Yoani Sanchez: “I am not expecting that Obama is going to demand our rights” / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger(EFE) Santiago de Chile, 22 April 2015 – Yoani Sanchez said on Wednesday that the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States gives new hope to the inhabitants of the Island, but stressed that Cubans themselves must exert pressure to demand their rights.

“I am not expecting [US president, Barack] Obama, from the White House, is going to demand our rights, it is up to us,” said the regime opponent and journalist at a press conference in Santiago de Cuba, where she had arrived for a three-day visit.

On the normalization of relations between the two countries, the blogger felt that the United States has made several concessions so far, but the Government of president Raul Castro has been hiding his cards. Continue reading

We are 1.7 million / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)

A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 April 2015 — Years of masks, whispers and fears have made Cubans find delving into political issues as difficult as delving into enigmatic, dark abyss. The few surveys and inquiries conducted independently in recent decades have encountered a suspicion that leads us to question: Why are you asking me that? What will you do with the information?

However, there are times when our actions are the most conclusive and direct of responses. As in the elections held last Sunday for the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, where more than 1.7 million people didn’t vote, annulled their ballot, or left it blank, or even voted for one of the only two opposition candidates. Continue reading

Video of “Act of Repudiation” by Cubans Against Cubans in Panama

The video shows Cubans affiliated with the Castro regime screaming “GET OUT!” and “Down with the worms!” and “Murderer!” and singing Cuba’s National Anthem at Cubans not affiliated with the Castro regime, in the Hotel Panama during the Americas Summit

Published on 10 April 2015 on Yoani Sanchez’s Twitter account

Adventures and misfortunes of a correspondent in Cuba / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Fernando Garcia poses with a copy of his book 'The Island of the Ingenuous”. (Photo: Esteban Cobo)

Fernando Garcia poses with a copy of his book ‘The Island of the Ingenuous”. (Photo: Esteban Cobo)

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14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 6 April 2015 — Fernando Garcia del Rio was a correspondent in Cuba for the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia (Barcelona), from 2007 until his expulsion from Cuba in 2011. He has just published a book,“The Island of the Mills,” where he relates the “adventures and misfortunes of a correspondent in Havana in the final years of the Castro regime.” From Madrid, where he still works for La Vanguardia, the author has responded by email to questions from 14ymedio.

Question. Why did they expel you?

Response. It is obvious that my work did not please the authorities. They did not specify the reasons in detail. One day in March 2011, when I was about to complete four years as a correspondent, an official from the International Press Center (CPI) called me to a meeting the following Saturday morning. For more than a year that organization had let me waiting for the renewal of my accreditation, an essential document to be able to work on the island. I’d also spent some months without receiving any calls or communication from the CPI. And this, as a member of that body explained to me with obvious cynicism, meant that I was in a phase that implied, among other things, “the silence of the mails.” Continue reading

Waiting for ‘Chromebit’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

In Cuba, housewives spend six hours a day watching television. (El Pais)

In Cuba, housewives spend six hours a day watching television. (El Pais)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 April 2015 — He is the king of the room. With his screen and speakers, no one looks away or ignores him. In front of our television sets, millions of Cubans have cried, laughed, and spent a good part of our lives. Now, thanks to new technologies, our relationship with this “idiot box” could begin to change. The devices that convert our little screens into computers are already here and are an option to computerize our families.

Google has launched the market for devices that convert TV sets into intelligent machines that help us to calculate, write, connect to the Internet and countless other functions. The device that achieves such a wonder resembles a USB flash drive, like the ones we’re used to passing from hand-to-hand to share information, audiovisuals, videoclips and programs. However, unlike these flash memories used to store data, the new creature conceived in Mountain View, California, holds within it the potential of a computer. Continue reading

The Curse of the Cursed / Yoani Sanchez

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Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 April 2015 – Imagine that after a flight of more than nine hours, you arrive at your destination but they don’t let you get off the plane. Your legs are numb from the journey, your relatives are waiting for you out there, your suitcases are full of gifts for friends… but an immigration official informs you that you will not be allowed to enter the country of your birth. You have to stay in your seat, tired and frustrated, while they clean the plane for the next passengers. In the time you wait for it to return to the airport from whence you came, you can’t stop asking yourself, “How could this happen to me in my own country?”

That nightmare, was just experienced by the artist Aldo (Maldito) Menendez – whose nickname means “cursed” – as he tried to visit Cuba to participate in the Cervantes Alternate Lives Festival of Camagüey (FIVAC). The Cuban consulate in Spain had already warned him that he was not welcome on the Island and had even stamped his passport with an authoritarian “annulled” on the so-called “empowerment” that Cuban emigrants need to enter their own country. But… the truly Maldito was not satisfied and wanted to experience firsthand whether they really wouldn’t let him cross the border. Continue reading

What remains after the tragedy / Yoani Sanchez

The location in the Alps where the remains of the Germanwing plane are strewn (Ministry of the Interior)

The location in the Alps where the remains of the Germanwing plane are strewn (Ministry of the Interior)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 30 March 2015 — There are clothes scattered across the mountains, open suitcases, children’s dolls that will never be played with again. Things that belonged to people who until recently were alive and of whom barely a memory is left, a trail of goods that will be sorted and conveyed to the families of the victims. The tragedy of Germanwings A320, crashed in the French Alps, makes me reflect, like many others, on the brief second that separates us from death. A suicidal leader, a madman at the helm, a war unleashed by others … a thousand and one ways to die that life brings us.

One evening in 1985 my family sat around the set table, waiting for Grandma. She never came, because two drunks in the middle of a brawl fatally wounded her in a nearby café. Her plate remained on the table. Cold, alone, with the spoon to its side and a glass of water making a wet round mark on the wood. Continue reading

Polarization and civil society / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

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14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 March 2015 – The family of Yamila, age 41, is a sample of Cuban society. The father is a member of the Communist Party, the mother a Catholic who never embraced the Revolutionary Process, there is a brother in Miami and she herself is working for a joint venture where she earns convertible pesos. When they sit down to eat, they discuss the high price of food, the low salaries, how boring the telenovela is, or how late the remittances from the emigrants are this month.

For decades the ideological fire has stirred no passions in Yamila’s living room. The father is increasingly tempered in his political views; the mother prays, while buying in the illegal market; the relative who lives on the other shore and comes every now and then on vacation is an obliging forty-something who saves every cent to bring them a flat screen TV. These are the daily problems that concern them and hold them together. The struggle to survive makes them set aside any differences.

This microcosm of the Cuban family today has a lot to teach those who, from polarized positions, try to say what civil society is and isn’t, Continue reading

The Day Peace Broke Out / Yoani Sanchez

Generation Y*, Yoani Sanchez, 25 March 2015 – “Peace broke out!” the old teacher was heard to say, on the day that Barack Obama and Raul Castro reported the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States. The phrase captured the symbolism of a moment that had all the connotations of an armistice reached after a long war.

Three months after that December 17th, the soldiers of the finished contest don’t know whether to lay down their arms, offer them to the enemy, or reproach the Government for so many decades of a useless conflagration. Everyone experiences the ceasefire in his or her own way, but the indelible timestamp is already established in the history of the Island. Children born in recent weeks will study the conflict with our neighbor to the north in textbooks, not experience it every day as the center of ideological propaganda. That is a big difference. Even the stars-and-stripes flag has been flying over Havana lately, without the Revolutionary fire that made it burn on the pyre of some anti-imperialist act.

For millions of people in the world, this is a chapter that puts an end to the last vestige of the Cold War, but for Cubans it is a question still unresolved. Reality moves more slowly than the headlines triggered by an agreement between David and Goliath, because the effects of the new diplomatic mood have not yet been noticed on our plates, in our wallets, nor in the expansion of civil liberties. Continue reading

A Robinson Crusoe-like Singularity / Yoani Sanchez

An illustration of Robinson Crusoe.

An illustration of Robinson Crusoe.

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 23 March 2015 — A young Panamanian told me in detail about the two weeks he spent in Havana, the new family that welcomed him here, and his surprise at a coastal city with almost no boats. His story resembled those of many who arrive on the Island for the first time, ranging from amazement to happiness, passing through tears.

However, his most astonishing conclusion was that that, thanks to the country’s disconnection, he had been able to live that long without Internet. Fifteen days without sending an email, reading a tweet, or worrying about a “like” on Facebook. On returning to his own country, he felt as if he’d been at a technology rehab clinic. Continue reading

Hello? Hello? / Yoani Sanchez

Public telephones in Cuba (Silvia Corbelle)

Public telephones in Cuba (Silvia Corbelle)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 13 March 2015 – She dialed the number and waited. Nothing, not a ring, not even a busy signal. She tried again and then got a woman’s voice telling her to wait on the line. After several minutes she realized it was a scam, but she’d already lost half the value of her prepaid card. Finally, she was able to connect, but her mother’s voice sounded as if she was speaking under water and she was barely able to say she was fine and that she missed her. The line was cut and her call to Cuba ended.

Among the many dramas that play out because of emigration, in the case of Cuba we have to add the complications of communicating with Island. We have the most expensive rates in the world for those who want Continue reading