Maduro Does Not Know How to Govern / Yoani Sanchez

Nicolas Maduro

Nicolas Maduro

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 20 February 2015 — I never thought I’d get to say this, but Venezuela is worse than Cuba. It is true that the South American country has not surpassed in number nor in intensity the shortages of basic products, the economic collapse, nor the police surveillance that we suffer; but Venezuela is worse than Cuba. Its seriousness reflects its repeating of the failed past that we Cubans are trying to escape.

In the case of both nations, the fiasco has been determined largely by improper and harmful leadership. Cuba, with a Fidel Castro who tried to mold the country in his image and likeness, taking on his marked tendency to authoritarianism, intolerance Continue reading

“It does not matter to return or not return” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Abilio Estevez

Abilio Estevez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana-Barcelona, 17 February 2015 – During this year’s International Book Fair in Havana, Abilio Estevez’s novel, Los palacios distantes (Distant Palaces), was presented. Living in Barcelona for the last fifteen years, on this occasion the author brings us the story of Victorio, a character who shares his pains and passions.

A few hours after the launch of the book in the Alejo Carpentier room, the novelist with a degree in Hispanic Language and Literature responded by email to some questions for the readers of 14ymedio, from Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter where he lives and creates.

14ymedio: To those who still haven’t read Los palacios… and hope to get a copy at the Book Fair, what would you like to warn them about before they enter your pages?

Estevez: Nothing, I would not warn them. I think should have its own importance, and the author should pass as unnoticed as possible. Also, the book should always be a mystery to solve, an adventure Continue reading

The Independents of the Independents / Yoani Sanchez

ADSL cables

ADSL cables

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 8 February 2015 — “Do not talk about politics or religion,” says the number one rule of the most extensive illegal data network in Havana. Those who join the network of routers and antennas that make up SNET accept such guidelines as a matter of survival. Plugging into the service allows them to form a part of a brotherhood that every member protects and keeps “low profile.” Despite such strict limitations, it’s worth experiencing this chance to connect ourselves to others, to use the internal chat service, and to experience the vertigo of being online… even though we know we are sadly offline. An illusion of Internet that is maintained as long as the WiFi receptor on our computers is lit up. Continue reading

“In Cuba we have learned our duties very well, but not our rights” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera (14ymedio)

Tania Bruguera (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 February 2015 – This coming February 22 Tania Bruguera should be in Madrid to present one of her works at the ARCO International Contemporary Art Fair, but she knows she isn’t going to make it. Trapped by Cuban justice since last December 30, when she was arrested during her performance #YoTambienExijo (I Too Demand), the artist remains in Havana hoping to resolve her legal situation. We talked with her about this, her artivism, and the future of Cuba.

Sanchéz. What is your current legal and immigration situation?

Bruguera. I am waiting for a prosecutor to reduce the charges against me. I have been advised by several attorneys, such as Laritza Diversent from Cubalex, and also René Gómez Manzano, from Corriente Agramontista [both independent legal groups]. They have told me that in this case there are at least three possible outcomes: one is the dismissal of the case, which could be temporary or permanent. Another is that they could impose an administrative measure, which carries a fine. The detail with this option is that I would have to recognize my guilt and accept the charges and accusations they’ve made against me, and I don’t think this variation is just. The third possibility is that it will be taken to trial Continue reading

What Will We Do With the Hope? / Yoani Sanchez

An "Esperanza" (Hope) grasshopper. (Silvia Corbelle)

An “Esperanza” (Hope) grasshopper. (Silvia Corbelle)

“Any frustration is the daughter of excessive expectations,” I shared my concern with the U.S. members of Congress who visited Cuba in January. The phrase was designed to stress the flow of illusions that has been let loose in the population since December 17. The announcement of the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States has provoked a resurgence in this country of a feeling lost for decades: hope.

However, the expectations that have been created are so high and so difficult to meet in the short term that many may feel disappointed. There is no way that reality can satisfy such extravagant fantasies of change. The level of deterioration in Cuba needs enormous resources and urgent transformations Continue reading

The spy who never wanted to be one / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The journalist Jose Antonio Torres.

The journalist Jose Antonio Torres.

  • The unusual story of ‘Granma’ journalist sentenced to 14 years in prison

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Santiago de Cuba, 27 January 2015 — Just outside the building, a ditch carries sewage down the street. Several children jump from side to side of the stinking canal which later runs through Micro 7, a neighborhood in the José Martí district of Santiago de Cuba. For a few years now the neighbors have pointed to number 9 on one rough block and said, “That’s where the Granma newspaper journalist lives.” Today the family bears the stigma of a journalist who is in prison, where he is serving a sentence for espionage.

The steps are rough and uneven. At the top improvised bars cover the door to the house. I knocked for long minutes, but no one answered. Mayda Mercedes, José Antonio “Tony” Torres’s wife, only received me another day, with a certain tremor in her voice while looking up and down the street. There I managed, for the first time, to see the court ruling that twisted the fate of this man, as a bolero says, “like a weak tin rod.” Continue reading

“It is up to Cubans decide their future” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 24 January 2015 — In October of 2013 I had a conversation with Roberta Jacobson, via a Google hangout (videodebate), on democracy, technology and the role of women in activism. On that occasion, we interacted through a screen in the company of internauts interested in our chat. Now, we talked with a few inches between us, in a visit of the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs made to our independent daily, 14ymedio, in Havana.

Proximity has allowed me to confirm what I had already felt in our previous conversation, that this loquacious woman with an attentive gaze has a profound knowledge of the Cuban reality. It is no wonder that she has led the first round of conversations between Cuba and the United States after the December 17th announcement about the reestablishment of relations between both countries.

Several members of our editorial board along with some collaborators met with Jacobson on the 14th floor of the Yugoslav-style building where our headquarters are located. Following is a transcript of a conversation, where we tried to address a wide spectrum of topics.

Yoani Sánchez: Do we have reason to worry that pragmatism and the politics of rapprochement prevail above all else, and that the issue of human rights and civil liberties will be relegated to the background? Continue reading

US Congressional delegation meets with Cuban activists and independent journalists /14ymedio

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2015 — On Sunday afternoon a dozen activists and representatives of Cuban civil society met with the American congressional delegation visiting Cuba. Chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy, the group was able hear diverse opinions in response to the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between the two countries.

A member of the delegation confirmed that the Cuban authorities were aware of the meeting with the activists and had made known to the American side their displeasure with the meeting.

In a relaxed atmosphere, several of those present expressed the conviction that “this opens a new era” and demanded greater transparency in negotiations, according to what they themselves reported after the meeting. Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, gave lawmakers a list with the names of 24 prisoners who, on humanitarian grounds, should be included in an upcoming release process. Continue reading

One name on the list / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez


The above video is of Yojarne Arce’s protest that eventually led to his arrest.

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 14 January 2105 — Living in Caimanera is like living on an island within the island. On either side of the highway at the entrance can be read “This is the first anti-imperialist trench in Cuba.” The land is arid and three points of police control block any unauthorized person from accessing the town.

In the village adjoining the Guantanamo Naval Base, a young man has woken up in his own bed today after months in prison. Yojarne Arce dreams of being lawyer, although in the last year he has experienced the law from its most arbitrary side, the political prison.

This 35-year-old Guantanameran has been released as a part of the agreements between the Cuban government and the United States. His name is on the list of activists that Raul Castro ordered out of the prisons, in a political game as long-awaited as it is disappointing.

In the cold language of the court record, it says that Yojarne was condemned for the crime of assault, but those who knew his activism said that State Securirty spent time “hunting him down.” It was a matter of time before they trapped him.

In the middle of last year a video raced across social networks and mobile phones. In it the images of a man is seen standing on a telecommunications tower where he displays a sign with the phrase “Cuba violates human rights.” For long minutes he waves the cloth and shouts slogans.

At the foot of the metal structure people are gathered, half curious, half supportive. That day the police could not arrest him, because his neighbors surrounded him and accompanied hi, home. “You’re not going to take him,” shouted some of them at the law enforcement officers.

But the police have the time, all the time, to wait until an inconvenient individual is alone and helpless. That day came. They arrested this young man from Generation Y right in the street, between blows and screams, a few yards from the border than separates Cuban territory and the American naval base.

And what list are you on?

Yojarne spent days of interrogations and threats. Afterwards they took him to the Guantanamo Provincial Prison, a school-style construction in the country where the greatest lesson to be learned is survival. “I went to ‘The Gulf,’ which is what the prisoners call this encampment where I was, because it’s the last, the end of everything.” He spent most of the time among murderers, repeat offenders and rapists.

“From the beginning I behaved like a political prisoner because I helped to organize several protests and defend the rights of other prisoners,” Yojarne said, while his grandfather prepared a taste of coffee to be drunk in one sip, thinking about those days in prison with hardly any breakfast.

Yojarne Arce at home. (14ymedio)

Yojarne Arce at home. (14ymedio)

The life of this Patriotic Union of Cuba activist has gone from one list to another. To visit him in Caimanera it’s necessary to sign in on a form that every family has at the police station. “Relatives note the name of whoever wants to spend some days with them and then the person is investigated to see if they can enter the town.” For someone who was studying fifth year law when he was arrested, these restrictions remain intolerable.

He was in the prison yard with the common prisoners when they called him. “Yojarne, get your things, you’re going,” one of the guards told him. At first he thought it was a joke. Between those walls he had been on hunger strike and was in the punishment cell at least three times. The Guantanamo Provincial Prison was his home for six months, a cruel home where he won some small battles and left on parole.

“I started a protest which several inmates joined to demand that they display the prison rules,” he says in a lawyerly tone. He takes his time between one word and another, as if reliving those days and then continues, “I did it so the prisoners could know their rights and know what they had access to.”

The first visit after his release was to his captive village. “Caimanera remains the same, nothing has changed, the people are fed up.” Thus he explains his first impressions. His grandmother waited for him at home, running back and forth with joy. The neighbors also came to hug a man who was once a sports trainer and an improvised physiotherapist in the neighborhood.

“I lost the school year, because the university took advantage of my being in prison to kick me out,” he explained, sadly. He lacked just a few months to obtain the title of lawyer that he had planned to hang on the wall facing the door. “I am going to try again,” he says loudly, although it seems to be a promise he is making to himself.

The phone rings and it’s an activist from Santiago de Cuba who called to report that they wouldn’t let him enter Caimanera because he isn’t “on the list.” Yojarne is trapped in a Cold War bastion that the official discourse itself seems to be rejecting. He has exchanged Guantanamo provincial prison for the wide prison that is Caimanera.

The Thousand Ways to Conjure a New Year / Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sánchez in January 2013, showing her new passport at home in Havana (Cuba). ALEJANDRO ERNESTO (EPA) EFE

Yoani Sánchez in January 2013, showing her new passport at home in Havana (Cuba). ALEJANDRO ERNESTO (EPA) EFE

El Nuevo Herald, Yoani Sanchez, 3 January 2015 – In the afternoon they started to assemble a doll. An old shirt, a straw hat and the dirty pants of a neighbor who repairs cars. In the end, it had a sad face and some straw sticking out through the eye holes. A few minutes before the arrival of 2015, they set it on fire. Everyone laughed and danced around the slowly-burning puppet. “We are scorching the bad that happened to us in 2014,” the principal organizer of the pyre said smugly. The flames lasted long enough for the many curious to arrive and join the hubbub. Continue reading

From Tatlin’s Whisper to Tatlin’s Cry / Yoani Sanchez

Images from the first Havana edition of "Tatlin's Whisper"

Images from the first Havana edition of “Tatlin’s Whisper”

Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 31 December 2014 – Those of us who participated in that first edition of Tatlin’s Whisper in Havana will never forget that minute of freedom in front of the microphone that would cost us years of official insults. The project to reenact the performance, but this time in the Plaza of the Revolution, invariably brought back to us memories of that night in the Wilfredo Lam center and the hope that this time the microphones would be open to a larger number of Cubans. I confess that I came to reflect on where it would be best to raise the podium, to place the actors dressed in olive-green who would regulate the time of each person’s speech, and how the white dove would look, fluttering over the shoulder of each orator. Continue reading