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Cuba’s witty blogger Yoani Sanchez won’t be silenced

Cuba's witty Yoani Sanchez won't be silenced
From: The Times
April 03, 2012 12:00AM

Blogger Yoani Sanchez arrives as maid of honour at Cuba's first
transsexual wedding. Picture: AP Source:

YOANI Sanchez offers a one-woman free press in a country that enjoys
only the most slavish kind of state media.

The outspoken Cuban blogger, who wittily recounts the struggles of daily
life in the communist country, has become the voice of a new generation
of dissent in the island.

Millions around the world follow her Generacion Y ; Time magazine
named her one of the World's 100 Most Influential People; and US
Barack Obama has posted on her page.

Yet Ms Sanchez, a 36-year-old mother of a teenage son, does not even
have access in her flat at the top of a Soviet-style block
behind the Ministry of in Havana.

She goes to a and pays $7.70 – almost two weeks' pay for the
average Cuban – for an hour's internet access. Or she visits an embassy
that provides internet access.
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She has an iPhone, given by a foreign reader, but it does not have data
access. She can send text messages, though. She has 238,000 followers on
Twitter and each of her blog posts gets a thousand comments or more.

"Using the internet is not a choice. It was the only option in a country
where you cannot even get a fragment of a minute on state TV," she said.

"The access of my countrymen to my blog is very limited, but they read
it," she said. "I know all the officials read me. That is very
important. It influences them."

Ms Sanchez, the daughter of a railway worker, studied philology at
Havana but her academic career ended when she wrote her
thesis on Dictatorships in Latin American literature.

She wrote her first post on April 9, 2007, while making an unofficial
living teaching Spanish to German tourists.

It reads like an interior monologue on the perversities of life in the
communist system. She knows of what she speaks. She has been detained
and roughed up, repeatedly banned from travelling abroad and regularly
has her phones jammed.

Although she planned to make a 13-hour drive to Santiago de Cuba to hear
the Pope speak during his visit last week, she had to cancel the trip
when her driver was arrested. It was typical of what she calls the
"Raulista" style.

"When Raul Castro came in, there was a change in the modus operandi.
You're walking along the street, a private car stops, four men get out
and take you to a police station. There is no legal process. Then after
48 to 72 hours they bring you back to your home," she said.

Ms Sanchez says that the government is slowly losing its grip but that
it would be wrong to expect a "Cuban Spring".

"I don't think it's the moment," she said. "In North Africa, there is a
young population. In Cuba, we have an old population.

"But I have some hope. The incorporation of technology into everyday
life is going very fast.

"I have the impression that if the Cuban government does not open up the
web, Cubans are going to find a way to connect to the internet."

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