My Case File Disappeared / Angel Santiesteban
My Case File Disappeared / Angel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban, Translator: Regina Anavy
These days I have wandered with my lawyer through the "legal systems" of
Cuba. The Castro brothers, who own the Birán estate that was previously
their father's, later extended the fence to the limit of the
jurisdictional waters and converted the estate into Birania. They seized
the rest of the nation and have "governed" it as if it were their
personal fiefdom, by pure caprice and personal interest.
Back in 1994, they captured me for accompanying my sister to the coast
to say goodbye to her. After 14 months in La Cabaña prison (hell). I
was acquitted and they withdrew the charge of "concealment" because I
heard at trial that among siblings and parents this offense does not
apply. The fact is that I suffered for that year and two months, with
its days, hours, minutes and seconds. I should thank them for making me
do time, because I matured earlier than I would have by my nature,
education and environment. I always say that if God exists he sent me
there because thanks to him I was able to prove myself through poverty,
the suffering of Cuban youth, and the many tears that I saw fall in
those cell blocks. I discovered that my vocation was to be a writer.
I devoted myself to writing in body and soul, and with a literature that
highlights the plight of Cubans through the manipulated image that the
"revolution" has made us suffer. My characters appeared, shaped into
stories and books. These volumes were awarded the most coveted prizes,
in spite of officials who tried to see a way of containing my ascent as
a writer. Of course I suffered in 1992, when they took away from me the
Casa de las Americas prize, according to the testimony of the jurors
themselves. In 1994 something similar happened, and finally to run no
risk, they decided to remove my work from any contests where there were
awards. They also removed my work from portfolios, anthologies and
literary events. That was my punishment, the price I paid for writing a
critical story that was aggressive according to the dogma of the
dictatorship. Honestly I never cared, I was aware it was my duty, and
it's impossible to resist your own nature.
I was visited by several intellectuals who told me to stop.
I don't hide that I always had the need to write my opinion, my point of
view, on the environment, on people I knew, their frustrations, desires,
dilemmas, fears, horizons and all that could happen to human beings. I
dreamed of writing in a newspaper, on a corner of the last page, but I
also knew that was impossible, that with the Cuban system I never could,
since all the newspapers are administered by the government, and any
attempt to create an independent one is punished with the toughest laws.
On a visit to the Book Fair in the Dominican Republic, I learned there
was something called a blog, and it was the closest thing to that little
corner of a newspaper, however unimportant it was. I dreamed about
posting. On returning I opened my blog. Immediately I was visited by
several intellectuals who told me to desist; that was my first warning.
I persisted. So I was removed from the Cubarte email, which was paid
monthly, to prevent my connection with the rest of the world. I resisted.
After two months I was assaulted by members of State Security, who broke
my arm. They thought that this reprisal would be sufficient. They never
were more wrong, because by then, with the cast on my arm, I needed to
double my effort to write more on the blog and to go meet other Cuban
bloggers who offered me support. They staged several repudiation rallies
at my front door. Sometimes I went by and greeted them, thinking they
were CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) meetings. Then I
found out they were against me, and my neighbors found a way, without
being seen, to tell me they were there but had nothing against me and
supported me, and they always justified themselves by talking about
family, retaliation, etc.
The Prosecutor asked for the laughable sentence of 54 years in prison.
When they realized that blows would not be the way to make me give up,
they brought accusations. The first was when I started the paperwork to
go to the Word Festival in Puerto Rico. They had to avoid my attending
at all costs, and the only way to do this was to bring a civil lawsuit
to hide that I was being punished for my point of view.
They began with detaining me, saying I had knocked down a child with my
car and I would abscond. The child, as I have said several times,
luckily never appeared, nor did the charges. But the time of arrest was
on the record.
Finally they manipulated my ex, from whom I had been separated for over
two years. They accused me, without any evidence or witnesses, of so
many things as if they had happened that perhaps they thought at some
point of torment I might ask for mercy and promise to surrender.
The truth is that adding up all those years in prison, according to the
prosecutor's request, amounted to the laughable sum of 54 years (without
including the other charges that they brought and then dismissed).
The prosecutor, anticipating how ludicrous that would look to
international opinion, decided to "combine" the charges and requested 15
years in prison. For this they invented a "witness" (with acute
neurological problems, who was a career criminal with more than 30
convictions, including theft, fraud, harassment of foreigners, etc..),
and thanks to a hidden camera the truth came out and he showed the
clothing they gave him and other gifts he had been promised, and
invitations to dinners and swimming pools, all in exchange for a
declaration against me.
When they learned about the video, because I gave it to the prosecutor,
they accused me of "attack" because they made him declare that he had
been threatened into making the video. Finally an expert showed that the
man in the video was telling the truth. I suppose the complaint was not
eradicated since I was never summoned to make a statement.
They worked in a feverish manner to make me submit.
Since then I've been waiting for the trial. After three years of being
summoned to the Picota station at 100 and Aldabó, I can understand they
are tired, bored with waiting for my submission, my incorporation into
the fold. There is no shortage of advice; I always warned them that it
wouldn't happen, but they have so little capacity to understand that
they worked feverishly to make me submit. Finally, from my first
statements to what they are today, there are differences, they changed
them, but what they didn't imagine is that the first time they delivered
the file I photographed every page, and you can see the rough work of
falsification they did to incriminate me. Now they settle for keeping me
waiting. My case is in legal limbo.
When I turned up with my lawyer at the Provincial Prosecutor's, which is
in charge of bringing my case, they informed us that my file was sent to
the General Prosecutor of the Republic. We went to this office, which is
located in Miramar. We were told it was sent back to the Provincial
Prosecutor. We left the building and to avoid the trip, as we suspected
the answer, we telephoned and were assured that the file had not been
returned. Fifteen minutes after my attorney returned to the same office
requesting that they get their story straight, there was no choice but
to inform him that my file had been delivered to Officer Ribeiro, at the
Villa Marista (the seat of Cuban State Security).
Visit to Villa Marista.
After the information we headed towards Vibora. We stayed for two hours
in the waiting room. They told us that the file couldn't be found. And
we had no choice but to return and continue to wait. In fact the
"judicial laws" require that notice of any movement of the case file has
to be given to the defense counsel. This step was never fulfilled.
In these three years I had to turn down 27 invitations from
universities, festivals, book presentations and book fairs. Right now
five of my books are being published in different countries. I think
that's the real punishment.
Anyway, I always say, we are the generation of children that nobody
wanted, and if they gave me the opportunity to return to the time I
opened the blog and caused myself so much trouble, without even thinking
about it I would do it again, only with more emphasis.
Translated by Regina Anavy
April 29 2012