14ymedio, Havana, 18 May 2023 — On Thursday afternoon, computer engineer Iroel Sánchez Espinosa, one of the most extreme voices of Cuban official propaganda, died in Havana at the age of 58. Known for his constant defamation campaigns against dissent and the independent press, so far the cause of his death has not been made public, although the rumor about a cancer that caused his hospitalization began to circulate a few months ago.
Born in Santa Clara in September 1964, Sánchez graduated from the then called Ciudad Universitaria José Antonio Echeverría and for most of his professional life served as a cadre of the Communist Party at the head of different entities of culture and communications.
Sánchez was one of the thousands of Cubans who participated in the armed conflicts in Angola, and on his return from Africa he went on to direct the Abril Publishing House. He was later appointed president of the Cuban Book Institute and the Organizing Committee of the International Book Fair in Havana, positions from which he extended literary censorship, political sectarianism and opportunism.
In 2009, after an alleged verbal confrontation with the then minister of culture, Abel Prieto, he left the Institute and went on to work at the Ministry of Informatics and Communications under the aegis of Ramiro Valdés. His arrival at that entity coincided with the appearance of the first independent blogs within Cuba, and Sánchez became the spearhead against the new information phenomenon.
From there, the computer engineer launched constant attacks on independent journalists, created numerous campaigns to discredit the reputation of activists and dissidents, and presented himself in countless public spaces as an authority on issues of communication, digital media and computerization of society.
Sánchez promoted the creation of the Ecured encyclopedia, an attempt to emulate the collaborative project of Wikipedia and in which the files dedicated to opponents, exiled artists and defenestrated officials are marked by an evident ideological bias and plagued by omissions and falsehoods.
With his blog La pupila insomne [The Sleepless Pupil] he maintained his crusade against all forms of dissent and emerged as one of the most radical voices of official propaganda. He maintained that style and extended it to the television program La pupila asombrada [The Astonished Pupil], a space that he directed until the moment of his death.
His editorial production also focused on vilifying those who promote democratic change on the Island, with titles in the style of Sospechas y disidencias. Una mirada cubana en la red o Cuba frente al buen vecino. Entre el contrato y la herejía. [Suspicion and Dissent: A Cuban look at the Internet, and Cuba Against the Good Neighbor. Between the Contract and the Heresy.]
Among the projects into which he breathed his sectarianism and his visceral rejection of all political divergence are the Roundtable program on State TV, the digital site Cubadebate and the television spaces Cuadrando la Caja [Squaring the Box] and Con Filo [Cutting Edge], the latter aimed at discrediting artists, activists and participants in the popular protests that shook Cuba in July 2021.
Feared by co-workers, protected by Commander Ramiro Valdés and given to bravado, Iroel Sánchez was a Taliban of official thought and one of the most finished products of radicalism mixed with careerism. With his early death, the questions arise as to whether the projects he helped create will lose steam.
The victims of his defamation have lost the possibility of taking him before a court on a future democratic Cuba.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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