The brouhaha that ensued yesterday after Yoani Sanchez told a group of Brazilian elected officials that she believes the U.S. should release the five Cuban spies currently serving prison sentences for espionage and murder so the Castro dictatorship can end its campaign for their freedom and save money has for the most part subsided. Late last night, through Twitter and statements made to the press, Yoani walked back her statement on the so-called Cuban 5 and explained that she never meant to say they should be released. According to her statement, the remark was an attempt at irony by pointing out how the Cuban regime would save millions if the U.S. released the spies. Whether or not the explanation Yoani provided last night is sufficient is really irrelevant. The important matter to consider here is that she has publicly stated the five spies are guilty and that she does not believe they should be released.
This matter, however, brings up an important aspect regarding Yoani Sanchez where it has become apparent that many people have placed way too much weight and responsibility on this poor woman. Every word she says is parsed and every statement she makes is received as if it were the final proclamation for the entire dissident movement in Cuba. That is simply not the case. Yoani is no different from the thousands of dissidents all over Cuba except for the fact – and an important fact at that – that she has been lucky and talented enough to receive incredible recognition and coverage in the international media. That fact, however, does not make her the official spokesperson, the leader, or the oracle of Cuba’s opposition.
Yoani is far from perfect, just like all of us are far from perfect. We can agree with many of the things she says and we can vehemently disagree with many of the things she says. She has the right to say what she wants and we have the right to agree or disagree with her. This dynamic was perfectly illustrated yesterday when many of us, including myself, expressed serious reservations with her perceived call for the release of five Castro dictatorship murderers.
But in reality, it makes no sense to ascribe so much importance to her statements as if they came from Mount Sinai written on stone tablets. Like us, she is just another Cuban expressing her view. And for my fellow Cubans reading this, we all know that Cubans tienen la fama de hablar mucha… !
Nevertheless, her ill-fated remarks regarding the Cuban spies yesterday overshadowed other remarks she made about the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo and U.S. sanctions against the Cuban regime. Her statement regarding Guantanamo were perhaps another failed attempt at irony on her part when she declared the base a place of illegality but failed to mention that under the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, the entire island of Cuba is a place of illegality. And her remarks against U.S. sanctions continue to be based on misinformation and premises that have long been discredited.
What all of this tells us is that Yoani is just like everyone else; she does not know everything. She has formed opinions based on the information she has acquired in a society where reliable information is scarce and propaganda is plentiful. As the old computer geek adage says, garbage in, garbage out. She is not a sage or a prophet, and as far as I know, has never proclaimed herself to be one. She is just a brave Cuban who has endured repression for many years and whose talent has elevated her to the international stage.
We must all come to the realization and understanding that Yoani will not be Cuba’s first elected president in over half a century. She is not and will not become the undisputed leader of Cuba’s opposition. Every word she says and every statement she makes is not an official proclamation from the opposition movement on the island. She is simply another brave dissident that for whatever the reason may be, her voice has been amplified by the international media.
The sooner we come to that realization, the sooner we can get on with the business of setting Cuba free from the tyranny of the Castro dictatorship.