I would imagine that just a couple of weeks ago, the panorama looked a lot different for former Castro intelligence officer turned American academic Arturo Lopez-Levy and his pro-Castro regime group, CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement). With Yoani Sanchez coming to the United States, they were sure her views on the U.S. embargo of Cuba would certainly rile up the Cuban exile community, exposing them as intransigent and intolerant buffoons, as Lopez-Levy regularly characterizes them.
But a funny thing happened on Yoani Sanchez’s way to the U.S.
It turns out that in spite of Yoani’s views on the embargo, she has been embraced by leaders of the Cuban American community for her staunch opposition to the repressive dictatorship of the Castro regime. It turns out that instead of focusing on the few differences of opinion, the exile community and Yoani are focusing on the important issues they have in common, such as freeing the nation of Cuba from the yoke of tyranny. And the most interesting thing of all, it turns out that CAFE, the group who has always claimed to be the “tolerant” Cuban Americans, are the ones who have zero tolerance for anyone who does not march lockstep with their agenda.
After seeing their grand plan to discredit and demonize the historic Cuban exile community crumble right before their eyes, Arturo Lopez-Levy’s group CAFE went into panic mode and showed their true colors. Instead of embracing differences in opinion, CAFE decided to launch a vicious attack against Yoani, simply because she does not subscribe to their specific agenda of demonizing the historic Cuban exile community.
The Curious Case of Yoani Sanchezby BENJAMIN WILLIS and MARIA ISABEL ALFONSO
Yoani Sanchez’ long-awaited arrival to the United States has been heralded as a victory for the opposition in Cuba and an example of how citizen journalists, armed with social media, can bring about democratic change in authoritarian societies. However, a closer look at the circumstances of her international journey and the difference of the receptions she has had so far in the United States and the rest of the world generates far more questions than it does answers.
Yoani’s meteoric rise as “award-wining” blogger has drawn as much suspicion as it has admiration. Her blog, Generación Y, has been championed by some members of the Cuban exile community and by certain opportunistic academic and journalistic circles because of her constant criticism of the Cuban government and its control over freedom of expression and assembly. Her confrontational discourse and blunt condemnation of Cuba’s official line is “red meat” for a great part of the exile community while her call for freedom of expression is an easy bandwagon for liberals to jump onto. However, not all of the historic exile community is in favor of her statements. The most recalcitrant faction has strenuously disapproved of the comments she has made from the beginning of her journey.
An historical understanding of Cuba’s reality in general, and its current and past relationship with the United States in particular, has led several intellectuals, journalists, and common citizens to question her motives and her resources. Hardly ever before has somebody with so little experience and output garnered so many international accolades so fast. The fact that so many of these awards come from countries that have actively pursued policies of usurping Cuban sovereignty only adds to the intrigue of Yoani’s legitimacy.
[N]ow that she has arrived in the United States her position towards the embargo and Guantanamo has been mitigated to a milquetoast generalization that there should be a “dialogue” about these issues. Why is she advocating for dialogue now instead of demanding for the termination of unilateral sanctions as she did in Brazil? Why does she not also decry the interventionist nature of USAID programs that are specifically aimed at “regime change” in Cuba? Why are these questions not being asked in New York, or more pointedly, why aren’t the institutions and academics not letting them be asked? The “guardians” at NYU and Columbia have shown a tendency to “cherry-pick” the questions directed towards Yoani. Why, in what is supposedly the freest nation on earth, is this happening? There have been protests and outbursts in her meetings but no direct challenge has been allowed that would put her in a position of explaining her vacillating views on such important topics.
This past Tuesday Yoani was invited to Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress and speak at the Cato Institute, where she again reiterated the need to end the embargo. But instead of making the obvious case that the embargo was a determent to the development of her people, she called it an “excuse” and stated at the Cato Institutue that: “I would love to see how the official propaganda apparatus would function without this big bad wolf. I doubt that it could.”
The reference to the “big bad wolf” may remind the reader of the fact that he was not the fictional wolf in the tale of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” but a dangerous menace who repeatedly came to destroy the homes and lives of the three little pigs. That is exactly what the embargo has done. It has destroyed the lives, homes, and infrastructure of the Cuban nation while mockingly espousing that it fosters “democracy” and is intended to “help” those it harms.
Despite her tepid argument for lifting the embargo, she was more than pleased to have met with the very members of the Cuban-American faction of the House that have done everything in their power to continue that policy, who were more than happy to fawn over her in return. Their visceral hate for the Cuban government is enough for them to overlook the fact that they disagree about the “effectiveness” of the embargo. Will Yoani demand that the United States lift the embargo and stop financing regime change operations that put ordinary Cuban citizens in peril for the remainder of her trip? Will she call on president Obama to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list while in the U.S.?
Benjamin Willis is a musician. Maria Isabel Alfonso, PhD. is Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York. They are married and raising their nine-month old son in Queens on malanga, Los Van Van, and baseball. They are founding members of CAFE, Cuban Americans for Engagement. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Looks like the real intolerant, intransigent hardliners are on the Castro dictatorship’s side.
You can read CAFE’s incredibly revealing and damning rant in its entirety HERE.