The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Ms. Sánchez goes to Washington


OUR OPINION: Miami’s members of Congress have an opportunity to show Cuban blogger democracy’s grace

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez’s whirlwind tour through Latin America and Europe now comes to the United States. Will she be cheered?

Supporters of the Castro dictatorship have protested her appearances from Brazil to Mexico, and she’s likely to experience some protests from leftists enamored of all things Castro when she speaks Thursday at Columbia University in New York, where she finally will be able to pick up Columbia’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize, which she won in 2009 for her blog that shares Cubans’ struggles on an island run by the same communist regime for 54 years.

No surprise that Castro sympathizers in Latin America would boo Ms. Sánchez, who bravely speaks truth to power even if most Cubans can’t read her blog posts because the government of Raúl Castro makes sure they have no access to the Internet. But we were taken aback by the reaction of some Cuban exiles who are calling her ugly names on blogs and Spanish-language radio because they have just “discovered” her position on the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

Would they be Miami pawns of the Cuban government, trying to stir things up to once again turn the true hurt of exiles into an ugly exhibition of hatred?

In fact, Ms. Sánchez has long been a proponent of dropping the embargo because she sees it as a convenient excuse for the Cuban regime to blame U.S. policy for the island’s economic and social ills when the truth is the dictatorship’s top-down control of every aspect of Cubans’ lives is the real culprit. (We believe the embargo should not be removed until the Castros are gone and the opportunity for free and fair elections exists.)

Opposition leaders in Cuba are indeed divided on the embargo, but, regardless, they work together for a common cause: democracy.

Dissidents are not blind to the regime’s manipulations. Even the “reforms” that the Cuban government lauds — such as the one that allowed Ms. Sánchez to travel — are manipulated by the Castro government to ensure it divides. Some bloggers and opposition leaders are allowed out, others are not. That has long been the strategy employed by Fidel and Raúl Castro, to try to raise questions among exiles about dissidents so that they do not inspire support. Prime example: Oswaldo Payá.

Mr. Payá was killed last year in an automobile crash in Cuba, and the truth has now been confirmed by the driver of that vehicle, a Spaniard who is serving his time for vehicular manslaughter in Spain. From Spain he finally spoke freely: His car was run off the road into a ditch by Cuban government operatives who had been following them.

In death, Mr. Payá was praised for his work on human rights by many exiles who had opposed his Varela Project more than a decade ago. Indeed, when he was allowed to travel to the United States key exile leaders questioned if he was a Cuban spy.

Now Ms. Sánchez faces similar machinations. Soon, she will meet with members of Congress and she has asked for a bipartisan group of lawmakers to attend.

It would be devastating to the cause of freedom for Cuba if the Cuban-American Republican members of Congress would allow Ms. Sánchez’s position on the embargo or partisan wrangling over whose invitation she first accepted (from Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, both Democrats) to steer them away from participating. Ms. Sánchez should see all the diversity that exists in our political system, from all parties.

Who better than Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart to showcase the American way?

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