Thursday, February 21, 2013

Miami Herald Errs Against Yoani Sanchez

In their rush to grab readers, yesterday El Nuevo Herald chose to err against Yoani Sanchez by misinterpreting her recent comments in Brazil. As a result, the Herald not only violated a basic code of journalistic ethics ("Make certain that headlines... do not misrepresent"), but also helped skeptics of Yoani Sanchez in Miami to never trust her again.


Yesterday in Brazil, famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez was invited by legislators of the Brazilian Social Democracy party to the Chamber of Deputies. At the event, Sanchez was questioned over her various political positions, including the case of the Cuban Five. Among her comments, she said this:  
"[The Cuban government] cannot continue financing a disproportionate campaign [to free the Cuban Five] going already over 14 years. That is my position as the mother of an adolescent child, as a concerned citizen over the treasury of my country... I would prefer [the Cuban Five] be free to see if [our country] would save more [revenue]. And, there are other matters to deal with."

This was no "call" to release anyone.

No one honestly calls out or takes up a cause out of preference. Imagine someone saying: "I would prefer the cause of human rights, if it would solve our financial problems." Such a comment wouldn't be taken seriously as a motive for defending such an important issue. Just ask anyone who supports freedom for the Cuban Five, or anyone who supports freedom for Cuba. So, the Herald who interviews many Cuban exile activists should've known this, and also been aware of the sensitivity in Miami over political opinion concerning the Cuban Five.

The headline was quickly changed Wednesday evening after Yoani Sanchez directly responded to the Herald article through Facebook. Sanchez clarified by writing she was being ironic and apologized if her "words didn't leave a clear message." But, it was too late. The headline had already spread through the internet, local Spanish-language radio and television, leaving some in Miami shocked, upset or filled with mistrust.


Yoani Sanchez's comments over the U.S. embargo against Cuba and the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo (which she believes is illegal) actually resemble popular, public and academic opinion. Saying that the U.S. embargo is hegemonic, a failure, or an excuse for the Cuban government's inefficiency is uncontroversial. Even in Miami. Also, notice that her comments regarding the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo being illegal gets little attention. That's because if anyone (not aware of the history of the base) puts themselves in the shoes of a Cuban (like Sanchez), the U.S. Naval Base can be easily viewed as a violation of a nation's sovereignty. It's difficult to justify to a Cuban, so its ignored.

So, the only ones that are bothered by Yoani Sanchez and her comments are hard-liners and militants opposed to the Cuban government. They don't like the media attention her individual and personal comments are receiving because those comments are not sufficiently opposed or against the Cuban government and its policy. They believe her comments so far have been "far from perfect" or "misinformed" or just plain erroneous.

They prefer the blogger whose opinion and bravery is limited to her immediate surroundings in Cuba, but God forbid Yoani Sanchez has a strong opinion about international issues. (I wonder how they would react when they discover she's also pro-choice.) They will praise her if her message is "perfect," but ignore her or distance themselves if it isn't. Or, like the Herald, are comfortable leaving her behind to fend for herself.

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