Yoani Sanchez: Like us, just another Cuban


The brouhaha that ensued yesterday after Yoani Sanchez told a group of Brazilian elected officials that she believes the U.S. should release the five Cuban spies currently serving prison sentences for espionage and murder so the Castro dictatorship can end its campaign for their freedom and save money has for the most part subsided. Late last night, through Twitter and statements made to the press, Yoani walked back her statement on the so-called Cuban 5 and explained that she never meant to say they should be released. According to her statement, the remark was an attempt at irony by pointing out how the Cuban regime would save millions if the U.S. released the spies. Whether or not the explanation Yoani provided last night is sufficient  is really irrelevant. The important matter to consider here is that she has publicly stated the five spies are guilty and that she does not believe they should be released.

This matter, however, brings up an important aspect regarding Yoani Sanchez where it has become apparent that many people have placed way too much weight and responsibility on this poor woman. Every word she says is parsed and every statement she makes is received as if it were the final proclamation for the entire dissident movement in Cuba. That is simply not the case. Yoani is no different from the thousands of dissidents all over Cuba except for the fact – and an important fact at that – that she has been lucky and talented enough to receive incredible recognition and coverage in the international media. That fact, however, does not make her the official spokesperson, the leader, or the oracle of Cuba’s opposition.

Yoani is far from perfect, just like all of us are far from perfect. We can agree with many of the things she says and we can vehemently disagree with many of the things she says. She has the right to say what she wants and we have the right to agree or disagree with her. This dynamic was perfectly illustrated yesterday when many of us, including myself, expressed serious reservations with her perceived call for the release of five Castro dictatorship murderers.

But in reality, it makes no sense to ascribe so much importance to her statements as if they came from Mount Sinai written on stone tablets. Like us, she is just another Cuban expressing her view. And for my fellow Cubans reading this, we all know that Cubans tienen la fama de hablar mucha… !

Nevertheless, her ill-fated remarks regarding the Cuban spies yesterday overshadowed other remarks she made about the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo and U.S. sanctions against the Cuban regime. Her statement regarding Guantanamo were perhaps another failed attempt at irony on her part when she declared the base a place of illegality but failed to mention that under the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, the entire island of Cuba is a place of illegality. And her remarks against U.S. sanctions continue to be based on misinformation and premises that have long been discredited.

What all of this tells us is that Yoani is just like everyone else; she does not know everything. She has formed opinions based on the information she has acquired in a society where reliable information is scarce and propaganda is plentiful. As the old computer geek adage says, garbage in, garbage out. She is not a sage or a prophet, and as far as I know, has never proclaimed herself to be one. She is just a brave Cuban who has endured repression for many years and whose talent has elevated her to the international stage.

We must all come to the realization and understanding that Yoani will not be Cuba’s first elected president in over half a century. She is not and will not become the undisputed leader of Cuba’s opposition. Every word she says and every statement she makes is not an official proclamation from the opposition movement on the island. She is simply another brave dissident that for whatever the reason may be, her voice has been amplified by the international media.

The sooner we come to that realization, the sooner we can get on with the business of setting Cuba free from the tyranny of the Castro dictatorship.



23 thoughts on “Yoani Sanchez: Like us, just another Cuban

  1. This girl has been hyped and elevated to a position where she is simply out of her depth, and it shows. She may be sincere and mean well, but she can only work with what she knows or thinks she knows, and that knowledge is evidently deficient and/or distorted to a significant degree. It is not her fault she has been inflated so much, but I’m afraid she’s bought into it and appears to like it (which is predictable enough, human nature being what it is). There are those already anointing her as Cuba’s future president, which is patently absurd; she is clearly not up to that, even apart from her specific ideological positions. People need to step back, calm down and let her be what she actually is, not what they imagine or want her to be.

  2. Yoani walked back her statement on the so-called Cuban 5 and explained that she never meant to say they should be released. According to her statement, the remark was an attempt at irony by pointing out how the Cuban regime would save millions if the U.S. released the spies. Whether or not the explanation Yoani provided last night is sufficient is really irrelevant.

    Yoani no more declared that the spies should be freed than Rush Limbaugh gave his mother a can opener to open a can of dog food or…that your humble correspondent called for a ban on cartoons for political incorrectness despite the fact that people took a newspaper humor column I wrote years ago completely seriously. The newspaper even published an explanation that the column was entirely tongue in cheek. Guess what? Many outraged readers still continued to send in mail denouncing me for advocating censorship. So, in this situation, I can really sympathize with Yoani.

  3. PJ, I concluded with: “Whether or not the explanation Yoani provided last night is sufficient is really irrelevant. The important matter to consider here is that she has publicly stated the five spies are guilty and that she does not believe they should be released.”

    Therefore, her subsequent remarks regarding the Cuban 5 render irrelevant whether or not the common folk like myself “got” her obviously highbrow irony.

  4. The fact that Yoani Sanchez has gained so much recognition inside and outside Cuba can be attributed to her talents as an IT blogger and a political analyst. Her access to the Internet would have been more than sufficient to counterattack the propagandistic views disseminated by the Cuban regime. Consequently, her statements from Brazil about lifting the U.S. embargo and freeing the 5 Cuban spies only served to alienate her from the majority of the Cuban-Americans in the U.S. The damage done is, in my opinion, irreversible. Despite issuing a correction today where she indicated that the Cuban Five were guilty, her mea culpa sounds hollow. While she argued that freeing the Cuban Five would free huge funds from an international campaign to find them not guilty, I wonder whether these funds were used by the Cuban Government officials before the existence of the Cuban Five to improve the living conditions of average Cubans. I don’t think so, and this is why I say that Yoani showed her true colors with yesterday’s statements.

  5. I agree with you Jorge, we need to step back and witness how Yoani will keep stuffing her foot in the mouth while showing her true colors.

    Sooner than later the real Yoani will come to light (that process already started with yesterday’s brouhaha). At the end I suspect many may be disappointed…

  6. She might be just another Cuban for us but for most of the world she’s “The Voice of Cuban Dissidence” indeed “The Voice of Anti-Castroism”–and during those extremely, EXTREMELY rare moments when they actually pay attention to matters Cuban–they take her sayings as important and wholly representative of the people who oppose Castro. For all most of the world (and the U.S. over the Miami-Dade border) knows her views on Castroism are the same as Marco Rubio’s and Ileana Ros and Andy Garcia’s and Gloria Estefan’s. Just like they think The CANF is still the representative voice of Miami Anti-Castroism. Let’s face it, she has 100 times more influence worldwide than everyone on this blog COMBINED. Perception is reality…and keep your eye on the ball. The “embargo” is the ball–the vital matter for the regime. The Cuban 5 is for Danny Glover, Santana, Juanes, Susan Sarandon, etc. to entertain themselves…the regime probably has more contempt for them than we do. The BIG Guns–Peters, Sweig, Brookings, CFR, Kerry, Hagel, Saladrigas, Armstrong, etc.– are ALL aimed at the “embargo,” (and secondarily the Terrorism listing.) as were the efforts of Montes, Myers and Alvarez. With this tour Yoani’s “embargo” views will take wings as those of the “enlightened” Anti-Castroism that now prevails “even in South Florida!”…and the pressure to lift it will mount, just watch.

    In brief: you wanna know what’s VITAL to the regime? Simply read the Cuba Study Group’s latest recommendations”

    The Cuban Five aren’t even mentioned, it’s ALL “embargo” stuff.

  7. “The BIG Guns — Peters, Sweig, Brookings, CFR, Kerry, Hagel, Armstrong, etc.– are ALL aimed at the ’embargo.'”

    I guess the allure of a multi-billion dollar credit line from the IMF — that the regime never intends to pay back, of course — is just too strong…

  8. The term “Le deben a las mil virgenes” totally applies to the Castro tyranny…

    If the embargo is lifted and IMF credits flows into the island the numbers of “virgenes” will surely grow, lol…

  9. Humberto,

    I agree with you that Yoani does have a disproportionate amount of influence among the masses that are otherwise ignorant of the situation in Cuba. But personally, I find her influence to be more noise than substance and therefore, fleeting. Yes, perception is reality, but I find the reality she is portraying lacks any real staying power.

    All you have to do is look at her argument for removing the embargo. It is a hodgepodge of discredited and contradictory reasons that have failed for decades. She can repeat them all she wants, but that does not make them any more effective. Nonetheless, I have no doubt the usual suspects you listed will grab a hold of her anti-embargo statements and run with them. But we both know she is not giving them much to work with. All they can do is hype the hype and hope they get lucky.

    If you analyze Yoani’s work, you’ll see that she is only effective and moving when discussing the broken elevator in her building in Havana; when she talks about sneaking into hotels to publish blog posts; when she reports on the fluctuating prices of lentils at her local farmers’ market; when she complains that the loaves of bread from her local bakery aren’t as big as they used to be and other interesting but irrelevant topics. She’s entertaining and informative when she broaches these aspects of life in Cuba, but when she gets into the political realm, she sounds and looks lost. Her writing and statements do not pack that wallop like when she writes about the lingering smell of perfume left behind by her building’s resident ginetera.

    Just look at her statements yesterday and Brazil and it’s obvious that politics and foreign policy just aren’t her bailiwick.

  10. Good point Alberto,

    The issue is that the liberals are promoting Yoani as the real deal of a Cuban “dissident” when we know better…

    By promoting Yoani as “the number one voice and representative of the opposition” in Cuba the real opposition to the Castro tyranny are being ignored and silenced, while one by one are been eliminated by the tyranny when the right opportunity arrives.

  11. Freedom, they can promote her all they want, but she’s still perhaps the most ineffective spokesperson they have for their agenda. In fact, her arguments are so weak and misinformed it can actually backfire on them if they push too hard. I suspect they know that and will likely be very careful not to invest too much in her. They will go for the fluff and push the “divide” between “real Cubans” like her and Cubans in exile. But as of now, that’s all they got and in order for that to work, we would have to give them the ammunition.

  12. ….”a hodgepodge of discredited and contradictory reasons that have failed for decades.”

    Of course–to US! to people who ACTUALLY take time to STUDY the issue. (i.e. 00000000000000000000001 per cent of the people aware of the issue.)

    “it’s obvious that politics and foreign policy just aren’t her bailiwick.”

    Yes, so it seems to US–but we live in a nation where most people under 40 get their “news” from Jon Stewart.

    Life’s short and busy…most people who hear about some “Cuba embargo” aren’t going to Babalu (or Townhall, or Frontpage, or even FoxNews) for a clarification. They read about it briefly in a USA Today editorial at the hotel over coffee in the morning and the editorialist quoted some woman who was “HERSELF a CUBAN DISSIDENT!” who found it “outdated” and “counterproductive.” Then they saw the SAME thing on CNN at the airport…then the SAME thing on ABC WorldNews with Diane Sawyer that night (hideous fact; most Americans still get their news from NON-cable networks)…”and gosh! That Cuban woman Yoani sure seemed like a nice person? And gosh, the poor thing is constantly abused by Castro’s thugs, they say! Gosh, she must know what she’s talking about regarding Cuba? If SHE says the embargo’s bad? She MUST know more about it than those former casino and brothel owners in Miami?”

    Then it’s off to the kid’s Soccer game…and to watch American Idol upon return. Believe me I interface daily with folks (outside Miami-Dade) good folks, Republicans, Tea partiers, etc. on Cuba stuff, they don’t know even THE BASICS, and could care less.

    What very little they’ll hear and read about Cuba in the next few months will be Yoani through her MSM or Cuba “Expert” handlers…just watch.

    Again: perception is reality.

    Again: “Propaganda is vital–propaganda is the heart of our struggle.” (Fidel Castro 1955.

  13. Humberto,

    You clearly stated the point I wanted Alberto to understand because outside of South FL, the Cuba issue is viewed much differently.

  14. Humberto,

    All your points are valid, but so is the fact that these people who get their hard news from John Stewart have been bombarded for years with the same fallacious end the embargo argument and it has gotten absolutely no where. Even the “Cuba Experts” have given up using those arguments.

    If you want further proof, just look at the angle the Obama administration has taken to relax sanctions on Cuba. They are all touted to be based on “promoting democracy” in Cuba, to “increasing contact” between freedom-loving Americans and the oppressed Cuban people.

    Now if Yoani were to take such a tact in her anti-embargo discourse, then she would be a much more effective spokesperson. But she’s using the same old tired arguments that regardless of whether people understand Cuba or not, have an irrefutable record of failure.

  15. You are right, Alberto, Yoani is a writer primarily, not a politician, and she has been thrust into the limelight. I admire her ability to organize a blogging community in Cuba and to push for free speech. I’m sure she is a lovely person. And she does have undue influence on U.S. opinion. In any event, I was extremely upset yesterday; today I have more of a sense of humor about the whole thing. But she should be aware that people who have studied these issues – the “embargo” and Guantanamo, for example – are going to call her on her s..t. Also, didn’t she say she knew the five spies “were not innocent”? That’s very different from saying that they are guilty and shouldn’t be released.

  16. Sorry not buying it.If YS is a dissident and the voice of Cuban dissidents then why would she not on her first trip outside Cuba condem the regime, which she call her “government ” and expose the multiple crimes against true dissidents ? No she is a 21st century socialist first. Then she is a dialoguera.

  17. I fully agree with you marista because I don’t buy it either but, this Yoani’ theater has to play its full course until the obvious becomes clear to all…

    Yesterday was the first play and almost became “debut y despedida”…

  18. Mr. Fontova, yours are my thoughts, exactly. I do read her blog, in both languages when possible; but it seems to me she is one of those people (and I refuse to call them dissidents, because they don’t fit the definition) who are born and bred under the communist regime and don’t like a lot of the consequences, but still adhere to a lot of the ideology no matter what. Call them low-info or opportunists or whatever, they don’t see what we can see from a historical perspective, and that may be due to the education/brainwashing to which they’ve been subjected all their lives. But this woman has had a hell of a lot of access to outside sources and information, so her comments about the embargo, et al. are, IMHO, a slip of the tongue; if she is back-pedaling, it may be because of backlash, not out of conviction. Mark it. I’ve given her the benefit of the doubt for years, knowing what we know about the suffering of political prisoners, dissidents, and the ladies in white; but no more. She is first and above all, a writer, with great command of the language and an uncanny ability to be very vague with her true view. Just read her posts for a while and you can pick up on that. Whether she is a plant of the government or not, is not important — we have a lot of those walking the streets of Dade County. What troubles me is that she has a tremendous platform with the acclaim and worldwide attention she receives, and she never comes clean on the most crucial issue for Cuba. While doctors on the island are willing to abandon medicine for a job at a hotel or tourist venue in order to survive, this woman with a language degree gets more perks than most.
    Sorry, no sale.

  19. The key issue is not her intentions or motivation, but whether or not she functions as a useful tool for Castro, Inc. (especially regarding the embargo). If she does, she is an enemy of Cuba and its people like ANYBODY who does it for ANY reason. I repeat, a tool is a tool is a tool, period.

  20. What’s happened with YS, in a way, is like taking a commercially successful singer of modest talent and promoting her as something much greater, to the point that it becomes ridiculously overblown, if not downright absurd. Think Gloria Estefan being proposed for a major operatic role at La Scala in Milan. YS is not, repeat, NOT cut out for political leadership or statesmanship, which would be “meterla en camisa de once varas.” She is already out of her depth, because she’s being treated and expected to perform as much more than she is, and she can’t deliver those goods. It simply isn’t in her. Frankly, I find her “phenomenon” increasingly embarrassing, not to mention irritating. Remember the “Fidel as Robin Hood” number, and how well that turned out?

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