DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dissident Blogger Hopes to Hear Freedom Ring in Cuba Some Day Soon

As part of a 2-day DC visit, Sanchez greets Sen. Marco Rubio
When, after decades of iron-fisted rule by Fidel Castro, freedom finally comes to Cuba, dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez is convinced it will come with words, not weapons.

Sanchez, recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and called the most famous living Cuban not named Castro, appeared last week at the Cato Institute as part of her 1st ever international trip out of Cuba, a journey she has been trying to make for more than 20 years.

The world renowned blogger, whose diminutive size and quiet demeanor belie her fierce passion and determination, says her goal is to bring information to the Cuban people, information that she is sure can lead to freedom for all those living on the Communist island just 90 miles from the Florida coast.

"There has been a silence about what's happening in Cuba because the government has had complete control over mass media. But there are new voices using new technologies demanding to be heard," Sanchez said, speaking in Spanish which was then translated into English.

Sanchez with her weapon of freedom - the computer. 
Sanchez praised the power of more open communication brought about by technological innovations such as Twitter and on-line blogs.  "Not by itself will it (social media) bring democracy to a country, but it has an important role to play in the democratization of Cuba," she told the crowd, most of whom had given her a standing ovation when she entered the auditorium to deliver her remarks.

She likened the "wall of censorship" established in Cuba, where the Castros disseminate all information,  newspapers are banned, and TV and radio are government-controlled, to the Berlin Wall. "In Cuba there is a wall of censorship. But we are creating little cracks and little holes in that wall," Sanchez contended.

In her remarks, Sanchez said she believed the economic embargo the United States established for Cuba after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis should be lifted. She said the ban hurts the Cuban people, while the government can still get all "the tear gas and billy clubs they need."

The embargo also plays into Castro's long-held plans for total domination. "The embargo is always used as an excuse. It presents itself like a Big Bad Wolf. The government couldn't function without this Big Bad Wolf. They blame it for everything from the lack of food on our tables to the lack of freedom on our streets."

She says she hopes the new, mostly younger voices speaking out against decades of doublespeak and silence will help "Cubans lose their fear. The country belongs to them and it is their struggle." For years, faced with shortages of all types of items, Cubans have resorted to the black market for purchases to survive. "Just like mothers used the black market to get milk for their children, we also must enter into the other black market - the market of information."

She said Cubans are moving in that direction. "It took me 10 years to see real images of the fall of the Berlin wall. But my daughter was seeing what was happening in Eqypt (Arab Spring calls for freedom) almost exactly as it was happening," she noted.

Sanchez and her fellow bloggers have been subjected to spying, character assassination, and short-term detentions in an unsuccessful effort to silent their voices. She says she is not exactly certain why, after 20 years of denials with no justification, the Cuban government finally let her leave Cuba.

"There is no way I can go back to Cuba as the same person I was before," she said.  "I was never looking for this fame. To me, it seems like a joke of life. But I will use this fame as a protective shield to found a newspaper. Maybe the government let me travel outside the country in the hopes that I would not come back. But I can declare to the Cuban government that they made a very bad bet. I will return and I will found an independent newspaper."

Tales,Tidbits, and Tips

I have been fascinated with Cuba ever since, as a 10-year-old, I had to live through the Cuban Missile Crisis, 13 terror-filled days when most of the world was convinced we were on the brink of nuclear annihilation. That fascination  only increased last year after I was able to travel to Cuba for 10 days. The photo on  the right shows my wife Judy and I with Naty Revuelta, Fidel Castro's former mistress and the mother of his only daughter. You can read about the trip my wife and I made with National Geographic by clicking here.

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