News

Dissident Cuban Blogger Sees Opportunity in Pope Visit

Yoanis Sanchez, who writes the
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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs