Cuban "dissident" Yoani Sanchez is already making waves on her world tour after departing Cuba last week. Depending on who you speak with about this Cuban woman, the blogger of Generacion Y, she is either a mercenary, a traitor, a freedom fighter, or a shining hope for Cuba's future. She is more well known outside of Cuba than inside the island. Whatever you think or believe about Ms. Sanchez, one thing is for sure. She has uniquely positioned herself with her recent statements just made in her trip to Brazil. She opposes the U.S. Cuban embargo. On recent changes made in Cuba's economy and Raul Castro's reforms - she stated they were headed in the right direction but not happening fast enough. On freedom for the Cuban Five, she supports their pardon/commutation and release from U.S. prisons, but for reasons different than other Cuban Five supporters. I wonder what she will say about Alan Gross?
These are very clear sets of positions that beg more questions. She triangulates herself between Havana and Miami/Washington DC. Both sides are rattled by her comments. If she is a paid mercenary by a foreign government as alleged by her detractors in Cuba, then why is she supporting the very things the Cuban government also wants - an end to the embargo, successful economic reforms, and freedom of the Cuban Five? If it is the current law and policy of our government to support the Cuban embargo, why would we also be funding a foreigner who is so publicly outspoken against our policies towards her own country? Similarly, because she takes those positions, what do you think her reception is going to be in Miami where embargo hardliners made the policy a religion through their delusional belief that the embargo gives leverage to them? The truth we know is quite different. Supporting the embargo is only a source of votes and steady campaign contributions. The embargo is not leverage on Cuba. It mutually assured destruction in both countries. She also calls attention to the case of the Cuban Five, America's modern day Sacco and Vanzetti case where politics corrupted justice and fairness. She reasons it should be resolved because of the impact the case has had on Cuban society and national resources. Whatever the reasons, the case should be resolved as it is another spoke in the broken wheel of U.S. Cuba relations. Perhaps the case will receive more attention now as it should given its unlikely source, a prominent Cuban dissident.
Sanchez is also critical of the Cuban government. She asks pertinent questions in her blog, and clamors for free speech and press in Cuba. She observed that she looked forward to the day that demonstrations like she experienced in Brazil and having a contrary public opinion can freely occur in her country. How will the pro-embargo/anti-engagement hardliners who agree with her on these issues also reconcile their differences with her? This is important as both sides must recognize Ms. Sanchez carries a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the world at this moment. How long it lasts remains to be seen. Whether she earned it, bought it, or was given it, is not as relevant as to what she is calling attention.
When she makes the rounds in the United States, hopefully the political leaders she meets will heed and implement her policy recommendations sooner than later. Who actually understands the Cuban embargo better, Yoani Sanchez or Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio, Albio Sires, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the rest of the hardliner cabal? She and other Cubans live through it and suffer. These politicians do not.
"My position is that the blockade must end now, soon. It is not only my position now, it has always been this way, in every interview and every place in which I have been asked, I've always responded exactly the same. Why should it end in my opinion? There are other opinions that I respect also. Well, because it is an interventionist position, that you want to change the internal situation of a country through a foreign one. Second, because it has not worked, if the original idea was to create popular unrest to launch people into the streets and change the totalitarian government. That has failed. As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and is not in order of importance, and why it must end as soon as possible is that today it is the fundamental reason given by the Cuban government to explain its economic failure, and political and social repression." - Yoani Sanchez in Brazil
Politics makes strange bedfellows. Ms. Sanchez's support for changes in U.S. Cuba policy, regardless of her reasons, makes her a potentially powerful ally in the effort to end the embargo, obtain freedom for the Cuban Five (hopefully we will hear her views on freedom for Alan Gross), and in essence reset the United States Cuba relationship. Similarly, as much as the Cuban government and her detractors do not like her, asking questions as a citizen and having a contrarian opinion should not be seen as seditious libel in a free and open society. Respecting Cuba's sovereignty, those are fair questions I would share with our neighbor through a respectful dialogue and friendly influence, but not through the hostility of an embargo and imposed humiliation. If she is receiving funding from the United States or whomever else, transparency is called for and questions should be asked of, and answered by, her. All who would detract her presence here in the United States will only look like hypocrites since she is pointing out the errors of our ways against her country. We applaud her when she applies the same tactic to her own country and yet curse her when she does it to us? Whether Ms. Sanchez's strategy winds up being foolishly courageous, or courageously foolish, will only be known when her world tour ends and she returns to Cuba. Through her triangulation though, she is testing all sides, forcing everyone to think about what really matters to each. Thinking is actually a very healthy exercise. For far too long in the U.S. Cuba relationship there has been more emotion, and not enough thinking. Those may be the lessons and wisdom garnered from Yoani Sanchez's Triangle.
[EDITOR'S UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION - Since posting this, Ms. Sanchez has retracted or clarified her statements regarding freedom for the Cuban Five. Her triangle appears to be isosceles on only one main issue, the embargo. Regardless, she is going to be asked to explain her position regarding the Five in her public encounters. As reported in the Miami Herald this morning, Ms. Sanchez stated “At no moment in Brazil did I ask for the five members of the Cuban Interior Ministry to be free. I was using irony to express my views that if they’re free right now, the government would save millions of dollars that it is now paying in this campaign that has lasted for 15 years....If the irony didn’t work, if the words that I used weren’t the right ones, I apologize. My position is the same: They’re not innocent.”]
Thursday, February 21, 2013