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Monday 22 December  
Yaoni Sánchez
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Controversial Cuban blogger answers tough questions

Published on : 29 March 2013 - 4:02pm | By RNW Latin America Desk (Photo: RNW)
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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 world?
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 the government.
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. I’m prepared.
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. 


ali azza 22 December 2014 - 3:07am

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Ralph mannuel 2 April 2013 - 10:31pm

You According to Fidel Castro's government is less repressive, really it is not, what happens is that they have been sold abroad a different face to the real face of the Cuban Revolution, but in communist Cuba since the first day of arrival the power of the Castros and their beards began the summary trials and therefore also the firing squads Justica they did, they took revenge and vengeance against all those who do not support or are revolted at one time, been over five decades and still continues in Cuba a military junta headed the Cuban government, a country where free elections have never done where there is no real democracy, which represses who think differently to official thinking, where speaking one's mind can take you to long terms in prison, that's the real Cuba, the Cuba profound because many do not know is not the image you should sell the Cuban military .

Chris Vogel 30 March 2013 - 4:27pm / Canada

The Castro government is far less repressive, less violent, than any of its predecessors. The big difference, of course is that it provides excellent education and healthcare to everyone for free, and all of the other necessities at subsidised prices. Certainly, the end of the American embargo will have serious repercussions: American corporations will want back all of the land and other property that the revolution took from them, about 70% of everything on the island. Returning "Cuban" exiles from the U.S. will want all of their former property back, too, which is most of the remainder. That revolution happened for a reason or, this this case, about 10 million reasons.

kaiser wilhem II 1 April 2013 - 4:11pm / u.s.a ( not miami)

man, i want to believe you are a decent man, but events are experienced differently when one is "outside the pool", as we say in spanish. i'm going to be easy on you just because you have a german last name( germany is my fav country), and also because i see that you are from canada and i had such a good experience with canadian tourists when i used to live in the island. i'm cuban.
you seem to be justifying the plethora of bad things the government has done for over 40 years to the people down there with its "free" healthcare care and "free" education handouts. there is no free lunch and in the case of cuba, it isn't only on your income, but on your freedom. by freedom, i not only mean what it is understood in the western world but by the daily dealings in life. you have no idea how frustrating it is not to be able to complain for bad service, to lose an entry to an university because the son of some big shot in the government wants it and the number is limited,or to criticize something or someone that has done something obviously wrong because there's a fear of being labeled an enemy of the state and all the rammifications ( prison, ostracism, etc ) that come with it. i can go on with all these "little" daily occurences that would drive anyone crazy.
the embargo has done bad to cuba, but that doesnt have much to do with how the economy down there is. e.g. why did castro wait till the collapse of the soviet union to develop an infrastructure for tourism, a great source of revenue for the/any country? why not allowing people to engage in private enterprise and own businesses after he took over? it was always about CONTROL, herr vogel.
was there a need for change when castro took power in '59? yes!!! but, boy, what we got with him was not what people wanted.
dictatorships , except perhaps lee kwan yews in singapore, lol, RARELY do any general good to the people. there's always a HUGE price to pay.
i know where you are coming from, and i might agree with you that things are not black and white, as the western media might show. there are many grey areas, but please do not try to imply in your comments that the castros' goverment has done more good than bad for the cuban population. let alone the fact, that he stayed in power all those years and whoever dared to challenge him even in a minute way, was sent to prison ( e.g. a 26 yo neighbor who dared to say "down with castro" during a drunken stupor went to jail for 4 damn years )or MURDERED.

Anonymous 9 September 2014 - 5:49am / Canada

You willfully blind yourself to the fact that a state of war exists between Cuba and the United States, and that this has always and everywhere changed the rules. For instance, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that while absolutely nothing justifies torture and murder, a state at war is not required to ignore enemy agents and protect their right to propagandize.

You're right that it was a major mistake that Cubans tended to rest on their backsides and depend on Comecon's "fair trade" policies being there forever.

It is bs and you know it that anyone who challenged Him was sent to prison. When the 75 so-called dissidents, who were all except the G2 agents paid enemy agents, were convicted, their trials made clear what Cuba did with them. Agents were surfaced to give evidence who had infiltrated these groups 30 years earlier. Cuba hadn't murdered them or jailed them. She had kept an eye on them. Why the situation went Code Red I don't know, but Cuba is widely acknowledged to have one of the best espionage aparatuses in the world, largely because people of conscience feed them information on principle, and I'm sure the U.S. was up to something that they found out.

More that 600 plots to assassinate Fidel have been exposed, and quite a few of them advanced far enough that the assassins were caught in the act. None has been executed. They have served their time and been released. Some are in Miami.

There have been private businesses operating legally in Cuba from the very first days of the Revolution. There are more categories now than there used to be, but this is an expansion not a change. You say you lived there?

The Cuban government has murdered no one. I challenged el exilio on a website they frequented to give me an example. I was usually referred to a website that listed all the people who had died at the Bay of Pigs, the poor naifs who had believed the exiles' propaganda about rafts and tried to cross the strait on one, which is not possible, and pretty much a list taken out of an old Havana phone book. I carefully investigated the three cases that passed the laugh test, reading the witness statements, etc., and they did not hold up under examination.

I heard 'Ochoa' a lot. A Hero of the Revolution, Ochoa set up a major drug smuggling operation, not for personal profit but to finance government operations he headed. He actually met with a head of the Medellin Cartel! This insanely reckless behaviour put 11 million lives at risk, yours included, bubba. The U.S. was already on record that Cuba taking part in the drug trade would justify an invasion. They frequently and falsely allege that it is.

A parting word. How do you think people qualify for university entrance in the U.S.? You need to know more about the rest of the world, as well as more about Cuba. You 'lived there' doesn't count. I and my siblings all live in Canada but we have five different narratives about how the country works.

Manitoba Girl 9 April 2013 - 12:43am / Canada

Well said!!!! I am shocked that a Canadian would be so naive!!! I often wonder what Cuba would have been like if Che' was still living? I donot pretend to be a Cuba expert. I have been going for 8 years now. I do feel torn and wonder each time if we should... I love going to our friends home and visiting with them, but I am also aware. We need to be careful. I hope i do not offend you. Just want you to know we all are not so naive!!! Have a pleasant day.

Walter Teague 30 March 2013 - 1:48am / USA

Maruss Khievick asks her if she has been financed by the U.S. CIA "the worst human rights violators in the world?" and denying she has received even a penny from the CIA, she then make a statement that shows she is either incredibly ignorant or incredibly biased "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." So the "award winning journalist Yoani" has never heard of the CIA doing anything "evil in Cuba"? I'll accept that she doesn't think the CIA is likely to again anything "evil in Cuba" because she likes what they do! I have never read her warning or condemning the past U.S. efforts to assassinate and cause devastation in Cuba. Have you?

Ralph mannuel 30 March 2013 - 11:00am

His rhetoric is incredible, Yoanis Sanchez has received awards for his talent and intelligence but most of all by having pants firmly planted to face Cuban dictatorial regime something few have in this world including those who criticize.

Anonymous 9 September 2014 - 6:37am / Canada

If you knew anything at all about this subject, you would know Ms. Sanchez is a woman. The awards she has received are laundered money. Her controller is in Spain.

Phyllis 29 March 2013 - 5:40pm / Austria


user avatar
Eric Beauchemin 29 March 2013 - 7:53pm

Hello Phyllis,

What exactly is pathetic?

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