Cuba’s Yoani Sánchez Speaks Out

April 03, 2013 at 9:44 am

Excerpts of MetroFocus’ interview with Yoani Sánchez also aired on PBS’ NewsHour on April 10, 2013.

She speaks quietly and calmly and, except when talking about the damage inflicted on her country by a 54-year-old dictatorship of octogenarians, she is smiling.

Sánchez works from her living room in Cuba, April 2011

Sánchez works from her living room in Cuba, April 2011. Photo credit: Ted Henken.

I’m describing Yoani Sánchez, the 37-year-old Cuban independent journalist, blogger, gadfly, who has managed to win the attention of the world press and supporters of human rights and freedom everywhere, while continually driving the Cuban government and its supporters to near apoplexy.

For years the government tried to harass and intimidate her into silence. It didn’t work. It tried to block her blog but, since like most Cubans Sánchez is an expert at doing a lot with very little, she’s managed, as she put it, to continue to “use the internet without the internet.”

Sánchez has managed to use the internet without the internet so well in fact that her blog is now read in 18 different languages across the world. Time Magazine named Sánchez one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2008 and she has won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards including Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize, The World Press Freedom Hero award from the International Press Institute and the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

Sánchez at Columbia University, March 2013. Photo Credit: Tracey Eaton.

Over the past five years, the Cuban Government denied Sánchez permission to travel abroad on 20 different occasions, but last January it finally granted her a passport thanks largely to a liberalization of travel restrictions which Sánchez says has more to do with civic and international pressure than with the government’s new found good will.

Sánchez began an 80-day tour in February that has already taken her to three different continents. I had the opportunity to sit down with her during her visit to New York City and, among other things, I asked her about her blog, about current political realities in Cuba, about what she intends to do when she returns to Cuba, and about her hopes and fears for her country.

Below is the text of my interview with Sánchez, in both Spanish and English.

I am indebted to Iraida Iturralde and Ylena Zamora-Vargas for translating the interview. I also thank Ylena for providing the voice-over for this web exclusive video.

You can watch the shortened version of my interview with Sánchez below: