New York

Yoani Sánchez stresses importance of technology

It was early in November 2009 when Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez and activists Orlando Luis Pardo and Claudia Cadelo were arbitrarily detained in Havana while on their way to a peaceful march. The group was shoved violently into a police car.

In Cuba, arrests of that kind can last days or even weeks. In recent years, the government has used those detentions as a repressive tool to silence critics. But that day, Cadelo recalled, Yoani managed to send an emergency tweet.

“We have been arrested,” the message said.

The news spread and cyberspace became a voice of protest. Authorities soon ordered the detainees’ release.

“The flight of the blue bird [the Twitter icon]shortened the horror,” Sánchez said Friday during a forum titled The Revolution Recoded: The Digital Culture and the Public Sphere in Cuba, organized by New York University and The New School.

With this and other stories, Sánchez stressed in New York City the importance and the role of technology in the exchange of information and the defense of human rights. She spoke about politics and reviewed Cuba’s domestic situation, among other topics.

“I estimate that about 120 people in Cuba use Twitter from the island to the world. It helps a lot in the creation of opinion,” Sánchez said, before an audience of more than 100.

Sánchez thus ended the second day of her visit to the United States. Her presentations and meetings with students, professors and others are part of an 80-day international tour that incudes several countries in America and Europe.

In a presentation of about 90 minutes, the renowned blogger said that many Cubans are interested in knowing what happens in the world, despite the efforts of the authorities to exclude information. In that context, she said there is a widespread desire that the government cannot control.

“The road to change may be small, slow and timid, but it’s happening inside the Cuban people,” Sánchez said. ‘Let us not allow the official propaganda to separate us.”

She said that this trip will provide her with “some sort of a protective shield,” though she added that the shield “is neither total nor complete nor permanent.” She also said that she doesn’t pretend to speak for all of Cuba.

“[Cuba] is a country with multiple opinions and I don’t want to make the same mistake as Fidel Castro, who attempted to represent everybody,” Sánchez said.

The founder of the blog Generation Y made it clear that she doesn’t plan to settle abroad.

“I already know the experience of emigrating. I lived in Switzerland for two years, 2002 to 2004, and that was an important experience in my life, but I don’t plan to repeat it,” she said.

Sánchez responded to questions from American and foreign reporters in the Silver Hall of Arts and Sciences at New York University. The conference dealt with various topics, such as the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

On that, she said that the people of Cuba have “conflicting” opinions.

“Many believe that his death could lead to an economic collapse, but there are others of us who believe that his physical disappearance will force [Cuba] to accelerate the pace of economic reforms,” she said.

She also said that the work performed by independent journalists and bloggers contribute to a better understanding of Cuban reality.

“We show the real Cuba, not the official one,” the blogger said.

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