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realclearworld

Reports from Cuba: The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths

By Angel Santiesteban in Translating Cuba:

The Solitude of the Barracks Multiplies My Strengths

When the 20 convicts who accompany me go out on pass for family reunions, I send them off with the joy that spreads to me from their happy faces. They are barely gone when I plunge myself into literature. Nothing will hurt my exorbitant creation, not even the knowledge that they will deny me the passes I should get according to the Penal Code. They return to violating my rights, now as a prisoner serving a wrongful conviction.

How could I be bored with the quantity of work that awaits me? I remember that night of November 8, 2012, when we were arrested and taken away by the Santiago de Vegas police, after being beaten in front of the police station of Acosta, where we were demonstrating our disagreement with the unjust detention of Antonio Rodiles.

Sharing a cell with the dissident Eugenio Leal, they released me at midnight, but scarcely had I advanced 100 meters when in the darkness of that road–and like a childish game–some seven guards who were waiting for me surged from behind the bushes to announce that I had to return to the cell. I did it happily, since my brothers in struggle remained there, and I felt humiliated at having been the only one to be set free.

Now neither do they notice in me any anxiety, except that which provokes me to want freedom for the prisoners of conscience that today they keep in different prisons throughout the island, the dream of democracy with the disappearance of the totalitarian regime, and free literary creation. Outside of that, nothing drives away my peace.

I am happy in this life because I have learned that I want to struggle even with my fingernails; it’s the way to grapple with the need to comply with our conscience, feelings, family education and patriotic readings.

All that impels me to leave the path of masks with which an artist can live in a dictatorship. I simply ripped up the immorality with which you survive in the Regime, and I decided to renounce everything I had obtained. I presumed a pure honest talent.

Beginning then, of course, I received the answer that totalitarian regimes have for these cases: first the threats, later the direct rebuff, beatings, fractures, censorship, the diabolic mechanism of the “injustice” of the organs of State Security, hidden behind courts that answer to their designs, and, finally, prison.

All that has only served more to multiply all my strengths, hopes, dreams, and my creativity. Now I am more conscious of the need for my country to attain the rights proclaimed by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose Pacts the Regime still hasn’t ratified in spite of having obtained a seat on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

The solitude of the barracks is a great stimulus for dedicating myself to writing, and the constant vigilance of the uniforms around me adds to my verve. I know they are beaten because they search for a way to get rid of my power without receiving punishment for their offenses.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. April 2014.

Have Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.  To sign the petition, follow the link.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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