Yoani Sanchez may be a dissident in Cuba, but she agrees U.S. embargo must go

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Yoani Sanchez may be the world’s best known Cuban dissident. Her blog and Twitter feed criticizing the Cuban government have won her followers and plaudits throughout the United States and Europe, and her first trip outside of Cuba was widely anticipated after the government of Raul Castro liberalized travel rules.

What perhaps wasn’t anticipated was just how controversial that trip would become.

When she arrived at airports in the Brazilian cities of Recife and Salvador earlier this week, she was jeered by leftists carrying signs accusing her of being “financed by the CIA” and being an “anti-Cuban mercenary.”

At a festival where she was supposed to take part in the showing of a documentary film, the protests forced organizers to scrap the plan. By her second day in Brazil, local news reports said, she’d been assigned an escort of 14 military police officers, including several who were under cover.

Yet it’s what she’s had to say as the world’s best known critic of the Castro regime that was the most controversial, at least in the United States. She’s urged the end of the U.S. government’s trade embargo against her homeland, calling it a failure. She’s offered praise, if only faint, for Raul Castro.

“There’s a big difference between Raul and Fidel,” she said. An example: the change in the country’s travel rules that allowed her to leave Cuba without an exit permit.

That, she said, “would have been unthinkable under Fidel. He wanted to control every aspect of our life. Raul is more conscious of that being impossible.”

On Thursday, she campaigned to be seen as a moderate critic of her country’s government before a supportive audience of some 250 Brazilians in this huge financial center. The talk was organized by one of Brazil’s main newspapers, O Estado do S. Paulo, which also runs her syndicated column. They gave her a standing ovation upon arrival.

In turn, she seemed intent on turning down the volume. “I’ve spoken a lot in Brazil,” she said, “so I’m going to speak slower and lower my tone.”

Her enthusiasm for Raul Castro’s reforms was tempered. “The reforms are going the right direction but are very slow and not very deep,” she said.

She was critical of changes in real estate law that allow people to buy and sell their residences. The result, she said, is a Cuban-style gentrification, with wealthy people moving into certain neighborhoods and “uprooting the poor.”

She blasted as “totally false” the Cuban government’s claim that in excess of 20 percent of Cubans have Internet access. The real number, she said, was more like 3 percent.

She also said the reforms Raul Castro was introducing really just brought to the surface how society already worked.

“You’ll start to notice what always existed,” she said. “Raul has a tendency to just legalize what was already happening.”

She called being forced to pick between loyalty to the Castro government or hard-line views represented by some Cuban exiles as a false choice. She said she was a different type of dissident, more moderate. There were many others like her, she said, who would play a key role in a post-Castro transition.

She repeatedly said she did not think the old paradigms worked.

“When I was in Germany, I met a Cuban who asked me what kind of Cuban I was – of Fidel or of Miami. I thought that was an insult,” she said.

“Cuban exiles don’t just live in Miami. They live all over the world. One has to start to break down some of these myths.”

Yet she said she understood the origins of some of those who support the trade embargo. “One has to recognize the pain of historic exile,” she said, noting that many had property confiscated. “One has to respect that pain and look for an equilibrium. One also has to recognize the lack of rights Cuban exiles have.”

But she was unmoved on her view that the embargo should be lifted, and she repeated the sentiments she expressed Wednesday before members of the Brazilian congress in Brasilia: “As a method of pressure, it is a failure.”

It has been a theme throughout the week. In Bahia, she called the embargo “a fossil of the Cold War that does not have any sense in the modern world in which we live.”

She added that its existence gave the Cuban government “the best argument . . . to explain its ineffective economy.”

“On my dinner plate, there are not any tomatoes and there are not any potatoes,” she said, “and it’s not because of the embargo.”

Brazilian publisher Editora Contexto paid for much of Sanchez’s Brazilian trip, according to Roberto Lameirinhas, O Estado’s international editor. In Sao Paulo, she stayed at the house of Editora Contexto’s Jaime Pinksy, Lameirinhas said.

Sreeharsha is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Malaysia Airlines flight MH192 bound for Bangalore turned back towards and parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday, April 21, 2014, after its right landing gear malfunctioned upon takeoff. The airline says Flight 192 carrying 166 people landed safely at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport early Monday, four hours after it departed.

    Sub search for missing jet two-thirds complete

    As the search continued off the coast of Australia for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet on Monday, the airline announced another plane bound for India was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its tires burst on takeoff.

  •  
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2004 file photo,  Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to late father Marcial Maciel, founder of Christ's Legionaries, during a special audience the pontiff granted to about four thousand participants of the Regnum Christi movement, at the Vatican. Pope John Paul II is rightly credited with having helped bring down communism, of inspiring a new generation of Catholics with a globe-trotting papacy and of explaining church teaching on a range of hot-button issues as Christianity entered its third millennium. But the sexual abuse scandal that festered under his watch remains a stain on his legacy. John Paul and his top advisers failed to grasp the severity of the abuse problem until very late in his 26-year papacy, even though U.S. bishops had been petitioning the Holy See since the late-1980s for a faster way to defrock pedophile priests.

    John Paul's legacy stained by sex abuse scandal

    Pope John Paul II is rightly credited with having helped bring down communism, of inspiring a new generation of Catholics with a globe-trotting papacy and of explaining church teaching on a range of hot-button issues as Christianity entered its third millennium.

  •  
South Korean rescue team members on a boat sail to rescue missing passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near the buoys which were installed to mark the vessel in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 20, 2014. After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into the submerged ferry off South Korea's southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to over four dozen, officials said.

    SKorean president: Ferry crew actions 'murderous'

    South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed "unforgivable, murderous behavior" in the disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category