talented has also harmed the Cuban economy and poses the greatest long term threat. The Cuban government must give the young a reason to stay and build families if they want to have any hope of averting a complete collapse of their country.

  • February 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm
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    Like Haiti, you mean? Republic of Congo? Ghana? Nigeria? Sorry, but you are demonstrably wrong. The improvement of the level of living is more strongly linked to other factors like natural resources and science and technology advances.

    Cuba is NOT abundant in natural resources of any kind and you can’t do much with an educated population if most of them simply can’t work in their area of expertise for the lack of resources.

    Your only valid point is the lift of the US embargo, and that passes the ball to the US court. In other words, what right (legal, moral or otherwise) they have to impose their will to a sovereign state and blackmail them with economic misery if hey follow their own path?

  • February 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm
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    Democracy won’t solve Cuba’s problems over night, but it will put them on a path toward a growing economy. That’s not a faith based argument. Every country which has tried democracy and stuck to it has improved their standard of living. Keep in mind, the Cuban people are educated and the island has abundant natural resources. Remember, a return to democracy is the pre-requisite for the US ending the embargo, which would open up the US market to Cuban exports.

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:21 am
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    Sorry, but thats a faith based argument and not a reasoned one. Poverty is poverty, there are countries that have both democracy AND poverty and we can’t see anything you mentioned above happening.

  • February 13, 2013 at 9:23 am
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    AC, if you will permit me, I can tell you how open and transparent elections will begin to lift Cuba from the precipice of moral and economic disaster. Once Cubans believe that, come what may, their future rests in their hands and the decisions that they make at the polls will have a direct relationship on their individual futures, they will elect leaders whose policies promise to change Cuba for the better. Over time, once these changes have been implemented, Cubans will learn to blame Cubans, not embargoes, nor the weather, or other external factors for their shortcomings. In short, Cuban productivity will rise when Cubans can earn more money at their jobs. Cubans will stop stealing from their jobs when they learn that they only hurt themselves when they lower profitability. Cuban seniors will have access to better retirements because government support will increase. No one should be deluded that democracy will make Cuba perfect. But it will make a helluva improvement over what they have now.

  • February 13, 2013 at 8:12 am
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    Sure thing, remove US government change policies and open hostility that forces them (rightfully or not) to have a monolithic stance and they eventually will come to that.

    I asked this question in another thread, but you failed to answer. Just explain to me in plain english how holding democratic elections will solve Cuba economic issues. Just make a plausible chain of events that leads from “democratic elections” to “economic growth” in todays Cuban context and don’t forget to mention what will happen with a million or so retired people and the chronically ill or disabled during the transition.

    In other words, make your case. If is good enough and has a decent chance of successful implementation, count me as converted.

  • February 13, 2013 at 5:57 am
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    “Does being a dissident writer puts you above the law?”

    If you’re Cuban, apparently yes, because the White House is, and so can arbitrarily say who’s guilty and who’s innocent.

    “(…) anything related with Cuba is so heavily politicized that trusting
    blindly ANY source is pure naiveté.”

    Yes, specially if the ill-paid ‘journalist’ Wilfredo Cancio Isla is holding most of the information on this case. He said he’d gather a ‘video of his ex-wife proving that she was forced to incriminate him’ but he didn’t show anything.

  • February 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm
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    Surely there must be another alternative to those two options: either toppling it, or hoping the regime finally evolves into something competent & benign. How about opening the political system to allow other points of view and other parties? How about respecting human rights and freedoms? How about holding free and democratic elections? Those simple steps can save Cuba from the collapse the current regime is heading for and ensure a safe transition for the nation. The current program is unsustainable. The changes indicated by Raul head the country into an era of corruption and state-corporate domination under the control of the military.

  • February 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm
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    Sure, but as both of you should know by now, anything related with Cuba is so heavily politicized that trusting blindly ANY source is pure naiveté. It he thinks the evidence is staged, he should gather as much evidence as he can, appeal the trial making as much noise as he can to get public attention and make it as fair as possible, or at least to expose any hypothetical government-sponsored lie.

    Getting second thoughts on the trial merely based second hand hearsay from some obscure testimony taken out court of by someone whose name is been conveniently kept hidden for fear of retribution is plain and simple gossip and taking it as basis to invalidate a trial is laughable.

    As for supporting the regime, you are mistaken. I’ve merely pointed out that the opposition lacks strategic vision and a viable plan for Cuba and in those circumstances I think that gradual reforms within the government will work better for the Cuban people than just toppling it and praying about what happens next.

  • February 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm
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    When his ex-wife gave evidence against him, she was living with an officer of the Cuban state security agency. One of the “witnesses” against him was a man with an extremely low IQ. The case was a frame up.

  • February 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm
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    The problem is that the evidence which points to his guilt is specious at best. An eyewitness whose testimony sealed the conviction has since recanted. Even the ex-wife (which is always grounds for questionable testimony, ha ha ha) has changed her story FOUR times. On the other hand, there are multiple witnesses who were willing to testify that Mr. Santiesteban was at another location at the time that he was alleged to have commited the crime. AC, while you seem to support the regime, you write comments as if you have managed to keep an open mind. You appear to be an original thinker. I encourage you to google his name and read the evidence for and against for yourself.

  • February 12, 2013 at 11:33 am
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    That and a break and enter, wife beating (assault) conviction. Is this harsher than usual punishment politically motivated? Probably, but is not a clear cut that his conviction is harsher than usual. First of all, break and enter alone can get up to 10 years in prison, specially if violence is involved like in this case, then regardless of whether this was a harsher punishment or not, he was accused, tried and found guilty of the crime.

    What is the point of defending a convicted person from the punishment of what constitutes a crime everywhere in the civilized world? Does being a dissident writer puts you above the law? Does it justifies every action he ever made? Having more pressing issues, is this fight even worth fighting?

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