Yoani, who once lived abroad, took an interest in blogging and devised an ingenious way to do so. She emails her writings to friends who live outside of Cuba, who then post them to the blog they maintain for her. Even having access to email is a challenge for Sanchez, but she’s been able to maintain a steady stream of posts since she began blogging in April 2007.
In December of that same year, the Wall Street Journal published a piece about Yoani. She was something new — a Cuban who was not afraid to openly criticize the Castro regime, albeit subtly, and stick by her criticisms. A gifted writer, Yoani’s remarks are often cutting but in a way that isn’t obvious. And perhaps that’s why she stayed under the radar of Cuba’s repressive apparatus until she literally became an international celebrity from one day to the next.
Faced with this new and unprecedented threat, the regime had to think before it acted. It has tried to intimidate Yoani in numerous ways, including summoning her to the police station for questioning and deploying minders to watch her every move. When Yoani won the Ortega y Gasset award for digital journalism (Spain’s equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize), her request to leave the country to accept the honor was denied by the Castro government. You see, Cuba is one of the few countries in the world where citizens are not allowed to leave and return freely, in violation of the International Declaration of Human Rights — despite the fact that Cuba is a signer of that agreement.
Still, Yoani somehow achieved a status previously believed impossible in Castro’s Cuba — she was untouchable. Or so it seemed. Apparently, the goons whose job it is to keep Cubans in line have had enough of Yoani and her highfalutin’ ideas about freedom and self-determination.
Luckily for Yoani, in the process of becoming an award-winning commentator, she also managed to become somewhat popular among liberals in America and leftists internationally. She writes a regular column for the Huffington Post and has never aligned herself with the U.S. and its policies toward her country’s dictators. Her very existence has such liberals and leftists, for the first time, questioning what they had previously never questioned — namely, the real nature of the Castro regime they blindly idolized for years. And her detention and beating at the hands of Castro henchmen has probably further disoriented them.
It’s important to understand that Yoani Sanchez is not the only person in Cuba who disagrees with her government. Nor is she the only one who does it vocally. Unfortunately, Cuba’s political prisons are filled with such people.
One is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, an Afro-Cuban medical doctor who is a pacifist democracy advocate serving a 25-year prison sentence for his “crime” of being a pacifist democracy advocate. I believe Biscet is the most dangerous man in Cuba. Another is Dr. Darsi Ferrer, also a medical doctor, who risked his freedom and his life to film the reality of Cuba’s health care system, which Michael Moore praised in the movie Sicko. Ferrer was arrested by Castro’s police in July of this year and remains in prison.
So while the international media’s coverage of Havana’s “blogger beatings” is a welcome development, they have a long way to go in order to inform the world about the truth of Castro’s Cuba.