Prostitution in Cuba
We run various sites in defense of human rights and need support to pay for more powerful servers. Thank you.
Recent Comments

    Poised yet savage, blogger Yoani Sanchez takes on Cuba’s sclerotic Castro regime

    Posted on Monday, 03.11.13

    Poised yet savage, blogger Yoani Sanchez takes on Cuba's sclerotic

    Castro regime

    By Tim Johnson

    McClatchy Newspapers

    PUEBLA, Mexico — The shouts could be heard easily inside the hotel

    where Yoani Sanchez was appearing over the weekend. "Down with Yoani!"

    they resonated from a small clique of pro-Castro protesters who'd

    gathered outside.

    Inside, Sanchez took the calls in stride.

    "I'm not afraid of these insults," she said. She expects to get worse

    treatment – a virtual "public stoning," as she called it – when she

    returns to Cuba – her "cage" – at the end of a whirlwind global tour

    that began Feb. 17 and is expected to last nearly three months,

    including a stop next week in Washington.

    Watching her address reporters, editors and publishers over two days at

    a conference in this Mexican city, it is easy to see how Sanchez has

    become a thorn in the side of Cuba's creaky regime.

    Looking like a throwback to the 1960s, with her loose blouses and her

    flowing black hair, Sanchez, 37, comes across as poised and unflappable.

    Yet her language is savage. Her tour – the first time she'd been allowed

    to leave the island since she became an internationally known blogger

    and dissident – has been like stepping into a time machine that carried

    her from an island locked in the past, she said.

    "We Cubans don't deserve what we are living through," she said. "I think

    Cubans deserve to be citizens of the 21st century, in all senses, to

    test the challenges of modernity."

    Sanchez's soft demeanor is in contrast to her implacable criticism of

    autocratic rule. For her, the Castro brothers – Fidel and Raul – who

    have governed Cuba since 1959, are walking dead and their island is on

    an inevitable countdown.

    The tools of her trade – an iPad and a laptop – allow her to narrate

    life under the Castro thumb in tiny tweets and short blog postings

    translated into 20 languages that she is able to slip under the digital

    barrier erected around all but the most loyal of Cuba's citizens.

    Sanchez has won innumerable awards, including Spain's prestigious Ortega

    y Gasset journalism honor. She's was nominated for a Nobel Prize last

    year. Prior to this trip, her requests to leave Cuba were denied 20

    times over five years to pick up such awards.

    Her stop in Washington next week will take her to Capitol Hill for an

    appearance Tuesday before a Senate committee, arranged by Sen. Bill

    Nelson, D-Fla. On April 1, she'll receive a special honor in Miami.

    She's already visited Brazil, Spain and the Czech Republic. She will

    return to Europe and also travel to Argentina and Peru.

    "I represent no party nor any political force," she says. "I consider

    myself a people's diplomat."

    She lives in Havana with her husband, Reinaldo, and their 20-year-old

    son, Teo. Her husband, who was drummed out of his job as a journalist

    for pressing too hard for reform during the late 1980s, has found a new

    career as an elevator mechanic – a fortunate choice that allows him to

    fix the decrepit elevator leading to their 14th-floor apartment.

    Sanchez studied linguistics at the University of Havana, later dabbling

    in journalism and computers. "So what am I? I don't know – a hyper

    mixed-up product of the 21st century," she says. The same goes for her

    political ideology. "People ask, 'Are you on the left or on the right?'

    . . . I don't know very well what I am."

    Sanchez says she feels "a strong commitment to freedom, so someone might

    think, 'Aha! A liberal.' But I'm also worried about the poor. I come

    from a very humble background, very poor. . . . Some people tag me as a

    communist or a leftist."

    Her father is a train operator and her mother also works.

    She opposes the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, saying it is the pretext

    on which the Castro regime blames all failures. But she says she has

    many friends who favor the embargo, and the underlying beliefs that bind

    them are the longing for freedom for Cuba. The real embargo, she said,

    is of the civil rights of Cubans.

    "I identify myself as a free electron. I gravitate or associate with the

    nuclei or atoms depending on the strength of their premises," Sanchez said.

    It is a critical posture that has earned her enmity not only from the

    Cuban government but also of Latin American leftists clinging to hopes

    of Cuba as an ideological beacon. They accuse her of being a puppet of

    outside powers, a mercenary. She rejects the charge.

    Last month in both Recife and Salvador, Brazil, militants arrived at

    airports to protest her presence. Elsewhere, leftists have lashed out at

    her in the media.

    On Sunday, some 30 noisy protesters gathered outside the Puebla hotel

    where she was speaking to a hemispheric group of newspaper publishers.

    They held up a banner that said "Viva Fidel" and broke past security in

    an effort to disrupt her news conference.

    At the conference, Sanchez spelled out how she believes Cuba is a

    "geographic prison," where holding any variant opinion risks jail and

    where only one loud voice is allowed on state-controlled media.

    Microphones are needed for all the other voices on the island, she says,

    voicing optimism that "very talented Cubans" are well-prepared for the

    day a democratic transition arrives.

    She reiterated that she would return to the island when her trip ends,

    even if she must do so as a "reverse rafter," sneaking back into the

    country, with the aim of starting an independent news outlet that goes

    beyond blogging.

    "I know that this is impossible and that legally it is prohibited. But I

    won't be the one putting up these boundaries. Life has taught me that

    the wall comes tumbling down only when you push it," she said.

    Sanchez estimated that only some 120 "alternative" Twitter users are

    sending tweets describing island life, constrained by barriers and

    costs. Using a computer at a tourist hotel can cost $6 to $10 an hour,

    up to half a month's salary for ordinary Cubans. Some of those who get

    past this burden do so thanks to supporters abroad who put credit on

    their mobile phone accounts.

    "Recharging a cellphone in this way turns a person into a possible

    transmitter, a source of information and news, thanks to the solidarity

    of many people," she said. "With a little ingenuity, with lots of

    difficulties, you can narrate (life on) the island in 140 characters."

    Cuban exiles arriving back for family visits and foreign tourists leave

    behind mobile phones, flash drives and used laptop computers, she said.

    "Climb aboard one of our collective taxis in Havana _ maybe a 1954

    Chevrolet _ and amid the noise of a vehicle at the point of collapse,

    the potholes in the road, the facades of buildings that seem like they

    are trapped in the past, suddenly a person will pull an iPhone 4 from

    their pocket," she said.

    Even if tourism has brought a boom in prostitution, she added that "it

    is also true that it has brought whiffs of freedom."

    She's heard the rumors that maybe the Castro regime will bar her return.

    At the least, she expects "an execution by the media, a public stoning .

    . . stigmatizing of my image, demonizing me."

    "But I'm willing to accept this cost," she said. The insults, she added,

    remind her of a saying by Cuban national hero and poet Jose Marti, who

    said, "To honor, brings honor."

    "I would say that, 'to insult, brings insults,' and to the persons who

    hurl insults, these insults will turn around like a boomerang against

    them," she said.

    Email:; Twitter: @timjohnson4

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Print Friendly

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *