News

    Dissident Cuban Blogger Sees Opportunity in Pope Visit

    Yoanis Sanchez, who writes the "Generation Y" blog, walks inside her home in Havana, Friday, April 11, 2008.
    Yoanis Sanchez, who writes the "Generation Y" blog, walks inside her home in Havana, Friday, April 11, 2008.
    Lina Correa

    As Pope Benedict prepares to visit Cuba next week, a dissident blogger says the trip is a good time to showcase the real situation in the island nation.

    Even though Yoani Sánchez believes the visit will not have a major political impact, she says it will be a good opportunity because of the increased international attention that comes with a visit by the pope.

    In an exclusive interview with Voice of America, the Cuban blogger said Internet access is still a major problem on the island and explains how she manages to update her blog Generation Y and tweets current events, which has made her famous in the social media world.

    VOA: How is the country preparing for Pope Benedict’s visit after several member of the Ladies in White (an opposition movement consisting of wives and female relatives of jailed dissidents) were detained?

    Sánchez: For the ‘backyard’ Catholics, the ones on the island, it will be a good moment for them as they meet their pastor, a kind of jubilee for the community as the 400th anniversary of “Our Lady of Charity” approaches. But politically and socially it will not transcend beyond what happened during Pope John Paul’s (II) visit in 1998, which only had an impact on the public awareness. I think Benedict’s trip is more spiritual-focused.”

    However, the island will experience days of international scrutiny, where many journalists, pilgrims and people from outside will come for the event. It’s a good opportunity to show them the real Cuba; to report what is actually happening.  We will become a showcase, where activists, bloggers and Twitter users have the responsibility to show the real side of the country and not official one.

    VOA: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) will hold an event this Wednesday in Washington to show how the Internet and social networks operate in Cuba. Many believe it is difficult for Cubans to freely access unmonitored web pages. What can you tell us about that?

    Sánchez: From my experience, having access to information and technology are fundamental for a free country.  A person who holds a flash memory and has access to at least a minute of internet can change his or her life. That makes that citizen more empowered, more aware of his rights, perhaps more likely to speak up because he doesn’t like what is happening. I think in order to help Cubans is necessary to empower them technologically, so that they can become 21-century internet users. Because without it, we will not become more democratic; we will not be free.

    VOA: How do you do your work without economic resources?

    Sánchez: I started an online blog five years ago called “Generación Y” (Y Generation) and one of the biggest problems I encounter every week is free internet access to update texts and pictures. It’s my little virtual space. The Cuban government does not allow average citizens to obtain a household internet connection and interact online. That is a privilege destined for foreign residents in our national territory, and for politically reliable people.

    In my case, if I want to connect from a hotel the prices are astronomical, a click here and there have to be done fast because every minute that passes harms me economically. I do that once a week or every ten days.

    I write several articles from my house and when I manage to get connected, I scheduled the posts to give the impression my blog is alive, although I'm not connected at that moment.

    But other Cubans get online access in the early morning hours through accounts they buy in the black market, but that has many risks.

    VOA: Reports say the Cuban minimum-wage is very low and you have said it’s expensive to have internet access. How do you do it? Do you receive any funding? What are the medium costs for the average Cuban to get internet access in a hotel and browse for few minutes each week?

    Sánchez: In my case, I try to take advantage of the all the time I'm not online to arrange texts and photos correctly, so when I finally get access to look around the web, I do it as quickly as possible.

    Fortunately, many tourists who visit Cuba know our situation, mine and that of other bloggers. After spending a week or two in this country, they usually give us prepaid phone cards to use in a hotel. Our technological poverty doesn’t allow us to sustain those costs.

    But thanks to the solidarity of many people in the world, we are able to have internet access. And also people who read our posts in other parts of the world, recharge our phones, which allow us to tweet. This is quite an interesting period on how Cubans have access to social networks.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora