As Yoani Sánchez departs South Florida to continue her tour through Europe and Latin America before heading back to Cuba, the dissident blogger has managed to bring together exiles of all generations and political philosophies to focus on the one truth they can all agree on: The 54-year-old dictatorship must end.
At virtually every Miami event this week, Ms. Sánchez, whose Generation Y blog and tweets are followed by millions worldwide, was greeted with respect and affection. The few protesters (we counted at most a dozen about to be rained upon) outside the Freedom Tower on Monday practiced that all-American right to disagree peacefully while the blogger exhorted Cuban Americans inside the iconic tower not to let the Castro regime divide them.
Indeed, dissidents in Cuba disagree on the embargo and a whole manner of issues, but they are united in their peaceful quest for democracy and fresh leadership.
Cuba’s opposition leaders have set an example mirrored in Miami this week.
Disparate groups like the 2506 Brigade (veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion) and the politically connected Latin Builders Association, both opponents of lifting the embargo, joined anti-embargo organizations, like the Cuban American National Foundation and the Cuba Study Group, to sponsor events welcoming Ms. Sánchez. Leaders of pro-embargo groups like the U.S.-Cuba PAC and the Cuban Liberty Council, which finally was able to award Ms. Sánchez its 2009 “Heroes of Freedom” medal, were eager to show they support the blogger. And Roots of Hope, a national group of college students that holds no official position on the embargo, has been at the forefront of connecting young Cubans on the island with technology and donated cell phones.
The diversity of groups has been a recognition that democratic change must come from the Cuban people and that exiles and all people of good will want to help.
Not that exiles who vehemently oppose lifting the U.S. embargo of Cuba have changed their minds instantly by the visit of one dissident blogger, no matter how internationally renown she has become in the past five years or how well she has blogged and tweeted about every abuse by the communist regime she has witnessed or experienced directly. But Ms. Sánchez does offer a perspective that comes from living all but two of her 37 years in a crumbling country where the Castro brothers have used the embargo to excuse every abuse, every failure of their totalitarian state. She speaks from experience.
In the next few weeks other Cuban women who are valiantly exposing the regime’s abuses will be in Miami. Berta Soler, who heads the Ladies in White, will bring her own perspective as to why she believes keeping the embargo in place is best. Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, has been in Spain to lobby for an investigation into her father’s death last summer in a car crash that some witnesses have told her involved a Cuban security vehicle running the car off the road and into a tree. She, too, will be meeting with Miami’s exiles.
These three women offer an opportunity for Cuban Americans to consider the possibilities and new approaches to help those peaceful dissidents who are risking their lives every day.
The regime already is under pressure to make it appear it is opening up. Americans ought not be fooled into complacency. Cubans on the island know they are still, as Ms. Sánchez put it, “birds in a cage.”