Yoani Sanchez: One Piece of a Complex Cuba Puzzle

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She has been named everything from the “princess of technological communication” and the “most famous living Cuban not named Castro” to simply “Cuba’s dissident blogger” in an array of headlines in newspapers across the nation from the Miami Herald to the New York Times. Bluntly said, if you follow Cuba news and have not heard the name, “Yoani Sanchez,” you must be living under a rock. Regardless of your opinion of Yoani Sanchez, whether you think she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and “the voice of Cubans on the island,” or think she’s trying to milk her fifteen minutes of fame, she has elevated the media’s attention to the broken U.S. relationship with Cuba, which is a step in the right direction, period.

3.20.2013_Yoani_Sanchez_2Marco Rubio, Yoani Sanchez and Bob Menendez in Washington, D.C. Photo: Office of Sen. Marco Rubio

As part of her 80-day international tour, she has stopped in Brazil and the Czech Republic and here in the United States made stops in New York, Washington, D.C, and of course, Miami. It is quite interesting how she is managing to walk the fine line between pleasing the Miami hardliners and openly denouncing the economic embargo and the ban on travel to Cuba. She has drawn a mixed crowd from both ends of the spectrum and, in a very rare occurrence, has had them sit in the very same room. “Yet in small but important ways, reconciliation has already started to occur among Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits. That was firmly on display when Cuba’s most well-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, visited Miami.” Now will Yoani’s tour actually spur serious and meaningful discussion about U.S.-Cuba policy from both the right and the left in Miami and D.C. that will result in change? The answer still remains to be seen.

The U.S. media loves to fixate on Yoani as the “dissident blogger” and “advent tweeter,” but when it comes to Yoani advocating for a change in our old Cuba policy it rarely gets mentioned. When it does, it’s a meager few sentences on eliminating the ban on travel or ending the embargo. A Progreso Weekly article mentions this dilemma and outlines a couple of instances worth noting in Yoani’s tour. “The irony of Yoani’s U.S. appearance, getting crowned by the U.S. media and Congress as the virtual Queen of Dissidents, is that she made the very points the Cuban government has reiterated for a decade plus. But neither government officials nor the press corps acknowledged them. The media focused on occasional interruptions of her speeches by angry leftists instead of reporting the contents of her talks.” Why is it that everyone gushes over how she is an activist for the Cuban people, but yet nobody is focusing on one of her requests that would benefit the Cuban people the most. The media is more focused on this “symbol” she has become rather than her cause to eliminate the embargo that she alleges the Cuban government uses as an excuse for a myriad of things that go wrong on the island. Her theory? By eliminating the embargo, the government will have to have a better response for food shortages, access to foreign media, increasing better connection to the internet, etc.

Over the past couple of months we have seen Cuba in the news a lot, from Beyonce and Jay-Z’s anniversary trip to Cuba, discussion on Cuba’s spot on the state sponsor of terrorism list, to the delegation led by Senator Leahy to Cuba, to Raul’s successor Miguel Diaz-Canal and the implementation of term limits, and last but not least, Yoani’s world tour. Yoani is helping to spur the conversation by keeping Cuba a media buzz word these days, but there was plenty of chatter on Cuba before her tour started.

Overall, the real question is not specifically on the subject of Yoani Sanchez, but rather, will the culmination of these events and the timing of Obama’s second term result in overdue changes in Cuba policy?