Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez (above) was warmly welcomed by Brazilian lawmakers today “in sharp contrast with the hostile reception she got from pro-Havana protesters in northeast Brazil,” AFP reports.
“We are making up for the unacceptable violence shown toward a visitor to our country,” said Octavio Leite, a deputy from the opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB).
Sanchez’s Brazilian critics parroted the Cuban regime’s standard characterization of Sanchez as a pro-American “mercenary,” but it appears that it was the protesters who were acting at the behest of a foreign power.
According to local news magazine Veja, Cuban diplomats recently met with militants from Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party in Brasilia and asked them to organize protests against Sanchez during her stay in the South American country, Reuters reports. One junior official in the Rousseff administration was present at the meeting, Veja said.
Sanchez’s visit touched a political nerve in Brazil, where the left-leaning government of President Dilma Rousseff is often criticized for not taking a more critical stance with Cuba’s one-party system and the repression of political dissent there.
The celebrated blogger noted that the Leftist protesters were exercising the rights to protest and free speech denied to Cuban citizens.
“I am so happy. It has been five years of struggle,” Sanchez told local media.
“Unfortunately, in Cuba you are punished for thinking differently. Opinions against the government have terrible consequences, arbitrary arrests, surveillance,” she said in an interview with GloboNews television.
The demonstration was not the first act of officially-orchestrated repudiation she has witnessed, Sanchez observed.
“The first act of repudiation that I saw in my life was when I was only five. The commotion in the tenement caught the attention of the two girls we then were, my sister and I,” she blogged today:
We peered over the railings of the narrow corridor to look down to the floor below. People were screaming and raising their fists around a neighbor’s door. As young as we were, we had no idea what was going on. ….. Years later I could put together that kaleidoscope of childish evocations and I knew I had been a witness to the violence unleashed against those who wanted to emigrate from the port of Mariel.
She has since “experienced several acts of repudiation up close…whether as a victim, observer, or journalist… never — I should clarify — as a victimizer,” she wrote:
I remember a particularly violent one that I experienced with the Ladies in White, where the hordes of intolerance spat on us, pushed us and even pulled our hair. But last night was unprecedented for me. The picketing of the extremists who blocked the showing of Dado Galvao’s film in Feria de Santana was something more than the sum of unconditional supporters of the Cuban government. They all had, for example, the same document — printed in color — with a pack of lies about me, as Manichean as they were easy to refute in a simple conversation. They repeated an identical and hackneyed script, without the least intention of listening to any reply I could give them. They shouted, interrupted, and at one point became violent, and occasionally launched a chorus of slogans that even in Cuba are no longer said.
But, with the assistance of Senator Eduardo Suplicy, Sanchez managed to exercise her own right to free expression over the objections of those who “only knew how to yell and repeat the same phrases, like programmed automatons,” she wrote:
Their neck veins swelled, I cracked a smile. They attacked me personally, I brought the discussion back to Cuba which will always be more important than this humble servant. They wanted to lynch me; I talked. They were responding to orders; I am a free soul. At the end of the night I had the same feelings as after a battle against the demons of the same extremism that fueled those acts of repudiation in 1980 in Cuba. The difference is that this time I understood the mechanism that foments these attitudes, I could see the long arm that controls them from the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. RTWT
Yoani Sanchez will be one of the speakers at The Revolution Recodified, a three-day conference at The New School and New York University about the impact of digital technology in Cuban culture and society.
For more than a decade, Cuban artists, musicians, independent journalists and librarians have teamed with computer scientists and engineers on the island and in the diaspora to foment a socially engaged and politically independent culture using digital technology. The conference will explore the ways that digital technology is transforming Cuba’s cultural and political landscape by challenging the state’s longstanding monopoly on communications media and its hegemonic control of cultural production and distribution.
Further info here.