US celebrates Yoani, but not her message

By Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdés (Progreso Weekly)

Yoani Sanchez

HAVANA TIMESLiberal and conservative Americans alike have celebrated Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez. She’s become the new “resistance to communism” heroine, a world-renowned troublemaker inside Cuba.

Yoani also acquired semi-princess status in Western Europe thanks to the wide Internet circulation of her weekly Generation Y blog. (Cubans of a certain era got names beginning with Y.)

She spins her columns, descriptions of daily life in Cuba, supported by unverified rumors, to badmouth the Cuban government. They appear in the Huffington Post, El País, Die Zeit and other prestigious journals. Inside Cuba, few read her blog; nor would most Cubans have heard her name. Very few would recognize her face if they saw her.

Last week, Yoani, after visiting Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, she stopped in New York, Washington DC. Her highlights came in the nation’s capital, including a much-publicized talk with Members of both Houses and White House staff. She had just come from presenting her case to the legislatures of Brazil and Mexico where she made important points about U.S.-Cuba relations, points she repeated in Washington.

“My position is that the blockade should end,” she said, “because it’s an interventionist stance, in which one country wants to change the internal situation of another.” She added: “it hasn’t worked. If the original idea was to create popular unrest so the people would take to the streets and change the totalitarian government, it has not worked; even as a pressure method it failed. It should end as quickly as possible because it’s the reason given by the Cuban government to explain its economic failure.”

She had already registered her opposition to the U.S. travel ban on its citizens traveling to Cuba. “If restrictions on coming to Cuba are lifted,” she wrote to Congressman Howard Berman on November 19, 2009, “Americans would enjoy a right that has been infringed in recent years – that of traveling freely to any latitude without penalty.”

When asked about her position on the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, Yoani responded: the U.S. should withdraw from the base, because “I am a ‘civilist,’ a person who respects the legal system, and I could not agree with occupying a space, which shows the occupier doesn’t respect the law.” Which law or whose law? She didn’t clarify.

In Brazil, she answered a question on the Cuban 5, members of the Ministry of Interior now in U.S. prisons. The U.S. should free them because of “the amount of money my country’s government is spending in this world-wide campaign with plane trips around the world. Occupying space in the press and the hours wasted in schools talking about these five prisoners,” she explained.

She trivialized her explanations of desired policy changes. In discussing the Cuban Five, Yoani banalized the nature of the Cuban agents’ task. Cuba sent agents to south Florida in the early 1990s to help prevent bombings. The agents infiltrated violent Cuban exile groups who had targeted Havana tourist spots. Cuban Intelligence then re-circulated their agents’ data to the FBI, who on one occasion used the information to seize a boat docked on the Miami River filled with arms and explosives and destined for Cuba.

In 1998, the FBI arrested the Cuban spy ring members. They got charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, but not with espionage. Gerardo Hernandez, their coordinator, also got charged with conspiracy to commit murder on the false assumption he had provided Havana with the flight schedules of Brothers to the Rescue planes that invaded Cuban airspace and got shot down killing two pilots and two co-pilots.

The government had no evidence to back up its charges. Indeed, Jose Basulto, leader of the Brothers group, had announced the flight schedules. But a Miami jury convicted Gerardo, and the judge sentenced him to two consecutive life terms. The other four also received long prison terms. As Cuba decried the five’s false political imprisonment, Yoani offered a trite pretext for freeing them.

The irony of Yoani’s U.S. appearance, getting crowned by the U.S. media and Congress as the virtual Queen of Dissidents, is that she made the very points the Cuban government has reiterated for a decade plus. But neither government officials nor the press corps acknowledged them. The media focused on occasional interruptions of her speeches by angry leftists instead of reporting the contents of her talks. Members of Congress and the White House staff celebrated the visit of an important person, paying scant attention to the coincidence of her policy points and those of the Cuban government.

Not one mainstream story caught the irony of Cuba’s leading dissident stating the case the Cuban government has been presenting: End the embargo, release the Five, allow Americans to travel to Cuba, and withdraw from Guantanamo. The media also missed points Yoani did not acknowledge. Cuba allowed her to travel abroad and meet with sworn enemies of the Cuban regime.

She also failed to acknowledge reforms that have recently taken place in Cuba like political spaces granted to religious institutions to publish openly critical magazines and journals. Moreover, Cubans prohibited from returning to visit Cuba can now do so.

The U.S. media has positioned her the dissident representative of technology’s age of communication. She sends her weekly Internet column from Cuban hotels, or by flash drive from the U.S. Interests Section and other embassies. She spins each column as an attack on the Cuban government.

The princess of digital communication made her triumphant debut. But apparently no one in power or in mainstream media cared about what she said. The Cuban government should, nevertheless, be proud of her. She used different language to state their case, to Congress, the White House and the public. Alas, eyes saw, but ears closed. Did anyone hear that besides the critiques of the Cuban government she asked Washington to change its Cuba policy?

Saul Landau’s FIDEL and WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP are available on DVD from Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

37 thoughts on “US celebrates Yoani, but not her message

  • April 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Basically her message falls on deaf ears She likes to see herself in public as a mover and shaker however that is not happening She is tolerated for the exposure and like the narcissist she is bring nothing to anyone who lives here

  • April 11, 2013 at 7:14 am

    She is what she is: an ultrareaccionary, cynical to the end under her face of an innocent virgin. The Virgin of the Dollars ( La Virgen de los Dolarios ( dolares). Spitting on all Cubans working for a better socialist future, operating with truths, halfthruths and a lot of lies. Some truths are necessary to make the lies look like truth. That a perfect strategy.If ever she would have had any credibility, latest being shown with the ultra reaccion, cynicly talking about the failure of Cuban economy in the country which basically wrecked and still wrecks Cuban economy – due to a big part exactly to the bloqueo – showed whose spirit`s child she is and put her into the right position: that of a cruisader against socialism, with all means and by all means.Whatever might be wrong in Cuba, its certainly not her who`s gonna change things. The Cubans dot need a Sanchez to tell them from Washington what´s not working in the country. They`ve got brain themselves.One differnce only: they are not paid from abroad.Which gives them more credibility than Our Lady of the Dollars.

  • April 1, 2013 at 12:19 am

    What exactly do you mean by ‘traveling’????? For twenty years (circa 1965-1980) the only Cubans who ‘traveled’ to the United States did so as permanent immigrants who could not come back to Cuba as visitors until the mid 80s, could not dream of coming back to live in the island and lost all their civil rights as Cubans. In the 80s the other Cubans traveling to the US did so on boats, were called warms and scum (gusanos y escoria) and thrown eggs at. Then came those ‘traveling’ on rafts and feeding sharks along the way, and only then (mid-90s) could Cubans (usually old people with family in the States) travel as tourists to the US on a more or less regular basis to visit their families (depending on the generosity of the US office in Havana). And this was preceded by a painful and expensive process involving a 200 dollars/cuc letter of invitation, the infamous 150 dollars/cuc travel permit, a 55 dollars/cuc passport and a 150 dollars/cuc for the travel permit extension after one month (at a cost of over 500 dollars/cuc for a two-month stay in the States, around 10 000 Cuban pesos in a country where the minimum salary if of around 240 pesos/month). So I would not use the word ‘travel’ so lightly referring to Cubans since the 1960s until this year, when at least the travel permit requirement was eliminated,
    As to Cubans praising US democracy or lifestyle upon their return to the island, many actually do (most of them in very naive and even stupid ways, I reckon) and the government knows it but it is not so worried. It needs Cuban American dollars real bad and thus needs to make minor concessions such as this one, and second, these Cubans may praise ‘el yuma’ as much as they like in their kitchens and living rooms; they will have no access whatsoever to any public forum and do not dare claiming it. Plus, and this is mostly thanks to the US immigration policies, most of these visiting Cubans are above 50 or 60 years old and are politically and ideologically harmless even if brainwashed while in the US.

    Are you familiar with the connotations of the Cuban expressions ‘conseguirse un faster’, ‘se fue’ and ‘se quedó’ or with the fact that one of the most wanted prophecies Cubans want to hear from any kind of fortuneteller is ‘este año vas a viajar’: they are very illustrative of how Cubans regard traveling: as a miracle and as a somewhat risky event usually involving irreversibility.

  • March 31, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    To Moses Patterson comment on Cuba having no moral high ground to denounce an act of intervention (the Embargo)
    And at this point in modern history, what exactly is the height of the United States’ moral ground in foreign policy?
    Also, acts which are unlawful and wrong are and stay so regardless of the moral ground of the parties involved. The embargo has been rejected over and over again by a large majority of the international community represented at the UN, which is the only entity legally and morally authorized to impose measures of these kind upon a country, as was the case with South Africa under the Apartheid.
    Your rationale in this particular case seems to be the following: the wrongdoing of A regarding C (that would be Cuba intervening in Angola, Ethiopia, etc.) justifies the wrongdoing of B regarding A. And that is why, funny enough, you and the other guy have ended up elaborating on the Angola issue and not one more word was said about the embargo.

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