‘Better to live in a slum’ than in Cuba

Either you’re a part of the Castro clan and their hangers on or you don’t have a chance, says Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has made helping dissidents in repressive regimes a foreign policy priority with Cuba and Belarus front and center; the first Cuban political prisoner granted political asylum in this country, Rolando Jiménez Posada, arrived with his family and relatives in October 2010.

Independent Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez, 35, didn’t want to become a dissident. She was more the technical type, with an interest in computers, and after earning a degree in philology left for Switzerland to study computer science. The strict Cuban authorities gave her permission to travel and return home afterward — which shows that the regime didn’t consider her to be a threat or likely dissident.

After returning home to Havana, however, Yoani set up the magazine Consenso and has since become probably the best-known writer of electronic samizdat in the island nation. She also writes the blog Generation Y, which has earned her several international awards; she wasn’t able to accept them in person as the Cuban authorities have confiscated her passport.

Last year, Yoani was kidnapped by Cuban agents and mentally and physically abused for several hours. But that didn’t stop her from writing, and at the end of February the official Cuban media began to get publicly engaged in her struggle, making the general public aware of her. She has been twice quoted and accused on television and she was once in the state daily Granma.

Sánchez points out that her entire island nation has been virtually cut off from the Internet since the start of the unrest in Libya — most likely because the Castro family is worried that Cubans will start an uprising similar to those in the Arab world — and the following interview was interrupted several times due to disruptions the connectivity.

Q: What is lacking for a revolution similar to the one in Egypt taking place in Cuba?
A: In Cuba the situation is most like that in Libya rather than the other Arab countries that are undergoing unrest. Our system and country is also dependent on one charismatic and popular leader.

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