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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yoani Sanchez in Brazil [Updated]

Above is a short video of famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez making her first public appearance yesterday in Brazil. She was at the Museu Parque do Saber in the city of Feira de Santana where a screening of a documentary was planned. Sanchez was welcomed by Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy and also met by a crowd of protesters calling her a "mercenary" and "traitor." The group of protesters seemed to be made up of local members from the Union of Young Socialists and the Jose Marti Cultural Association.

In the video, Yoani Sanchez explains her position on the U.S. embargo against Cuba:

"I don't fear problems. I'm not afraid of problems. I'm not afraid of oppressors. OK? And so, I am against the embargo for various reasons which I want to share with you.

"One, it appears to me 'inherencista' [meaning a policy seen as interventionist and/or hegemonic].

"Two, it appears to me a fossil of the Cold War that makes no sense in the modern world in which we live in.

"And three, it seems to be the best argument the Cuban government has to explain its economic inefficiency. On my plate there's no tomatoes! There's no potatoes!"

Other video of Sanchez in Brazil has her stating that the current economic reforms in Cuba are "on the right path," but still lack "velocity and depth" in their implementation. And, a much longer version of her appearance yesterday in Feira de Santana can be found here and here (in Spanish). In those videos Sanchez attempts to explain her purpose of blogging about everyday life in Cuba, and her dreams about a future Cuba. According to Sanchez, among the Cuban people there is diversity of opinion and political thought which is curtailed by the oppressive institutions of the Cuban government.  "Where's the Cuba they promised me as a small girl?" asked Sanchez out loud.

In her most recent blog post at Generation Y, Sanchez described the protest at this event as "unprecedented" in her life.

"They wanted to lynch me, I talked. They were responding to orders, I am a free soul. At the end of the night I had the same feelings as after a battle against the demons of the same extremism that fueled those acts of repudiation in 1980 in Cuba. The difference is that this time I understood the mechanism that foments these attitudes, I could see the long arm that controls them from the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana."

Yoani Sanchez will be traveling South America, the U.S. and other countries for the next 3 months. The quotes above against the embargo have been censored out by Carlos Santana in his report today for Radio Mambi.

--- [Update] ---

During an appearance with Brazilian legislators on Wednesday, Yoani Sanchez made more headlines with her comments about the U.S. embargo against Cuba, the U.S. military base at Guantanamo, and the Cuban Five.

Juan Carlos Chavez of El Nuevo Herald on Wednesday wrote an article titled "Yoani Sanchez calls for release of Cuban spies and the end to the embargo." (The Herald article follows the reporting of a Spanish journalist who blogs about Cuba at Punt de Vista.) Interestingly, the original Herald article begins with a forwarning:

"In a statement that might not be well-received in the exile community of Miami, the Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez said on Wednesday in Brazil that she is in favor of the liberation of the [Cuban Five]."

Unfortunately, Yoani Sanchez didn't say this. If one views video of her full comments, Sanchez states that she would "prefer" the liberation of the Cuban Five IF their freedom would lead to revenue and attention re-directed back to important educational priorities in Cuba.

The Herald has now attempted to correct their error with a new article titled "Blogger Yoani Sanchez says comment on ‘Cuban Five’ was ironic, misunderstood." This comes after Sanchez posted a response to the Herald article through her facebook account. But, if anyone knows the hard-liners in the exile community (as Juan Carlos Chavez knows), a correction or clarification sometimes isn't good enough. With Yoani Sanchez now scheduled to be at the Miami Freedom Tower in April, many Cuban exiles (especially the hard-liners who never trusted her, and might never trust her now) will most likely protest the event.

Way to go Miami Herald.