The “Little Witches” Arrived / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

”Little witches” (known is rail lilies in English) in the 14ymedio newsroom. (14ymedio)
”Little witches” (known is rail lilies in English) in the 14ymedio newsroom. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14ymedio – There are those who believe that the pages of newspapers only have space for tragedy, armed conflicts and diatribes against politicians. In a world where the newspapers prioritize the extraordinary and the TV screens are filled with crises or shipwrecks, the little things, the common moments, lose narrative space. However, a good part of our existence takes place among the everyday, in the middle of a cycle that repeats itself over and over, like the seasons and the flowerings.

In the 14ymedio newsroom, 130 feet above the ground and amid the informational hustle, these “little witches” have been born. Known as “rain lilies” in English, no one planted them in a flowerbed, but they have arrived in the earth of some other plant and bloomed this summer. They are fragile and fleeting, but their simple presence convinces us that life continues, despite the problems, the fears, and the stubbornness of the leaders.

With their herringbone stems and ephemeral petals, these “little witches” have wrested a smile from the work team that reports a reality where there are few reasons for joy. One afternoon, just after a very long power outage, they sprang into bloom, on the same day that the political police browbeat one of our provincial collaborators. But here are these “little witches,” to remind us that being journalists is also narrating the diminutive, describing the ordinary and supporting freedom, like a plant, that returns to bloom again.

Shameful Friends / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Alexandr Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994. (CC)
Alexandr Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 May 2016 – People with whom we share sorrows and joys are a reflection of ourselves, however different they may appear. As friends we choose them to accompany us, but also to complete us, with the diversity and continuity that our human nature needs. The problem is when our choices of coexistence are not based on affinities and preferences, but on interests and alliances focused on annoying others.

In the same week, the Cuban executive has embraced two deplorable authoritarian regimes. A few hours after Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez met with government functionaries in Belarus, Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution hosted a meeting between Raul Castro and a special representative from North Korea’s Workers Party. Disgraceful comrades, shamelessly embraced and praised by the island’s officialdom.

In a world where civil society, calls for the respect for human rights, and movements that promote the recognition of rights are making themselves heard ever more loudly, it is difficult for the Cuban government to explain his good relations with Europe’s last dictator and with the cruelly capricious grandson who inherited power through his bloodline. What united the island’s authorities with similar political specimens?

The only possible answer is sticking their finger in the eye of Western democracies and the White House. The problem with this attitude lies in the demands from these fellow travelers for commitments and silences. Diplomatic friendship is converted into complicity and the comrades end up defining the nature of those who have chosen their company.

Maduro and the Country That is Disintegrating in His Hands / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A woman protests against members of the Bolivarian National Guard in the march on Wednesday in Caracas. (EFE / Miguel Gutierrez)
A woman protests against members of the Bolivarian National Guard in the march on Wednesday in Caracas. “We are starving to death. Total dictatorship.” (EFE / Miguel Gutierrez)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 May 2016 — All signs point to the collapse of Venezuela. Every minute that passes the country is disintegrating in the hands of Nicolas Maduro, who insists on maintaining with revolutionary violence a power that he has not known how to keep through efficiency or results. His stubbornness has led a nation rich in resources to misery and his incendiary oratory is now pushing it towards a violent explosion.

In front of the microphones, Maduro claims to defend a chimerical 21st century socialism that only works in the minds of its progenitors. However, his political and repressive actions are aimed at preserving the privileges of a clan that rants against the bourgeoisie while living in opulence and looting the public coffers. He believes in the Robin Hood of the children’s stories, but this time Sherwood Forest has become unlivable, even for the poor. Continue reading “Maduro and the Country That is Disintegrating in His Hands / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Jose Antonio Torres: “Only International Pressure Will Get Me Out Of Jail” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The United States Department of State selected Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to begin the campaign for the World Press Freedom Day.(14ymedio)
The United States Department of State selected Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to begin the campaign for the World Press Freedom Day.(14ymedio)

For background on this interview read: The Spy Who Never Wanted to Be One

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 3 May 2016 — Last week the United States Department of State chose Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to lead off the campaign for International Press Freedom Day, this May 3rd. The initiative denounces the crimes and abuse against information workers in several countries. The reporter was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for the crime of espionage, and this week spoke from prison by phone with 14ymedio.

Yoani Sanchez: Did you know that your name was included on the list of journalists who have suffered an attack on freedom of the press?

Jose Antonio Torres: I did not know, but I know now. I want to thank those who have made this effort to help me here in prison, where I have spent five years and two months. The inclusion of my name in this campaign is proof that the Cuban press, especially the critical press [i.e. non-Party], is doing everything possible about the injustices, to resolve them and to resolve them immediately I am very grateful, as a journalist and as a human being, because what has happened to me and my family is inhumane. Continue reading “Jose Antonio Torres: “Only International Pressure Will Get Me Out Of Jail” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Collapse / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Raul Castro, in the presence of Barack Obama, chides a journalist who asks about political prisoners on the island. (EFE)
Raul Castro, in the presence of Barack Obama, chides a journalist who asks about political prisoners on the island. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 26 April 2016 – In films there are final epics. Systems whose final moments pass between the sound of the hammers tearing down a wall and the roar of thousands of people in a plaza. The Castro regime, however, is going through its death throes without glorious images or collective heroics. Its mediocre denouement has become clearer in recent months, in the signs of collapse that can no longer be hidden behind the trappings of the official discourse.

The epilogue of this process, once called Revolution, is strewn with ridiculous and banal events, but they are, indeed, clear symptoms of the end. Like a bad movie with a hurried script and the worst actors, the scenes illustrating the terminal state of this twentieth century fossil seem worthy of a tragicomedy: Continue reading “The Collapse / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

A Chef on the 14th Floor / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The chef José Andrés cooking in the kitchen of the 14ymedio newsroom. (14ymedio)
The chef José Andrés cooking in the kitchen of the 14ymedio newsroom. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 April 2016 — José Andrés arrived in Havana at the best and worst moment of the year. One of the most famous chefs in the world knocked on the door of the 14ymedio newsroom the same day that Barack Obama was saying goodbye to the Cuban people. The shortages in the markets were an incentive rather than an obstacle for the Spaniard who moves easily between the glamorous kitchens of Washington DC and the wood fires of an impoverished Haiti.

In his fingers, each ingredient becomes pure magic. “What do you have?” He asked. And the answer reflected this period of empty shelves in stores. However, the art of cooking is to combine precisely what there is, the ability to convert the little one has at hand into have something marvelous for the palate. Continue reading “A Chef on the 14th Floor / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Cuba’s Official Press Treads Carefully With Panama Papers / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

In Iceland, citizens took to the streets to demand the prime minister take responsibility after the leaked documents. (Twitter)
In Iceland, citizens took to the streets to demand the prime minister take responsibility after the leaked documents. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 5 April 2016 – The name of Cuba has not appeared among the so-called Panama Papers, but the official press is displaying caution over leaked documents that reveal fortunes hidden by politicians, athletes and entertainment figures. The national media has mentioned those touched by the scandal, such as Argentina’s president Mauricio Macro, while hiding evidence that points to Vladimir Putin and the Venezuelan government.

In Monday’s first newscast, the report on the exhaustive investigation into the documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossak Fonseca lasted less than a minute. The unveiling that exposed billionaires’ offshore accounts involving 140 politicians in 50 countries presents the ossified Party propaganda with the dilemma of joining the diffusers of these 15 million leaked documents, or keeping its distance before the involvement of numerous allies. Continue reading “Cuba’s Official Press Treads Carefully With Panama Papers / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Voice Of Your Rights / 14ymedio, Generation Y

Yoani Sánchez inaugurates a series of interviews on the channel Deutsche Welle Latin America: The Voice of Your Rights. (Video capture)
Yoani Sánchez inaugurates a series of interviews on the channel Deutsche Welle Latin America: The Voice of Your Rights. (Video capture)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 4 April 2016 — What to do when you have a loudspeaker in your hand? Since 2007 when I started my blog Generation Y, this question has haunted me. Often the visibility does not benefit those who need it most and the protective umbrellas provided by access to international organizations only reach a few. To occupy the microphone to broadcast only your own speech is a wastefulness that is a monologue more than an informative work. The Voice of Your Rights, the new interview program I will host on the Deutsche Welle Latin American TV program seeks to bring the megaphone to those who need it most.

With 40 episodes filmed in Panama City, the new space hosts a guest list essential for those who want to know our region and learn about the stories of its people. Environmental activists, women who fight against femicide, human rights organizations that denounce prison overcrowding and groups addressing child labor from all viewpoints are some of the themes that will be addressed by the people with whom I will share the studio in the coming weeks.

My role in this program, which has as its protagonists those who are trying to open a window where the door is closed, is not only for a professional challenge in my career as a journalist, but part of a personal commitment to the most silenced in every society. The cameras and the power of audiovisual media will serve to make their projects more effective and their lives less dangerous.

Vargas Llosa: “Cuba will become a capitalist dictatorship and then a democracy” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Mario Vargas Llosa's speech celebrating his 80th birthday. (14ymedio)
Mario Vargas Llosa’s speech celebrating his 80th birthday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Madrid, 29 March 2016 — Literature, politics and love were the three main protagonists on Monday evening for the 80th birthday of Mario Vargas Llosa. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature attended a dinner in his honor with politicians, journalists, presidents and activists, in a central Madrid hotel. Before 400 guests, the Peruvian writer championed words and the art of storytelling as a way to improve reality and participate in national life.

“Turning 80 has no merit,” said the author of The War of the End of the World before an audience with another Literature Nobelist, the Turk Orhan Pamuk, as well as a large group of Cuban and Venezuelan activists. Seated at a forty tables, named after the prolific storyteller’s books or stories, the guests experienced the night as a gigantic party among friends. Continue reading “Vargas Llosa: “Cuba will become a capitalist dictatorship and then a democracy” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Obama Is Surrounded By Symbols To Win The Hearts Of Cubans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Havana is preparing to welcome US president Barack Obama. (14ymedio)
Havana is preparing to welcome US president Barack Obama. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 March 2016 – He arrives on the Island on Palm Sunday, will attend a baseball game, and has already spoken by phone with the most popular humorist on the Island. Barack Obama’s plane has not yet landed and already he has stolen the hearts of a legion of admirers through a series of symbols. A meal in a paladar (a private restaurant), a phrase from José Martí in his major speech, and a mention of Cachita, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, would complete his upcoming gestures of enchantment.

On Saturday night Cuban TV broadcast a video in which the humorist Pánfilo called the White House to talk to the president of the United States himself. A masterstroke of the Obama administration, it thus placed itself miles away from Cuba’s powers-that-be, who lack any talent for laughter. Through the character of this old man who is obsessed with his ration book, the president of the United States addressed the Cuban people and did so in their own language. Continue reading “Obama Is Surrounded By Symbols To Win The Hearts Of Cubans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Women, Always Postponed/ 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

We are measured by the most demanding scales and they ask from us the greatest patience. (Photo: Silvia Corbelle)
We are measured by the most demanding scales and they ask from us the greatest patience. (Photo: Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez,Generation Y, Washington, 3 March 2016 — A few days after the murder of two young Argentine women tourists in Ecuador, a man in the city of Santa Clara in Cuba set fire to his house with his two children inside, as revenge against his ex-wife. Violence against women runs freely in Latin America and on most of this planet. A day like this March 8th, a day of tributes, flowers and speeches full of praise, does not erase the horror, nor the belittling.

The constant aggression we women suffer takes the form a blow from an abusive husband, but also is present in every minute of our lives, both in the professional order and in the social order. To walk alone at night, to sit alone in a park, or to take the sun on a beach “unescorted” by a partner, are moments that many Cuban women experience with more discomfort than enjoyment. Continue reading “Women, Always Postponed/ 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

In The Mirror / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The exhibition is full of intimate moments, indoors, in the heat of the home where the Cuban identity is expressed in a gesture, an attitude or simply the nostalgic feel in a gaze.
The exhibition is full of intimate moments, indoors, in the heat of the home where the Cuban identity is expressed in a gesture, an attitude or simply the nostalgic feel in a gaze.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 6 March 2106 — There is an aunt with her hair in rollers and a maternal gaze, a neighbor in a housecoat and that friend blowing out the birthday candles. They are known faces, family members, but they live hundreds of miles from the island, and come to us, as in a mirror that returns our image without distortions or cracks, through Gandy Pavón (b. Las Tunas, Cuba, 1974) and his exposition, The Cuban-Americans.

In that far off geography, the emigrants weave their dreams, taking on new customs, maintaining their taste for rice with beans, and sighing for a country that only exists in their memories. In that “internal space” where Cuban-Americans pass their lives, what the writer Gustavo Pérez Firmante called the hyphen or dash, “that unites, while separating, nominally and culturally, the Cuban and the American.” Continue reading “In The Mirror / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Apple vs the FBI, a Dispute as Seen From the Cuban Prism / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

An Apple iPhone. (EFE)
An Apple iPhone. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Washington, 5 March 2016 — When they returned his mobile phone all his contacts had been erased and the card with the photos was gone. Stories like this are repeated among activists who have been detained, over whom an iron vigilance is maintained with the complicity of the Telecommunications Company (ETECSA), the technology arm of repression in Cuba. An entity that should take note of the rebuff Apple has dealt the FBI in the United States, by refusing to access its clients’ data.

For decades, Cuban society has become accustomed to the government’s failing to respect individuals’ private spaces. The state has the power to delve into personal correspondence, to display medical records in front of the cameras, to air private messages on television, and to broadcast phone conversations between critics of the system. In such a framework, intimacy doesn’t exist, one’s personal space has been invaded by power. Continue reading “Apple vs the FBI, a Dispute as Seen From the Cuban Prism / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Nieves Santos: “The sentence was unfair and excessive” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Nieves Santos with her son, Raibel Pacheco, one of the four convicted. (Courtesy of the family)
Nieves Santos with her son, Raibel Pacheco, one of the four convicted. (Courtesy of the family)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Washington, 4 March 2018 – On hearing the serenity of her voice over the phone, few would believe that Nieves Santos Falcon is going through the worst time of her life. Her son Raibel Pacheco Santos has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba for the crime of terrorism, in Case No. 2 of 2014. However, Nievos Santos, a biologist at the School of the Medicine of the University of Havana, is confident that justice will prevail.

Yoani Sanchez. For two years there has been barely any information about the judicial proceedings against José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Félix Monzón Alvarez and your son, Raibel Pacheco Santos. What has happened in recent days that made you decide to talk to the press?

Nieves Santos Falcón. I traveled to Cuba to visit my son on 22 February and that same afternoon they told me he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. The hearing took place on 30 October of last year at the People’s Provincial Court of Havana and the trial had concluded with sentencing. Continue reading “Nieves Santos: “The sentence was unfair and excessive” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

To Cusio And Libna, Wherever You Are / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 22 February 2016 — He was an acknowledged homosexual and she a convinced Jehovah’s Witness. One lived in the same tenement where I was born and the other in the dreaded “218,” where violence and sewage competed for a starring role. Cusio and Libna should have grown up with the conviction that every sexual orientation or religious belief is respected and necessary, provided it does not imply violence against the other.

They achieved something unthinkable in the Cuba of the eighties: reaffirming that beds and beliefs belong to all of us, and no ideology should interfere in them. They were the true survivors of uniformity, the shipwrecks of the storm of “parameterization” and police raids. Now in my forties, I continue to owe a debt to the lesson in plurality they taught me.

Cusio experienced abuse and neglect, but he was always smiling. From Libna, I learned patience, to swallow hard when everything is against me, and keep going. I lost count of all the humiliations I faced for not wearing the neckerchief, that piece of cloth that was making my neck itch and that now reminds me more of the yoke used on oxen than any ideological commitment. Continue reading “To Cusio And Libna, Wherever You Are / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”