Operation Yoani

Yoani in Brazil. zocalo.com.mx

By Bertrand de la Grange.
Translated from DiariodeCuba.com.

Attacks on Yoani Sanchez are getting a lot of media coverage, generally favorable to the blogger.

Don’t panic, Yoani: if the dogs bark, it’s because you’re doing well and they’re afraid. So I would summarize my first impression of the fascinating journey of the most famous Cuban blogger that has just begun, and that will take her to a dozen countries in America and Europe. Many Cubans in exile — the only ones who can express an independent opinion — have a more pessimistic perception: they fear that the Castro brothers’ regime is mobilizing its followers to wreck each and every one of the public appearances of the young dissident.

The incidents happening in Brazil, the first leg of Yoani Sanchez’s 80 day journey, seem to prove them right. The Castro mobs were waiting at the Recife airport in the northeast of the country. With screams and signs, they expressed their commitment to the Cuban Revolution and their repudiation of the “mercenary blogger financed by the CIA.” The same scene was repeated in successive days everywhere the blogger appeared. According to the influential Brazilian magazine Veja, these activities were carried out under the “direction” of the Cuban embassy with a group of militants from the Workers Party (PT), which is in power in Brazil.

In Feira de Santana, near Salvador de Bahia, some of the demonstrators from the Workers Party and the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) managed to prevent the screening of a documentary that includes an interview with Yoani. A video circulating on the Internet shows the incident. In it are a handful of students with placards: “Yoani Sánchez persona non grata.” “Viva Fidel and the Revolution,” “No to the blockade.” Far from being intimidated, the blogger accepts a debate with her opponents at the request of a senator from the PT, who tries to mediate with the radical wing of his party.

Smiling from ear to ear, the creator of the blog Generation Y enjoys the music of democracy that allows a sharing of all opinions. She speaks to those unfortunates who shout themselves hoarse, and in passing gives them a master lesson in tolerance and patience: “I am not afraid of problems, I am not afraid of the repressors,” she begins. And in response to placards against the “blockade,” Yoani explains that she is also against the embargo. For three reasons: “One, it seems like interference. Two, it seems like a fossil of the Cold War which makes no sense in the modern world. And three, it seems to me to be the best argument the Cuban Government has to explain its economic inefficiency.”

When they interrupt her with more shouting and without a single argument, the blogger let the

When the interrupt with more shouting and without a single argument, the blogger let them vent before continuing her explanation. “I live in a society where opinion is treason, where to criticize a government that has been in power for 54 years and never allowed any other political force to exist, a Government that cannot compete in a plural society with other parties…” The shouting is now such that she can’t utter another word. The event was suspended. The video ends.

Have the Castros won once again with that Witches’ Sabbath? I think not. In contrast to what happened in the past with this kind of aggression, the attacks against Yoani have had a lot of repercussions in the media, for the most part favorable to the blogger. Her message is getting out. The young Cuban has managed the situation with great ease and admirable serenity. She has stood up under it, unlike others, such as the director of Latin American House in Paris, who last month cancelled the presentation of a book critical of Ernesto Guevara: Day Break at La Higuera, Secrets After the Death of Che. The head of the most prestigious French institution dedicated to the America continent claimed “risks of disturbances to the public order” to justify his decision, after receiving pressure from his friends in the Cuban Government.

Yoani Sanchez’s international tour will not precipitate the collapse of a decrepit regime, it’s true. The death throes of Hugo Chavez and its collateral effects — the reduction or suspension of the massive aid from Venezuela to Havana — contains many more dangers for the Castro brothers. However, the correlation of forces in the political debate about Cuba is changing to the detriment of the Castros’ followers, who are losing ever more spaces in Europe and Latin America. And this is a result of the contribution by Yoani and many others, who are taking advantage of the recently established right to a passport to get to know the world and to talk about the real Cuba.

Site manager’s note: As an increasing number of our bloggers traveling the world, we are expanding the translations presented here to include a small part of the international coverage of their travels, to give our readers a fuller picture of these events.

24 February 2013