Controversial Cuban blogger answers tough questions
Published on : 29 March 2013 - 4:02pm | By RNW Latin America Desk
For over a decade, the Cuban government refused to allow one of the
world's best known bloggers, Yoani Sánchez, to travel abroad. When
Havana finally loosened travel restrictions for Cuban citizens, Sánchez
was one of the first to take advantage of the change, embarking on an
80-day 10-nation tour. One of the countries she visited was the
Netherlands, a stopover arranged by Amnesty International and the Dutch
film festival "Movies that Matter" .
by Alejandro Pintamalli
Yoani Sánchez also visited RNW's Latin America department at our new
premises in Hilversum. She answered questions t readers had posted on
our Spanish-language Facebook page web site. "I don't feel like a hero",
she said. "My knees tremble. I'm a coward who is trying to do
something. These are times for cowards."
Sánchez responded to dozens of questions posed by our worldwide audience.
Julio César Díaz in Chile: who finances your trips and luxury products?
I love this type of question because it helps me refute a lot of lies. I
live in a country where you can't ask those in power a question like
this. No one can ask the president where he gets the money to buy luxury
products. In my particular case, I'm able to travel because of
solidarity. I flew to Brazil thanks to the money I collected from
Brazilian bloggers. I was then invited by academic institutions and
humanitarian groups, such as Amnesty International and various
universities in the United States. Everywhere I've gone, I've been fed,
hugged and given a place to sleep. I'm going to Florida soon using a
ticket which my sister has been saving up for for the past two years.
So, that's it basically: solidarity, solidarity and more solidarity.
Maruss Khievick in El Salvador: How much does the CIA pay you to promote
your biased project, financed by the worst human rights violators in the
I haven't received a penny from the CIA. I think this accusation is
ludicrous. The day I find out that the CIA is planning to do something
evil in Cuba, I'll be the first person to condemn them.
Harold Tupaz in Colombia: Is there so much hunger in Cuba that you sell
your fatherland for a McDonald's hamburger?
I don't like McDonald's. I like pineapples and Cuban bananas. I think
this question just adds to the confusion which I am trying to clear up.
The confusion is that Cuba is about a single party, man, government or
ideology. Criticising the government is not the same as criticising
Cuba. Cuba is much more than that: it's huge, plural and diverse.
Ana Brus in Holland: I went to Cuba in 2000. Has the country changed
since then, and in what way?
I think it has. Cuba is changing, and the thing that gives me a lot of
hope is that people are changing on the inside. More and more people
dare to speak out and do things. Technology has helped a lot to bring
about this change from silence to criticism. People are expressing
themselves on Twitter, in blogs and through videos. These small changes
in recent years are also creating a space for private initiative. People
now think: 'OK, I'm going to stay here and see if I can make a living
through my own sweat'. So, yes, things are changing, not because of the
politicians, but because of civic pressure.
Luis Chaura in Florida: Would you like to be the president of Cuba?
No way. I want to devote myself to journalism, to the media. I'd like to
set up a newspaper. Besides, in the Cuba of my dreams, presidents won't
be important. Power will be transferred to the people.
Gabril Delpino in Cuba: what would you do if they barred you from
returning to Cuba?
If they did, I would get on the first raft to the island. No one is
going to prevent me from going back to the country where I was born and
where I want my grandchildren to be born. The island doesn't belong to
Lázaro Díaz in Miami: After such a long journey and having complained so
often, aren't you afraid that the Cuban government might take reprisals?
Of course, I'm afraid of reprisals, but I've seen the monster's face.
Francisco Javier in Spain: Why is your blog's server blocked at times
and why isn't it possible to speak about American policies in your blog?
It gets blocked because we're the victims of a lot of attacks by
hackers. This hasn't been confirmed, but we believe that the attacks
come from the University of Computer Sciences on the outskirts of
Havana. In November 2012, my site was attacked 15,000 times in a single
month. Regarding US policy, it was on the eve of the last elections,
people were leaving comments on my blog expressing their support for one
candidate or the other. So we said, 'this is a blog to speak about Cuba'.
Raúl Cerverio in Spain: how much money would you need to make a
newspaper in Cuba? Millions would have to be sent to Cuba, thereby
partly breaking the economic embargo.
For a virtual newspaper , the only thing you need is talent and stories
to tell. We have an abundance of both. I don't know how that would
translate in euros and cents, but it would need millions in terms of
talent. We're a team of people who want to tell our reality using the
technologies at hand. It wouldn't be a print newspaper, so it wouldn't
be very expensive. It wouldn't be sold, so we wouldn't get rich doing
this. That's the initial idea. As far as the embargo is concerned,
everyone knows that I'm extremely critical of it. I'm not critical to
help the Cuban government, but to help my country.
Martín Guevara Duarte: Freedom of expression, to read and associate,
have to go hand in hand with the freedom to establish companies and
trade. In China, people are free to make money, but the country
continues to strictly control freedom of expression and the right to get
involved in politics. In Cuba, Raúl Castro appears to be moving in the
same direction. What do you think?
Yes, exactly. It seems that the government wants to create a model with
a form of economic and political liberalisation. But for a number of
reasons I don't think it's going to work. It's taken them too long. They
started going down this path very late. Cuban society doesn't only want
prosperity. It wants freedom of expression. The other reason is an
unshakeable truth, a truth that's like a stone, a mountain: the leaders
who came to power during the revolution are dying off. I don't think
they have enough time left to introduce the Chinese model in Cuba.
Gabriel Delpino in Cuba: How did you lose your tooth? Is it true that
that happened when you were in prison? A friend of mine doubts that
version of events. She says you're a drama queen.
I think we Cubans are quite melodramatic. Our national history is a
mixture of that. Don't forget that soap operas originated in Cuba. Fidel
Castro used many dramatic touches to hypnotise the nation. Personally, I
try not to talk much about my painful journey. It has been long and full
of incidents. I prefer the path of joy.. all the wonderful events I've
experienced. I lost a tooth when three female police officers were
trying to forcibly undress me in a room. I don't try to show off the
fact that I lost that tooth. A smile is never incomplete. It's a smile.