The Dictatorship’s Gift / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on March 18, 2014
February 28, 2013, the day that the Castro brothers’ totalitarian regime
jailed me, was not a day chosen randomly by the political police.
That day, several events happened simultaneously, and it was significant
for many reasons in my case. Firstly, that day was the birthday of my
partner, and they well knew it because they had interviewed her several
times on television; it was also the culmination of the Book Fair in
Havana and its continuation in the rest of the country’s provinces.
But not even those two dates indicate the bigger joke, the cynicism in
the face of not only the dissidence but the world, principally the UN
agency, because that day marked five years since the initial signing
that the Chancellor Felipe Perez Roque — in 2008 — accepted the respect
of human rights with the UN Covenants. What they perhaps did not know
and is most important for me is that that day celebrated the anniversary
also of the birth of the great Cuban writer Cirilo Villaverde.
The Cuban government joined me on a date memorable to the island’s
writers with a distinguished writer and fighter for Cuban liberty, a
coincidence that makes me proud with the love of literature and the need
for liberty. For his political ideas, he was jailed and sentenced to
death, which he was able to circumvent thanks to the complicity of his
In homage to his sublime figure, I now in prison began a novel that
takes place in 1808, on the eve of the anniversary of his birth, and my
characters travel that Havana that he describes in his novella Cecilia
Valdes or the Angel’s Hill; it has also inspired in me a script for a
telenovela, which I am working on currently, writing the scenes for more
than 100 episodes.
According to the writer, blogger and fighter for Human Rights, Luis
Felipe Rojas, by taking advantage of my time in prison, it could appear
to be a conspiracy between my readers and State Security. The truth is
that if that February 28 was intended to be a mockery of any of the
“coincidences,” I have tried to reverse it and make it transcendent, at
least for my future work Fear and Truth. Such is the fear inoculated by
the dictatorship since its birth, that later — as much as we exorcise it
— it remains hidden, lurking in our guts.
Recognizing the fear in the Cuban citizens is simple and part of the
idiosyncrasy of a people engulfed in dictatorship. To demand rights,
convinced by reason, is unacceptable for the majority when they infer
the cost they would have to pay. By telling the truth one is accused as
a traitor, of pandering to our neighbor to the north.
In this year of incarceration, many have dared to send me their
solidarity verbally, recognizing that to declare it publicly would be to
pay a price that they are not ready to sacrifice.
But the most difficult thing has been to accept that that engendered
fear also permeates the opposition as is demonstrated in several ways.
Some have given witness to having been threatened by State Security,
which would not pardon them the defense of my case, to the point of
intimidating them by prohibiting for them the possibility of travelling
abroad, now that this has become the fashion.
That corroborates my fear that many of them gave their word to stay at
my side, but once I was sent to prison, they distanced themselves,
forgot their commitments, coming to allege that my “accusation” is hard
to defend because of the international propaganda against “domestic
violence.” If that is not called striking a deal, I don’t know the word
to define it.
Of course State Security searched for the most sensitive accusations in
the public view in order to try to some extent to be defended; for
example, running over a child in the road and fleeing, rape, attempted
murder, among others — coincidentally all erroneous — for which I was
In the first Prosecutor Petition I published on the internet, it sought
54 years incarceration, which was only truncated thanks to the hidden
interview — recorded on video — that we did of a false witness that the
prosecution, police and complainant prepared with the intention of
corroborating their lies.
I will always ask myself what would have happened if the “witness” had
not been caught telling the truth! Today I would be sentenced to more
than a decade of incarceration and with almost all the opposition to the
government turning its back on me because they would see me as
indefensible. The fear speaks for itself.
As if that were not enough, the forensics specialists admitted that the
“witness for the prosecution” was telling the truth, in terms of
unmasking the ruse against me, because he thought that the person who
interviewed him was part of the prosecution, as he was introduced, and
was unaware that he was being filmed by a laptop camera that he had
before him. In that video the witness admits that he is uncertain that
I was in the place where I was accused of being and for which I was
sentenced to five years in prison, now finishing the first year behind bars.
Simply, when it comes to officials or opponents who accept or put in
doubt my innocence, I do not rely on their transparency.
Lawton Prison Settlement. February 2014.
Lawton prison settlement. February 2014.
Source: The Dictatorship’s Gift / Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba