Celebrated Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez has paid tribute to the civil society activists of the Black Spring and called for a change in dissident tactics.
“I want to honor and remember those independent journalists, activists and peaceful opponents. They opened a road that we now continue to tread,” Sánchez said, referring to a wave of arrests of Cuban democracy advocates (above) a decade ago.
“They presented an opposition to which we feel we are heirs despite all the censorship and repression.”
Ten years ago today, the Communist authorities launched a violent crackdown, imprisoning 75 activists for up to 25 years.
Cuba’s most eminent blogger said it was time for a shift from cyber-activism to the more open exercise of freedom of expression.
“[I]t is time to move beyond the realm of the personal and individual expression of the blog – the catharsis that is the 140 characters on Twitter – into a more civic exercise that would be expressed through an independent press in Cuba,” she said:
On Sunday, Sánchez, 37, said that during the Black Spring, the political climate in Cuba was not only highly sensitive but also complex. The dissident movement had little means to share information with the world.
The 2003 summary trials and prison sentences of jailed opponents marked a new chapter in the human rights demands by the international community and the internal dissidence. The incident encouraged mothers and wives of political prisoners to organize a common front known as the Ladies in White. The group demanded the release of the prisoners.
Sánchez said that the campaigns and demands of the civil society have now an additional tool in technology, cellphones and services such as Twitter, among others.
“Those were times when social networks or Internet did not exist [in Cuba], there were no memory flashes, and it was impossible to have a computer,” she said.
“Many independent journalists and peaceful activists who began their work precariously have now resorted to blogs, for example, as a format to circulate information about programs and initiatives to collect signatures.”
She cited the Citizens’ Demand for the Cuban authorities to ratify the United Nations political and civil rights agreements signed in 2008.
“It has been my fate to live in Cuba and that is why I have a commitment to the reality in which I live,” Sánchez said.
“Yet it is not a defense circumscribed to one geographic location, because it is a condition of citizen responsibility. It is important to have initiatives for transforming the law and demand concrete public spaces within the country.”
Cuban democracy leader Antonio Rodiles has just released the latest episode of his civil society project “Estado de Sats” (filmed within Cuba), where he discusses the importance U.S. sanctions policy with two of Cuba’s most renowned opposition activists and former political prisoners, Guillermo Fariñas and Jose Daniel Ferrer. The question posed was: What consequences would the unconditional lifting of the U.S. embargo have at this time?
“If at this time, the [economic] need of the Cuban government is satisfied through financial credits and the lifting of the embargo, repression would increase, it would allow for a continuation of the Castro’s society, totalitarianism would strengthen its hold and philosophically, it would just be immoral… If you did an opinion poll among Cuban opposition activists, the majority would be in favor of not lifting the embargo,” said Fariñas.
“In a cost-benefit analysis, travel to Cuba by Americans would be of greatest benefit to the Castro regime, while the Cuban people would be the least to benefit. With all of the controls and the totalitarian system of the government, it would be perfectly able to control such travel,” said Rodiles.
“To lift the embargo at this time would be very prejudicial to us. The government prioritizes all of the institutions that guarantee its hold on power. The regime’s political police and its jailers receive a much higher salary and privileges than a doctor or engineer, or than any other worker that benefits society. We’ve all seen municipalities with no fuel for an ambulance, yet with 10, 15, 20, 50 cars full of fuel ready to go repress peaceful human rights activists,” said Ferrer.