Posts in Yoani Sanchez
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff's visit to Cuba has generated considerable debate. Some question the appropriateness of the presidential visit after the death of Wilmar Villar while others go further by criticizing what they identify as appeasement and under emphasis of human rights in Brasilia's relationship with Havana. It is obvious that Brazil's policy is not as effective as could be and that new initiatives could increase Brazil’s impact on Cuba's reform process. That said, it is important to recognize the merits of the policy designed by the Itamaraty in light of Cuba's political liberalization, rather than democratization, and the inherent synergy between a transition to a mixed economy and the expansion of rights and freedoms.
Brazilian policy toward Cuba is not one-dimensional. It implies a convergence of economic interests and strategic regional leadership with values from a Brazilian left committed to democratic governance. The Brazilian Foreign Ministry also employs a combination of principles of international law. As emphasized by then-President Cardoso during the democratic crisis in Peru 2000 and Venezuela in April 2002, state sovereignty is not a shield to violate human rights but as a principle should be respected. That position is reflected in the critical distance that Brazil, since its own transition to democracy, has taken toward the U.S. policy of confrontation aimed at forcing a regime change in Cuba.
As our readers no doubt noticed, the Rubio - Menendez amendment intended to curb U.S. travel to Cuba (via restricting the flights that may go there) went nowhere. And as one Cuban blogger and recent immigrant to the United States, Ernesto Morales Licea, writes at the Huffington Post via Yoani Sanchez: " . . . fortunately, when there is great nonsense there will always be great common sense to contain it. . . . "
I'm not so confident as Morales that good sense always contains the nonsense, but I am heartened to hear what Morales has to say in defense of our great democracy:
"When governments or state officials forget their limits and begin to decide what kind of religion its people should practice, or what television they should watch (in Cuba today they broadcast a nightly program called "The Best of Telesur," where they select, with tweezers, what Cubans should see even within this "friendly" channel), when the government begins to regulate, for example, where its citizens can or cannot travel, the foundations of democracy, by definition, are cracking."
Morales isn't interested in whether Rubio and Menendez's oft-repeated justifications for curtailing the rights of Americans and Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba - to avoid enriching the Cuban government - actually hold water (they don't, he says). He argues that what makes our democracy pure is that we protect the civil liberties of our citizenry above whatever interests might possibly (or even definitely) be served in exchange.
Where’s a good ombudsman when you need one? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve received comments from readers on two very sensitive topics that remind me just how hard it is to find middle ground when it comes to Cuba.
Two days ago, a contributor for THN passed on what seemed - to him - plausible news. A group of Cuban bloggers, especially prominent abroad for their criticism of their government and prolific use of social media, were unable to send their 140 character messages to Twitter. One of them, the much-admired and maligned Yoani Sanchez, made instant headlines for publicly wondering if the Cuban government had blocked their access. After all, her blog is blocked in Cuba, so maybe it wasn’t a leap too far?
“Bloquearon la publicacion desde moviles cubanos a twitter. Parece que pusieron el filtro aqui dentro.1 amigo publica por mi este tweet”
Sanchez then went on to wonder – via friends to whom she dictated her tweets – whether Twitter had been the one to block access. That too had (an even more) plausible precedent. In May 2009, to avoid getting in trouble with U.S. authorities, Microsoft blocked access to its instant messaging software for countries subject to U.S. sanctions, including Cuba. And that, observed Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, was, ironically, just weeks after the Obama administration announced it would issue new regulations to increase telecommunications access for the Cuban people.
As it turned out, nobody was censoring anybody. Tomas Bilbao, who originally posted Sanchez' s concerns, did some investigating. And, as he reported here yesterday, Twitter simply made a change to how customers must dial in. That broke the Twitter link to which Yoani Sanchez and others in Cuban had become accustomed. Bilbao admitted that he jumped the gun without all the facts in hand, and I hope that Sanchez will do the same. If she doesn’t, she’ll only prove her critics right, who accuse her of being more interested in building the momentum her creativity and criticism have won her, than in building a constructive dialogue. And that’s where the real damage is done. Unfortunately, both sides are too quick to judge, take names and call the press.
Social media giant Twitter has confirmed that the loss of service experienced by Cuban bloggers posting messages using SMS technology from the island was the result of a technical issue and not the result of censorship by the Cuban government. A statement issued by the company via its Twitter account @twitter_es today, stated that:
“We have disabled “long” coding for sending tweets via SMS”
This technical jargon basically explains that when twitter changed the numbers to which users send their SMS messages from "long coding," meaning real phone numbers, to "short coding," meaning 5 digit codes, it interrupted any SMS messages sent to the original long telephone numbers from being posted on twitter. They are working to correct this issue. In this tweet, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez explains how Cuban bloggers send messages via SMS.
Yoani Sanchez reported to the Spanish news agency EFE last night that: “we’ve been left without a voice in the world of 140 characters.” Sanchez learned that messages she had been sending via SMS were not reaching her twitter account after followers alerted her that no activity had posted to her profile since Friday. Ms. Sanchez called on Twitter to clarify whether a service interruption was to blame:
@yoanisanchez #twitter must clarify if its service has censured us from publishing tweets by SMS or if the government of #Cuba has blocked us.