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

  • 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.

  • 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?

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