Insufficient Arguments against Yoani

Erasmo Calzadilla

Watching a weather report in Havana.
Watching a weather report in Havana.

The online edition of the weekly newspaper “Granma International” made reference to Yoani Sanchez author of the Generation Y blog (which is blocked in Cuba) on November 27.

Over a year ago, the first reference published in Cuba concerning the blogger was in a piece written by Fidel Castro, who -without citing her by name- directed his comments toward her (and others like her).  He accused them of being “special envoys of capitalism, who carry out undermining work, and of the neocolonial media of the old Spanish metropolis, which rewards them.”

That same disparaging spirit was reflected by journalist Enrique Ubieta, who raised the issue of the most noted of all Cuban bloggers in the pages of Granma International.

But on this occasion, the article titled “Yoani, la hija de PRISA (media group),” appeared only in the international version of Granma and not in the pages of the Granma daily, which is printed for the Cuban public – the immense majority of whom do not have access to the Internet.

Granma takes advantage of this double edition to present journalistic works in its online version that aren’t usually reported in the printed version; perhaps in this way it gives an impression to the world of a certain journalistic openness that still doesn’t exist in the pages directed at Cuban readers.

Nonetheless, neither in Granma nor Granma International normally appear references to the opponents of the regime, who are people with a virtual sign hung on them or those who -for good reason-are described as mercenaries, terrorists, counterrevolutionaries, murderers, traitors or any other degrading ilk.

Ubieta tosses Yoani into that same sack, an accusation of extreme seriousness in a country where to explicitly or publicly oppose the government can land you in jail.  Precisely because of the considerable weight of the accusation, we would expect that the journalist’s justifications for these charges were solidly founded.

But let’s take a look at the “reasons” the columnist cited for accusing the blogger of having committed certain crimes:

  • She was carefully constructed, promoted and sustained by the major media in the service of international oligarchies. (With no proof, except for her being lavishly awarded; this is merely asserted by Ubieta to support this claim.)
  • She receives large sums of money through fraudulent journalism awards from those same oligarchies as payment for her services. (Nor does this appear backed by anything other than suppositions.)
  • “They say that she met Carlos Alberto Montaner in Spain” (Can a “they say” constitute proof of a supposed tie with the journalist widely linked to the CIA?)
  • “She is a dissident in the literal sense in that she differs from official positions.” (This statement is so vague that it doesn’t explain anything, unless Ubieta believes it’s wrong for people to differ from official positions)
  • “Yoani not only speaks about politics, she engages in politics.” (Is it a crime to engage in politics? Is there no difference between recounting the misfortunes of daily life and engaging in politics?)
  • She is a “counter-revolutionary activist” (For saying what she thinks and becoming famous for that? For openly speaking about the humiliations she experiences?)
  • She wants “to change the system” and “reintroduce capitalism in Cuba,” which constitutes the “idea of her blog.” (This exaggerated presumption was made by the author based on an interview with Yoani in which an interviewer asked her: “Changes in the system or of the system?” – to which she responded: “a change of the system… why can’t we develop a unique [form of] capitalism? What this country needs is an injection of creativity and freedom to produce, and socialism is a straightjacket to all that.”

That is what she stated, but to go from there to affirming that the idea of her blog is to reintroduce capitalism in Cuba is a stretch.  This is something we must not disregard if we do not want to be unfair.  In any case, isn’t it her human right to struggle for a society that she views as being more desirable for the country in which she lives, as long as she does this through peaceful and civil methods?

  • All of the above-mentioned is blended with adjectives that don’t relate to the argument (like where Ubieta says Yoani possesses “an irate thinness” and that she seems “like an orphan who challenges her adopted parents.” These are expressions that contribute to negatively slanting the image of the blogger to a very misinformed public.

Outside the norm

In our country, when the authorities have the desire is to present people with the actions of counter-revolutionaries, the procedure is usually more rigorous.  In this “case” no evidential documents have been presented.  The accusers’ lack, for example, mail or private telephone calls intercepted by the organs of State Security revealing Yoani in negotiations with the Miami mafia, terrorists, etc.

They also lack statements from undercover agents, who until yesterday remained at Sanchez’s side pretending to be her friends.  Likewise, they lack any bombs supplied by the CIA, subversive reports confiscated from her house on assassination attempts, kidnappings or public disorder.

In short, what is presented is nothing like the usual evidence that we Cubans are accustomed to getting in similar situations.

I’ve been able to read many of the writings of the creator of Generation Y, and in them I don’t find anything that threatens the civil norms of coexistence in a society of democratic rights and responsibilities, as Cuba is said to be.

Her attacks on the government are even respectful, and generally she doesn’t get into traditional political issues.  It’s true, though, that she sees everything in a dark tone and without hope under socialism.

I too was also surprised by all her awards, and I suspect that the major media and their shareholders are helping her considerably.  However, I don’t think her success is due only to that.

For me, she has the merit of having shown to the world -with a great deal of success and value- the life common of Cubans, especially the lives of the 30-something generation, who are disappointed but still combative.

In my point of view, she’s a bit exaggerated in some respects, but never more so than Granma is in the opposing sense.  If what was presented in the Granma Int. is all they have to label her a “counter-revolutionary activist in the service of imperialism,” it’s not convincing – not to me at least.

I wouldn’t see it wrong if Yoani or anyone else were questioned for their links with terrorists, but an accusation like the one presented must -necessarily- be better founded.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

11 thoughts on “Insufficient Arguments against Yoani

  • January 2, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Nor do those “human rights paladins,” as you so aptly and ironically describe them, Luis, shed a tear when elected governments are overthrown by the military and oligarchy, as is now in Honduras, or when elections are stolen by outright fraud, as was the case in Mexico a few years back. It seems as though their lamentations only favor the Right–not that “two wrongs, err, make a right.”–though they may make a Right! Nothing is heard from them about the three activists recently assassinated in El Salvador for daring to protest against the environmental depradations of the Canadian gold mining company, nor a mention of the labor activists murdered on a daily basis throughout Central and South America. Is it any wonder we are somewhat cynical about “Yoani & Company?”

  • January 2, 2010 at 12:02 am

    The way I see it, the ‘Yoani factor’ isn’t the actual content of her blog – it’s her fame, which was ‘incensed’ by corporate media around the globe. Even if she writes with all honesty and sincerity in the world, she’s being used by – using Erasmo’s own words – the real mercenaries.

    All those and ‘human rights paladins’ that drool over Yaoni’s blog when talking about freedom of expression never shed a tear about another blogger, a ‘certain’ Kareem:

    In this post-modern world of mediocrity, even the ‘freedom fighters’ are turned into celebrities.

    Anyway, I’m a bit skeptical about this last aggression episode on Yoani – she claimed she was beaten and got bruises all over her body, but according to the BBC’s correspondent in Havana ‘there were no bruises, marks or scars’ in her body when he interviewed her on November 9. Bruises don’t ‘dissapear’ like that, in just a few days.

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