Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Prize for Yoani's Bruises

Alex, from A Grand Illusion blog, has a great post about how Cuban exile hard-liners may be "deadly scared" about the moderate political views of Yoani Sanchez, the famous Cuban blogger. In his post, Alex highlights Yoani's past moderate viewpoints and mainly responds to Mauricio Claver-Carone, from Capitol Hill Cubans, who earlier this week tried to convince Yoani that those 178 U.S. Representatives who support the lifting of travel restrictions to Cuba are really trying "to take advantage of our [Cuban] family's diversity, in the hopes of hindering our united purpose."

This desperate attempt to deceive Yoani with a tale of Congressional conspiracy absolutely reveals that hard-liners, like Claver-Carone, ARE afraid of Yoani's moderate views, and the global attention they may generate.

So how are hard-liners going to deal with Yoani? Very carefully. This means they will emphasize Yoani's criticism against the Cuban government, acts of repression against her, but when it comes to her views on U.S. policy towards Cuba, she will have no voice. This has been the pattern with all other dissidents, many of whom do not support many aspects of U.S. policy.

If you don't believe me, here's a good example. The Cuban Liberty Council (CLC), one of Miami's most powerful Cuban exile organization, awarded Yoani Sanchez their "Heroes of Freedom" prize last Saturday. The award comes after Yoani has been blogging for about two years, has already gained worldwide attention, and her blog recognized with several international awards.

Why did it take so long for the CLC to award Yoani?

Simple, she's not hard-line enough. Like Alex showed in his post, in the past Yoani has not shown to be a hard-liner or militant. At least not as hard-lined as previous winners of the "Heroes of Freedom" prize, such as Roger Noriega, Mel Martinez or Carlos Gutierrez [full list of previous winners, PDF]. So, the CLC, like other organizations, kept their distance, suspicious of her authenticity.

So what made the CLC change it's mind? Answer: Yoani got beat up by Cuban state agents on November 6th.

After being violently attacked by Cuba's repressive machinery, Yoani recieved her bona fides for the CLC. You see, Yoani's writings were not enough, it took bruises and trauma for the hard-line to embrace Yoani because she now shared their pain. But, most of all, now the CLC had good propaganda: Yoani's traumatic experience would be used as proof of the evil Cuban government.

So why do I think this is what ultimately convinced the CLC?

After the violent incident on Nov. 6th, hard-liners on Radio Mambi (and other media outlets) seemed vindicated. Armando Perez-Roura, programming director of Radio Mambi, gave increased attention to Yoani Sanchez, reading her account of the incident on Radio Mambi, even quoting her entire blog post about the incident in his weekly column for Libre magazine. A rare move.

It was finally reported on November 17th that the CLC would award Yoani Sanchez the "Heroes of Freedom" prize for "her valor, her defense for the civil liberties of the Cuban people, and for the violent attacks she fell victim to, she deserves [the prize], but mostly for knowing how to get the attention of the world with her novel cybernetic struggle." The day of the award ceremony would fall on November 21st, the same day CLC would hold their annual fundraising dinner originally titled "A Cuban Evening with Albita" (Note that this post of the event from Nov. 11th had no mention yet of the award to Yoani, possibly meaning that CLC had not yet reached a consensus to award her).

On November 19th, CLC President Diego Suarez explained to Diario Las Americas (Ena Curnow) that they contacted Yoani "close to about 15 days" ago regarding giving her the prize. That estimate falls very close to the day Yoani was violently assaulted. According to Suarez, Yoani responded by saying it would be "a great honor."

On November 21st, the CLC fundraiser and award ceremony was attended by Diego Suarez, Ninoska Perez-Castellon, Luis Zuniga, Manuel Alzugaray, the new Mayor of the City of Miami, Tomas Regalado, and (of course) Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

All names above support U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

Yoani Sanchez does not support U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

But the CLC does not care.

[Photo by Sergio Alsina. (Left to right) Ninoska Perez-Castellon, Alberto Hernandez, Diego Suarez]

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