Interview with Yoani Sanchez in the Catalonian Paper Deia

“The visibility that the internet has given me serves as a shield, without it I would be in jail accused of a common crime”.

The philologist Yoani Sanchez (Havana, 1975) has distinguished herself as one of the best known bloggers in the world.  Such a title is due, mostly, to her popular blog “Generation Y”- a space in which she crudely describes the day to day life of the inhabitant of Central Havana.

Cyberdissident.  At least that is how she is referred to in many web sites.  What is certain is that she is the most famous blogger in Cuba and she does not stop her from criticizing the Cuban government.

How do you define yourself?

– I am an independent citizen in the sense that I have never been affiliated with any political group.  I am a person who shows what occurs around me.  I am a blogger, a citizen journalist.

Knowing the political circumstances which you tread on in Cuba, are you afraid that your words could be used by elements of the more reactionary opposition?

-The only way that they won’t utilize you is if you remain quiet.  I feel that the one who manipulates us those most is the Cuban government which utilizes our silence as a tacit acceptance of what has happened in my country.

You claim to suffer pressures and you accuse the government of watching you.

–  Sometimes I ask myself how I am going to survive that destructive pressure which tries to socially murder me but there are people who continue inspiring me and that is how I recharge my batteries.  This assures me that I am not the one doing something unusual.  Instead it is the government that is trying to suppress the plurality of ideas.

Has the Cuban government taken repressive measures against you?

–  I was detained once and they watch me.  The visibility that the internet gives me serves as a shield.  Without it I would be in jail accused of a common crime.

What do you and your husband live off of?

-We have lived in a permanent state of instability for many years.  My husband and I have been offering spanish classes for tourists in an illegal manner and that has allowed us to have a certain economic independence.  My book (Cuba Libre) now also makes me some money as it is having a lot of success in Latin America.  That gives me autonomy so that no one conditions my words.

In 2002 you went to live in Switzerland and later returned.  Why?

– I abandoned my country but my roots are here.  I returned for family and personal reasons.  After two years of being divided between my life and what was happening in Cuba I decided to return.

The Cuban government accepted you back despite having been more than 11 months in a foreign country.

–  That law is unconstitutional but the paperwork has become a favorable industry for the government, that is why those restrictions are kept in place.  I destroyed my passport and the Cuban government could not send me to any other country.  Finally, since I had a son they decided to give me back my ID card.

How do you see the opposition groups in the island?

–  The unfortunate death of Orlando Zapata has served as a uniting factor among the opposition and other civic organizations.  Those who are unhappy have gained a space even though they cannot project their voices with the intensity that they would like because the media belongs to the state.

How about the citizens, how do they live through this?

–  The control of information is one of the pillars on which the Cuban government bases itself.  That has been changing and, thanks to technology, citizens are receiving more information.  But there are a lot of distortions in the in-betweens from the moment that the information is produced to the time when the Cuban actually receives it.  I think that now 10% of the population applauds the government while 10% is openly against it and an 80% moves in one direction or another depending on how the situation is.

In the future you advocate pseudo-capitalismWhy not pseudo-socialism?

–  Categorizing the Cuban dilemma as capitalist or socialist is a big mistake.  Cuba is not a socialist country, it is a country where there is a capitalism on behalf of the State.  I no longer belive in left or right.  I do believe, though, in a much more humane system, more participatory.  What is it called?  I don’t know, but we could name it.

What would you like to dedicate your life to in the future?

-I would love to participate in a free press project.

Translated by Raul G.

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