Assassins, Accomplices, and Victims (II) / Ángel Santiesteban
Ángel Santiesteban, 2 September 2016 — After writing what will now be
considered the first part of this post, and publishing it under this
same title, I was arrested by State Security; however it was not the
writing, and much less the visibility that it would attain in my blog,
that was the real cause for the arrest. My captors, in the height of
contempt, tried to make me believe that I was a trickster, a vulgar
swindler. In a flash I became, again, a dangerous offender. I confess
that I even got to imagine myself in the shoes of some famous swindlers
whom I met in movies, but this was not at all a game, and the cell was
not a movie set.
I have dug around a great deal in their procedures up to now, and I know
their falsehoods, which was why I urged them to let me know the details
of my mischief. What was the cause? What would they do now to present me
as a swindler?
First would be to convince me of that strange condition of con artist
that even I did not recognize in myself. Time and again, fraud would be
cited in their arguments, with no trace of it when the facts were
compiled. Diffusion, accusation…so that the crook I was would contradict
himself and ultimately see the error of his ways. Which ways?
They themselves would offer me very few details. Everything had occurred
a year ago, and on the Isle of Pines–that island south of the larger one
which, arbitrarily and without popular consultation, the government
decided to rename the Isle of Youth. While I was shut away in a dungeon,
my "interlocutors" mentioned a fraud which they were not able to explain
very well, only to later refer to a packet of leaflets which,
supposedly, I had given to the photographer and human rights activist
Claudio Fuentes, who was also detained.
Try as the hired gun might to convince me of the "misdeed" and that I
had no option other than to recognize my "crime," I could not help but
burst out laughing. The allegation was so ridiculous that I could have
dignified it with many guffaws such as the one it provoked at the start,
but these spurious accusations have no intention other than to ruin the
lives of we Cubans who think differently, and laughter is a good thing.
I had not other option than to let them know that I was well aware of
those strategies, that I was sure that they were trying to make me
believe that Claudio had denounced me, and how that was a well-worn
tactic–even in the movies and police novels. "I do not think the same as
you. I am not a coward, nor am I your 'comrade.' I am not a lackey."
That's just what I said to them.
Then they laughed, but their laughter was not that of a victor, it was
the nervous laughter of someone who's about to lose. I confess that I
felt frustrated; I have always dreamed of taking on an intelligent
adversary, an enemy convinced of the rightness of his actions. This
would be much better, but this time again it was useless to pine for
such a thing, and the worst was that those gendarmes had not the
slightest idea what the words "liberty" and "democracy" mean.
I was so annoyed that I started to speak of my childhood, of those days
when I believed that Cuban State Security was one of the best in the
world, even mentioning out loud the titles of a few novels: "Here the
Sands are Whiter," and "If I Die Tomorrow," and "In Silence It Has Had
to Be." I mentioned the mark that those works had left on a bunch of
proud adolescents who, still, believed that what which those fictional
officials were defending actually existed in reality–and that we even
believed, naively, that on this Island was a concerted effort to create
a lasting prosperity.
The bad part, I assured them, was when I knew the whole truth, when I
understood that those agents were only after ensuring the perpetual rule
of the Brothers Castro. I mentioned the moment in which I crossed the
line, that line that placed me, irreversibly, on the opposite side. I
spoke of my discontent with a totalitarian regime, and about how I
discovered the true essences of those killers in the service of the
Castros: people capable of abusing women, of planting false evidence for
the prosecution (after brutalizing them) of those who fight for change
in Cuba. They would laugh, nervously…and with no segues they arrived at
a new argument, undoubtedly the most important one, the one that caused
them to shut me away.
What had truly annoyed them was a post that I had published regarding
Roberto Fernández Retamar, in which I called him an assassin. According
to them, I had not considered the fact that Roberto was my colleague. "I
don't have colleagues who are assassins," I told them, and they replied
that my attack had not achieved any importance, that it had already been
forgotten, and that Fernández' true comrades had made a tribute to him
immediately. Then why, I asked, were they holding me there? Why were
they mentioning that post? For sure, they were contradicting
themselves–but I was already used to that, and once again I smiled,
I thought of a version of Silvio Rodríguez whom I had seen on TV making
tributes, in song, to Fernández, which made me suspect that it all could
be a reply to my post. My detention had nothing to do with the leaflets
nor with any fraud– that seizure was orchestrated after I accused
Roberto Fernández Retamar of having signed a death sentence against
three youths who only wanted to get out of an extremist country where
they no longer wanted to live.
I had already received some news about the comments that had been
incited by that post, and I also knew of the vexation that it had
provoked in some writers, who judged it excessive that I should call
Fernández an assassin. Again it was I who was the monster, I who
committed savageries, I the irreverent and cruel barbarian–while
Fernández was presented as the venerable elder, the respectable and
virtuous man, the honest citizen, even after having signed a death warrant.
My detractors, the same who became his defenders while forgetting that
the poet was one of the signatories of that judgment that would send
three youths to the execution wall, denigrated me again, but never
mentioned that the "revolutionary" poet lent a veneer of legitimacy to
the death of those three young men, whose only sin was to have tried to
leave a country that was tormenting them, to separate from an Island and
from the dictators that have been ruling it for more than 50 years. Is
that a crime?
Those who were annoyed by the post are the same who repeat the charge
against me that the official discourse prepared some years ago. Those
who claim that I was unjust toward Roberto Fernández Retamar did not
defend my innocence when I went to jail. They saw me be taken away, they
knew I was shut away in a cell, and they were silent. They never had
doubts, they never confronted a power that decided to accuse of me of
physically mistreating the woman who was then my companion. Those who
again judge me and cast me aside are also guilty of my imprisonment.
Those who today are annoyed because I accused the president of the Casa
de las Américas, did not lift a finger to request, at least, a thorough
investigation of my case. They believed in the "dignity" of that woman,
and today turn a deaf ear to the statements by my son. They, whom my
post angered so, are the same who remain silent when "State Security"
beat the Ladies in White, a "State Security" that beats women who are
demonstrating peacefully. What kind of security is this? Of what State?
This shows their double standard and hypocrisy. Those who signed the
accusation against me today are irritated by my "attack" on the poor
poet Fernández, following the orders of Abel Prieto, who at the same
time was following those of the highest hierarchy of a dictatorial
My attackers defend only their permanence in that official union that is
the UNEAC. They who seek to tarnish me want to preserve their membership
in the official delegations sent to any event taking place outside the
Island. They who raise their voices to attack me defend the shoes and
sustenance of their children. They who attacked my liberty because,
supposedly, I was beating the mother of my son, said not a word after
the thrashing that State Security delivered to the actress Ana Luisa Rubio.
That woman who found herself so vulnerable, so trampled, had no choice
but to leave Cuba–and what else could she do, if the UNEAC did not offer
her any support nor did it organize a demonstration to confront that
power that decided to batter her. No woman was to be found confronting
the janissaries that bashed Rubio. In those days there was no book going
around collecting the signatures of indignant UNEAC members, if any
there were. Nobody went out on the street–apparently, they were amusing
themselves by protecting the crumbs they get from the powers that be for
their services to the "fatherland."
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others
Source: Assassins, Accomplices, and Victims (II) / Ángel Santiesteban –
Translating Cuba -