Friday, November 20, 2009

Yoani and the dissidents

I read President Obama’s answers to Yoani Sanchez’ seven questions, and there’s not much new to chew over. As one might expect, he reiterates his own policy views, makes some graceful compliments about her winning the Columbia University award, and praises her work and notes its value.

This was interesting, perhaps a hint that he will do more to encourage citizen contacts beyond unlimited travel for Cuban Americans:

“It is also my intent to facilitate greater contact with the Cuban people, especially among divided Cuban families, which I have done by removing U.S. restrictions on family visits and remittances.”

The word “joys” was interesting here, not a word I think his predecessor would have used:

“This is why everything you are doing to project your voice is so important…for people outside of Cuba to gain a better understanding of the life, struggles, joys, and dreams of Cubans on the island.”

Beyond that, President Obama is watching with interest to see if Cuba provides Web access in post offices, and he won’t rule out a trip to Cuba.

All in all, good for him for responding.

But I think I’m with Ernesto at Penultimos Dias on this one: the news was the fact that he responded, not so much the responses themselves.

What is interesting is the idea that Yoani, as blogger and digital activist, may be eclipsing the dissident movement through her actions, as this EFE story contends. Her use of new media – for example, her recent YouTube video of herself sneaking into an official organization to debate Internet policy and another reading the riot act to an immigration service clerk who told her she didn’t have permission to travel – is more interesting, with all respect, than dissidents complaining that the Spanish foreign minister didn’t see them.

Some are making the same point and complaining about it. Take for example this post from Zoe Valdes, a Cuban author who lives in Paris. Valdes insinuates that Yoani may be a Cuban agent. She asks, “Who does she represent, what legitimacy does she have?” She complains about her “thirst for protagonism.” And she says that she “erases the Cuban disidencia” with her seven questions for President Obama.

Oh boy.

It’s not clear to me that someone like Yoani has to represent anyone or get anyone’s stamp of approval to have “legitimacy.” And one blogger is not going to “erase” anybody. She writes, and you’re free to read or ignore her, believe her or disbelieve her, trust her or distrust her.

What Valdes seems to be saying that opposition to the Cuban government must have a single form, a single line of march, sort of like the Communist party as the vanguard of the people.

As one of her commenters wrote, “My God, so much paranoia!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A long article, critical of Yoani Sanchez, appeared Saturday in
It carried the byline "Esteban N. Martinez" but no description of the writer.
Has any of you heard of him?
/s/ Newspaperman.