Yoani Sanchez is a blogger who persists in offending Cuba’s dictatorial masters by continuing to think freely. For this reason, Time called her one of the most influential people in the world. I call her the most dangerous woman in Cuba, because the gravest offense a Cuban resident can commit is to think and act independently.
On November 6, Sanchez — who writes about the absurdity of life in the “workers’ paradise” at a blog called Generation Y — was detained and beaten in Havana while on her way to an anti-violence demonstration, of all things.
The problem for Cuba’s bloodthirsty dictator, Raul Castro, is that only government-sponsored demonstrations are permitted in Cuba, and the only government one is allowed to protest is that of the United States. So the regime’s thugs decided that Yoani was getting a little big for her britches (figuratively, because the most dangerous woman in Cuba probably weighs 90 lbs. soaking wet).
Such conduct by the Castro regime is hardly anything new — this is a Stalinist totalitarian regime that has been abusing human rights for more than 50 years. What is new is the coverage that Sanchez and her beating, and those of her blogger colleagues, have gotten from the international media. In the past, media outlets — operating under the terms of a Faustian bargain — have been content to see no evil, hear no evil, and, most importantly, speak of no evil when it comes to the Castro brothers and their corrupt regime.
But Sanchez is an interesting and special case.
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.