Cuba Politics

Yoani Sanchez says “It’s time to jump the wall of control”

Posted March 31, 2009 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

On Monday March 30, 2009 Yoani Sanchez was allowed to speak at a Biennial Habana art event. She was allowed to speak briefly at an open microphone and seized the opportunity well. She wrote about her time at the microphone and a video has come out of Cuba.

Yoani writes “An unforgettable night yesterday at the Wilfredo Lam Center, thanks to the performance artist Tania Bruguera.  A podium with microphones, in front of an enormous red curtain, formed part of the interactive installation in the central courtyard.  Everyone who wanted to could use the podium to deliver—in just one minute—any rousing speech they pleased.

As microphones are rare, certainly I never met up with any in my time as a Young Pioneer reciting patriotic verses, I took the opportunity of the occasion.  Advised ahead of time by friends in the know, I prepared a speech on freedom of expression, censorship, blogs, and that elusive tool that is the Internet.  In front of the lenses of national television and protected by the foreign guests at the X Havana Biennial, I was followed by shouts of “Freedom,” “Democracy,” and even open challenges to the Cuban authorities.  I remember one boy of twenty who confessed that he had never felt more free.

Tania gave us the microphones, we who have never been able to deliver our own speeches, rather we have had to suffer under the hot sun the speechifying of the others.  It was an artistic action, but there was no game in the declarations we made.  Everyone was very serious.  A dove rested on our shoulders, probably equally well-trained as that other one fifty years ago.  However, none of us who spoke considered ourselves chosen, none wanted to stay for fifty years shouting into the microphones.”

(The dove Yoani is referring to is the one that landed on Fidel Castro’s shoulder during an early speech. In the Santeria religion that is practiced in Cuba, a dove is a symbol of a God or a blessing. )

Video of Yoani Sanchez speaking about freedom of speech in Cuba

Yoani is the first speaker out of several. The dove is obviously a plant and the two “soldiers” behind here appear to be actors. So, the microphone, dove and soldiers were part of a performance art piece. I suppose this is how Yoani and others were allowed to speak, because they were simply part of the artistic performance. However, I believe their messages were real.

Translation of her speech from the video

Here a translation of Yoani’s speech as seen in the comments section of her original post, And they gave us the microphones…

Cuba is an island surrounded by sea and is also an island surrounded by censorship. Some of the information control, and especially with the Internet, have opened up some cracks for bloggers. The alternative blogosphere is known to a good part of the Cuban population. We accentuate the awakening of public opinion. The authorities consider the technology to be a wild horse that has to be tamed. The independent bloggers want to run freely. Difficulties in disseminating our sites are many. Passed from hand to hand and thanks to flash memory drives, CDs and obsolete diskettes, the content of the blogs goes through the island.

The Internet is becoming a public square of discussion where the Cubans are writing their opinions. The real island is starting to be a virtual island, one that is more democratic and more pluralistic. Unfortunately these winds of free expression on the internet are being recognized by government officials. Let us not wait for the authorization to use the internet or to have a blog or to write an opinion.

It is time to jump the wall of control.

Artist’s work lets Cubans speak out in Havana for freedom

Havana art show erupts into a protest of the islanders’ lack of freedoms and can be seen on YouTube. By Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald.

A packed performance art show at the 10th Havana Biennial, a prestigious international festival, turned into a clamor of ‘‘Libertad!’’ as Cubans and others took to a podium to protest the lack of freedom of expression on the island. The provocative performance Sunday night, recorded and posted Monday on YouTube, was staged by acclaimed Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, a frequent visitor to Art Basel Miami Beach who lives in Havana.

—————————————- Havana Journal Comments—————————————-

Havana Journal Inc. proudly and openly supports Yoani’s efforts to enjoy freedom of speech in Cuba.


Member Comments

On March 31, 2009, CubanDan wrote:

I wouldn’t read into this very much, it is something the castro regime can use in its favor.  This quote from the Miami Herold article nails on it on the head:

But Novoa warned against reading too much into the Bruguera performance.

‘‘Allowing this serves a purpose to the Cuban government,’’ Novoa says. ``They appear to be less repressive to the international community, but the bottom line is that there is no democracy in Cuba, that there’s a dictatorship in place, that people are still in prison. That never changes.’’

Of course that wasn’t mentioned here

On March 31, 2009, Marek wrote:

I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me when access to the internet became a recognized “human right”.  Cuba’s critics lambast the country’s “failing” economy (so “failing” that it was able to recover from the deep crisis of the 1990s, multiple hurricanes, an economic “embargo”, etc.) while simultaneously calling for the government to spend its scarce resource and provide free T1 lines to the home of all 11-million Cubans so they can - supposedly - “freely express themselves”. 

Having just returned from another month-long research visit to the island, I continue to find the ridiculously distorted view that many of Cuba’s critics have to be tiring and disappointing.

On April 01, 2009, publisher wrote:


Freedom of speech. Sure, Yoani is not happy with having limited access to the internet but her complaint is not having freedom of speech.

Poor Cuba right? Can’t get the Internet because of the evil Empire? One of those kind of arguments?

That argument got old years ago.

On April 01, 2009, publisher wrote:


In a swift reaction Tuesday to a daring call for freedom by participants in a public performance art show in Havana, the Cuban government branded the speakers ‘‘dissidents’’ and ``individuals at the service of the propagandistic anti-Cuban machinery.’‘

The reaction came via a statement from the 10th Havana Biennial’s Organizing Committee, which charged that those who took the opportunity of a minute at a podium to protest the lack of freedoms on the island had ‘‘taken advantage’’ of artist Tania Bruguera’s Monday performance.

But Bruguera, who staged the most daring performance art show the city has seen in decades, sees herself only as conceptual performance artist.

‘‘I’m fine. I don’t want to create unnecessary mythology,’’ she said Tuesday from her home in Havana, a day after the stunning images of Cubans clamoring for freedom were posted on YouTube, generating thousands of hits and Internet commentary.

‘‘What I was doing,’’ she said, ``was giving my space to others.’‘

The biennial is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. Bruguera said her performance was on the approved schedule.

Bruguera set up a podium in front of an ochre curtain with a microphone at the Wifredo Lam Center, an official art-exhibition space. Two actors clad in the military fatigues of the Ministry of the Interior, the agency charged with spying on Cubans’ activities, flanked the podium and tended to a white dove.

When Bruguera invited people from the standing-room-only audience to come to the microphone and, for a minute, say whatever they wanted, Cubans and foreign visitors protested the lack of freedom of expression on the island.

As some spoke, the white dove was placed on their shoulders by the actors—a mocking reference to a historic Jan. 8, 1959, victory speech by Fidel Castro during which a similar bird landed on his shoulder, a sign many people viewed as divine recognition.

The dove wasn’t the only mockery of Castro.

A man in a black hood strode to the microphone, lifted the hood just a little to reveal a scraggly white beard and, mimicking the voice of Castro, said, ``I think this should be prohibited.’‘

He was booed, but to every call for more freedoms, the audience responded with applause and shouts of ‘‘Bravo!’’ The commotion could be heard from the street, as speakers were set up outside the Lam Center to broadcast the art performance, and passersby flocked inside to see the performance and cheer.

Bruguera, whose late father was a high-ranking Cuban official, said she had no idea how the audience—a mix of Cubans, foreign visitors and artists, curators and collectors from the international artistic community—was going to react to her offer of a microphone.

‘‘People went up, but they could have done nothing, and the performance would have been the vacuum,’’ Bruguera said. ``I never thought that so many people were going to go up like that, that people were going to speak out like they did. I don’t know the people who spoke.’‘

She added: ``In reality, it was out of my hands, which I think is fine.’‘

Bruguera said the performance ended when Bruguera thanked the participants—not when a technician dismantled the audio system, as a news outlet reported.

‘‘It was dismantled because it was over. There was another performance scheduled after mine,’’ she said.

The Havana performance was one in a series of works Bruguera has titled El susurro de Tatlin (Tatlin’s Whisper) after Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, famous for his attempts to build a monstrously tall building.

In January, as part of that series, Bruguera staged another titillating performance at the Tate Modern in London.

Mounted police rode into the museum and confronted perplexedmuseum-goers, riding around them, back and forth, and using the horses to corral and control movement. Bruguera stood, observing, in the crowd.

‘‘People were reaching all sorts of conclusions, that there was a bomb scare,’’ said Bruguera, who holds a tenure-track position at the University of Chicago and a U.S. work visa she obtained before cultural exchanges were curtailed during the George W. Bush years.

Bruguera also staged a disconcerting performance last December during Art Basel Miami Beach at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO).

Basel VIPs were brought at random into a room filled with historic images of dead people and then interrogated by a museum guard about ``why so many people want to assassinate President Barrack Obama.’‘

She staged that work because she found it unusual that people were having such a conversation.

‘‘I’m an uncomfortable artist wherever I go,’’ Bruguera said. ``I’m an artist who tries to do the impossible. That’s my work, and that’s how I conduct my personal life.’’

On April 01, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Dear Marek,

This is not about the internet access, this is about human rights in general including the freedom of speech.

You question people wanting to have access to internet but I’m sure you have access to internet yourself.

Nobody is asking the Cuban government to “provide free T1 lines” access to 11 million Cubans. Cubans want to have access to internet as anybody else, not free, but paying for it.

You probably don’t know that many Cubans that have black market access to the internet are paying in excess of USD 50.00 per month per dial up connections, what as you know is considerably more that what you would pay in the US or Canada and obviously much more that what you would pay in any other Latin American country. 

The internet is a business and I’m sure that if the Cuban government start thinking like that and allows people to freely access the internet, they would be able to pay for the connections with the proceeds.

But the fact and the matter is that the Cuban Government is not interested in granting access to the Cuban people to any kind of media. They would like to keep the people incarcerated within the walls of unknowingness. The Cubans accept many things because they do not know anything better and the longer the government can keep it that way the better for them.

To say that the Cuban economy recovered from the 90’s crisis and hurricanes is simply risible and nothing farther from the true, the Cuban economy is simply a chaos. I cannot understand what kinds of numbers you are analyzing to say that it has recovered. Maybe you are reading the Cuban government reports.

If you really spent a month in Cuba, you probably should go back and spent some more time mingling with the real Cubans to better understand what is going on there.

On April 01, 2009, Marek wrote:

Yeyo, with all due respect… “freedom of speech” is the cover. The issue is external interference in Cuban affairs and Cuba being held to a completely different standard. On the matter of the “T1 lines”, let me confirm that yes, I was being sarcastic. wink

Your assertion that Cubans could pay for their internet access is an indication that you do not have a solid understanding of the infrastructural and social realities of informatics in Cuba (this, indeed, was the focus of my Master’s research in the late 1990s, and which enabled me to visit the length and breadth of the island, visiting community telecentres via the Joven Club de Computación y Electrónica).

Cubans in general are spending their pesos (and, via Cadeca’s, changing moneda nacional into CUCs to purchase CUC-only products) on food and other essential items. The internet is *not* high on the agenda for most Cubans in terms of their personal at-home dialup-access. The government’s development plan for informatics in the country is entirely centered on the Joven Club community telecentre model, providing equality of access to shared resources - this is a socialist nation, after all, and the intent is to bring the technology to the masses. This means those who want it now are disappointed - but it is not an evil, commie repression of the people’s “right” to send email.

The cost of internet access you estimate ($50 USD on the black market) does not come close to approaching the *real* cost of internet access in Cuba, which the government bears. Note that it’s also illegal… but legality seems to take a second place whenever one self-identifies as a “dissident” for whom special rules must be made.

Cubans are far from “incarcerated within the walls of unknowingness.” As a nation, Cubans are far more well-informed of global events than the average citizen in their neighbouring countries - unless of course you mean the latest rumours about Britney, Lindsay and their ilk.  When in Cuba, I read the daily newspapers (you can too, by the way, online); watch the nightly news and from time to time the daytime programming. I have conversations with people (in Spanish, since it apparently needs to be said). When was the last time you had a chat with a Cuban on a streetcorner in Marianao or any other community in Cuba? On what is your “knowledge” based?

Your suggestion that Cubans “do not know anything better” is terribly paternalistic.

The economic discussion: Cuba’s economy is far from “in chaos”. The billions of dollars in damage from the hurricanes last fall are a serious setback, it’s true. But there is no denying - if you are taking an honest look at the economic development of the island - that the economy is in far, far better shape today than it was in the 1990s.  This is my doctoral research… I’m no newcomer to the field, having been a student of the Cuban development project since the early 1990s.

I will be back in Cuba later this year, if funding comes through, for research and development project assisting a community along the upper Almendares river dealing with environmental crisis awareness, planning and action.  Are those “real” enough Cubans for you?

On April 02, 2009, publisher wrote:

Yoani Sanchez wrote more about her experience at the Bienal Habana.

She was selected by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential people in 2008. You can vote for her for the 2009 Time most influential people list.

On April 02, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Does Yoani Sanchez actualy work in Cuba, or does she get donations from the U.S. to servive?

On April 02, 2009, grant wrote:

Yoani does not work but receives donations(at least she did), however she is married. There are a few cubans who push her agenda.The majority consider her a bit strange.

On April 02, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Thats what I thought. I didn’t think she had a real job at least not as a writer as she seems to whine about things without much reasoned analysis of the situation. With her U degree you think she could have a little more depth in her writing.
  I have noticed in the past couple of weeks that relatives in Cuba are getting their own “E” mail adresses at their work sites, could this mean a little more trust and independance on the internet coming into play now? I have had no problem sending photos and mail to them or them sending mail and photos etc, for quite a while now. Nothing seems to get lost. The only thing is you have to send mail on a week day as the mail is not accepted on the weekends. I think they can’t surf from Cuba but that might not be from all work locations as it would be necesary in some jobs. With the latest changes with the Empressas being able to purchase goods directly on their own, I think that it will make it necesary for these Empressas to have full access to the internet to source and purchase the items they need.

On April 03, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

She cannot get a “real job” because in Cuba most jobs are with the government and she is an open dissident.

Strange?  I don’t know what can be strange about her, unless you consider strange to say what you think?

You do not realize how brave she has to be to do that and survive in Cuba.

On April 03, 2009, Marek wrote:

Please. Bravery has nothing to do with it. She is choosing to pursue an agenda that perfectly suits the interests of Cuba’s enemies… those who want to see Cuba changed radically into a multi-party “democracy” which can then be influenced á lá Nicaragua in 1990.  Yoani’s activities do nothing to help her country - they serve only to harm its image abroad and propagate misconceptions.  As noted above, very few Cubans even know she exists - nor would they support someone with such a terrible opinion of her own country. She is an opportunist, pure and simple.

On April 03, 2009, publisher wrote:


You are out of line here.

You make it sound like “multi-party democracy” is a bad thing.

“Yoani’s activities do nothing to help her country - they serve only to harm its image abroad and propagate misconceptions.”

Do you work for the Cuban government? Honestly.

“terrible opinion of her own country”... It’s called freedom of speech and she has A LOT to complain about.

Wow. You are really showing your Communist side here.

On April 03, 2009, Marek wrote:

Multi-party democracy: bad thing? Not necessarily. But in so many of its implementations, there is practically no mechanism for the broad mass of citizens to have any effect on policy, legislation, etc.  My issue lies with the demand by critics of the Cuban system that it *must* be multi-party in order to be accepted as a democracy, particularly when there is ample evidence that the Cuban electoral system is indeed democratic and participatory, regardless of whatever structural / procedural issues there may be.

You, you’re right in one respect - I have no right to criticize anyone for complaining. My criticism should be reserved for those who take those criticisms, amplify them, and give them a world-wide platform. There are people on the streets of my country (that would be Canada, despite your allegations as to my origins) who have worse things to say about their system of government and politicians, but their comments don’t make the front page of the Miami Herald, nor are they awarded “human rights” prizes.

Communist? Nope. Never been a member, likely never will be.  Definitely a leftist, possibly even a socialist, but communism is impossible, given the human condition. Plus, I can’t stand the various “flavours” of the left - the troskyists, the marxist-leninists, the whatever-ists… why the hell can’t we all just get along, and work toward our common goals, rather than get caught up in petty ideologies?  Sigh…

On April 03, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

If she really wanted to help Cubans in any way she would have gotten involved in some way that she could have influenced the evolution of the Cuban Revolution even if it were in some small way. What she is doing now is not helping the Cuban people, the people she is helping are the Miami old boys who can’t wait to get back into Cuba and divide up the spoils and the Cuban lay-abouts who probably don’t know how to put in a good days work. I can see them now, drawing their boundary lines on a map of Cuba like the drug lords here in North America.  As if their dream will ever happen. All she does now is spew literary comment that the old Miami boys love to hear. That is not a very constructive attitude or a brave one at all.

On April 04, 2009, publisher wrote:


“particularly when there is ample evidence that the Cuban electoral system is indeed democratic and participatory”

Really? If you believe that then there is nothing I or Yoani can say that will knock those rose colored glasses off your face.

“why the hell can’t we all just get along, and work toward our common goals, rather than get caught up in petty ideologies”

Really? Why then can’t the Cuban government let Yoani say whatever she wants?


I don’t even know where to start with that insane logic.

On April 04, 2009, Marek wrote:

Rob, I base my assessment of the Cuban electoral system on (a) my personal experiences in Cuba, (b) the opinions & criticisms of my Cuban friends and colleagues in Cuba, and (c) two excellent, in-depth studies, Peter Roman’s “People’s Power: Cuba’s Experience with Representative Government.” (Latin American
Perspectives Series No. 20). Boulder, Co: Westview Press and Arnold August’s “Democracy in Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections, Havana: Editorial Jose Martí”.  I suggest you read these books, and then comment on the democratic character of the Cuban system.

As for Yoani - when / where has the Cuban government stepped in to stop Yoani from saying “whatever she wants”? She was not stopped from speaking at the artistic event. She continues to blog freely.  As I said - it seems her only real beef is not having personal high-speed internet access in her living room… which, as we know, is now considered a “human right” by Cuba’s critics…

On April 04, 2009, publisher wrote:

“Democracy in Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections”


I am not going to have you spread your Communist propaganda shit on this site.

We’ve had people like you before (maybe you are the same person with a different user name) and I’m not going to allow anyone to say that there is any sort of Democracy in Cuba.

You want to Yoani is wrong? Fine. That’s your ignorant right but I’m not going to put up with any bullshit about how great Fidel’s government is.

On April 04, 2009, Marek wrote:

So… I offer two published studies, well-researched and highly-rated (check Amazon for yourself) and the response I get is “Bullshit!”.  Yup - that’s an open mind….

And as I said… I’m not a communist.

So, Rob, is your intent as publisher to only allow things on this site with which you agree? I assume, then, that you *haven’t* bothered to read either of these books. So much for informed opinion…

(and please, stop with the allegations about my identity for crap’s sake. I’m a Canadian. I live in Mexico while doing my PhD, with Cuba as my research area, as it has been since the early 1990s. I’ll give up nothing more than that because right-wing crazies tend to shoot first, slander later).

On April 04, 2009, publisher wrote:

I allow anyone to leave any comments but I don’t tolerate propaganda and I’m not going to allow anyone to try to bully me or the readers to a “logical” discussion of Fidel’s “democracy in Cuba”.

I don’t need to read someone’s distorted view of Communism claiming that the Cuban system is fair in some perverted way.

I know. 90% of the people vote for Fidel every year.

Has anyone ever run against Fidel or Raul?

Please, don’t even answer. I’m not going to get into a bullshit stupid discussion with you.

Call me ignorant and let’s stay on topic about how brave Yoani is for standing up for her rights in a Communist dictatorship.

On April 05, 2009, paul wrote:

Thank you Publisher for showing some cojones. Nothing grates me more than leftists trying to make Cuba’s robolucion seem democratic and tolerant.

I know that I just fed the red trolls on this site, so fire away.

On April 05, 2009, Marek wrote:

Rob (Publisher), not to be snarky, but let me provide you with some words of wisdom…

“No reason to be harsh. Let’s not make this personal. Mako is making points for his argument and you are attacking him personally.  The Havana Journal is for discussion of the issues. Cuba is very personal to most people but I won’t tolerate personal attacks.”

You wrote that a year ago in the comments section of an article on Investing in Cuban Real Estate. Now look over some of the things you’ve said about me in this thread and others.

My point is simple: some of the posters in this thread repeat (incessantly) their *beliefs*. I try to offer substantiated *fact*, backed up by documentation and research.  But to no avail, it seems.  You guys *do* know that the Bush era of irrational belief is now behind us, right?

On April 05, 2009, paul wrote:

I wish that the Castro era of irrational authoritarianism was behind us. Apparently you need a police state to give “free” healthcare and education to your population.

On April 06, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Hi Marek,
I’m replaying to your earlier post.

You quoted: “with all due respect… “freedom of speech” is the cover. The issue is external interference in Cuban affairs and Cuba being held to a completely different standard”.
So when over 75 people were thrown in jail for requesting freedom of speech and democracy during the black spring that was also a cover?

Nobody is trying to interfere with Cuban affairs. That is actually the cover that the Cuban government gave to the world and to the numerous students of the Cuban system.

“Your assertion that Cubans could pay for their internet access is an indication that you do not have a solid understanding of the infrastructural and social realities of informatics in Cuba…..”

You are probably right, probably my 33 years of experience living, growing and studying in Cuba, plus having and extended family still living there, plus numerous friends in most spheres of government were not sufficient to learn the way things work in Cuba. Surely your few months, few visits to Cuba gave you a better understanding and a more inside view into how the infrastructural and social realities work in Cuba. 

The same thing can be said about the Cell phones and most people cannot understand why many Cubans that make less than what cost the cell phone plan in a month would lineup to buy an old model cell phone sold by the government at three times the cost. However they buy cellphones anyway.

That’s the kind of stuff that you would never learn with studies or reading books about Cuba but only living there.

Cubans are not more informed, they are better educated that the citizens of many countries and this is a good thing. However they are denied the right to know about the realities around the world, and I’m not talking about Britney or Lindsay but about different points of view in any aspect of life.

You said: “When in Cuba, I read the daily newspapers (you can too, by the way, online)”
How Cubans would read the daily papers online if they have no access to internet?

You are simply contradicting yourself. But I can understand. You are trying to understand something that cannot be understood. Simply anybody should have the possibility to access the internet whether free or paid. And I’m not implying that it should be free, if paid fine, and some people may not have the money to pay for it, maybe the government can help like in many countries.

But probably what you could not learn in your several studies in Cuba is that instead of trying to help the people to have access to internet the Cuban Government is actually trying to limit access to internet. I know somebody that works with an Interior Ministry organization created to that effect, which by the way is the same organization that delay and review all emails that enter to Cuba.

On April 06, 2009, publisher wrote:

“Cubans are not more informed, they are better educated that the citizens of many countries and this is a good thing. However they are denied the right to know about the realities around the world…”

Interesting. I never thought of it that way.

The Cuban people are very well educated but very poorly informed or worse mis-informed.

On April 06, 2009, Marek wrote:

Yeyo, thanks for a less combative dialogue wink

“Black Spring” - As a former journalist, and an eternal student of message manipulation, I love (and loathe) how people can apply a name to something and give it such (excessive) meaning.  Of course the idea was to tie in people’s mental image of the “Prague Spring”, regardless of how invalid is the comparison.

So - all 75 were “dissidents” who only wanted “freedom… and democracy”.  I take it, then, that you skipped over those reports that identified the deep penetration of Cuban state security into these organizations (indeed, some of the “dissidents” were state agents, and were as well known as Beatriz Roque and Paya are today) with documented proof of their ties to the U.S. Interests Section, including payoffs, merchandise, specialized treatment, promises of fast-tracked visas, and with direction as to how they should best carry out their activities? 

You said: “Nobody is trying to interfere with Cuban affairs. That is actually the cover that the Cuban government gave to the world and to the numerous students of the Cuban system.”

Yeyo… *seriously*???  I take it, then, that you haven’t bothered to read the various documents associated with “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba”? Most of what they say appears innocuous, until you remember the looooooong history of the USA in interfering in the domestic affairs of its “enemies” in Latin America and beyond.  I can’t believe you would sincerely think that the USA is acting altruistically in support of Cuban “dissidents”!?

You wrote:
“You are probably right, probably my 33 years of experience living, growing and studying in Cuba, plus having and extended family still living there, plus numerous friends in most spheres of government were not sufficient to learn the way things work in Cuba. Surely your few months, few visits to Cuba gave you a better understanding and a more inside view into how the infrastructural and social realities work in Cuba.”

If you’ll re-read my post, you will see that I was referring specifically to Informatics. I would argue that I am more knowledgeable than the majority of Cubans on this topic, simply by virtue of being an academic who had this area as one of my research efforts.

I will never call myself an “expert” on Cuba… but neither is someone born on the island necessarily an “expert” on the socio-economic-political realities if they (a) don’t bother to learn about the macro conditionalities and (b) have an ideological position from which they are unwilling to depart.

You said: “How Cubans would read the daily papers online if they have no access to internet?”

In my previous post, regarding newspapers, I said: “(you can too, by the way, online)” - meaning that anyone outside of Cuba also had access to see what Cubans are reading. Unfortunately, the land from which most of the criticism comes is the USA, where the dominant society seems to have little interest in bothering to learn a second language…

You said:
“Simply anybody should have the possibility to access the internet whether free or paid. And I’m not implying that it should be free, if paid fine, and some people may not have the money to pay for it, maybe the government can help like in many countries.”

So you are beginning to appreciate my point, but not willing to go all the way. You insist on seeing the government as being an evil, manipulative, restrictive force with regard to the internet, but have a hard time accepting the economic equation with regard to the cost to Cuba of access to the global internet. Who pays for that service?  Cuba is nothing if not rational when it comes to budgeting… if the internet provides a benefit to the majority of Cubans (which in the current period means bringing in foreign currency, or allowing Cuban professionals to do their jobs) then the internet is available. For uses that will not economically benefit the nation, why the heck should the government waste resources expanding the internet infrastructure to give all Cubans immediate access?  The path they are on - building up IT infrastructure internally, with training, software development, etc. - is the way to go. Use the telecentres to ensure that the majority of Cubans who want access to technology have it (domestic email has been available for some time). But the pipe to the internet ain’t cheap - once Cuba can spare the pesos, broader internet access will be available. But it will always prioritize wider access before individual access.

“I know somebody that works with an Interior Ministry organization created to that effect, which by the way is the same organization that delay and review all emails that enter to Cuba.”

I’m 100% sure that the government is monitoring incoming and outgoing email, to the extent possible (so is the USA, Britain, Canada, etc.  Have a look for Project Echelon).  It’s a country that has been declared an enemy of the USA for a half-century, subjected to military invasion, biological warfare, and other aggressive actions. Do you think they’re going to sit by and let stuff happen under their noses?

As for “delaying…all emails that enter to Cuba”.... then they’re pretty darn fast!  My university colleagues receive email that is sent to them as quickly as I think the infrastructure can handle it, if you check the datestamps.  But it’s easier to believe in the ‘bad, shadowy men’ than the benign reality.

All of my Cuban contacts who have internet access tend to have a personal or other web-based email account, which could certainly be monitored when accessed (real-time), but could not be delayed in delivery - that’s server-side stuff.

For the record, let me state that I think it would be a good idea, once the infrastructure is there, for easier access to at-home dialup in Cuba. While it would, in some ways, contribute to the separation between those who work for a living (and those who, due to support from abroad, have the luxury to bitch and complain to anyone who’ll listen), it would also distribute demand for scarce resources more broadly.  But those who criticise Cuba’s current implementation of informatics without being willing to understand the economic reality of internet access for the country don’t deserve the attention they receive.

On April 06, 2009, publisher wrote:


You say “I will never call myself an “expert” on Cuba”.

Right, but you are. Anyone reading your posts above would consider you to be an expert. For you to deny it is proof that you are an expert and a propagandist as well.

I have seen your kind of long winded Communist propaganda rants from another well known Cuba expert, your boss Fidel Castro.

Call that a personal attack if you want but if you claim to be just a Canadian citizen without an agenda to spread the lies of the Cuban government then you are offending the intelligence of most readers of this site and I won’t sit here quietly when I know that there are agents for Cuba who monitor and post to this site.

You are either a willing agent for the Cuban government or you have been hypnotized by La Revolucion and/or Communism.

Your facts are not facts to me so please don’t distort truths just to make your point.

And no, I am not going to get into a debate with you. You communists like to argue down to the most minute details until you find common ground with your opponent then work up from there.

Ben there. Done that.

So, I will thank you to stop using this site to spread your Communist propaganda.

On April 06, 2009, Marek wrote:

Oh Good Lord.  I’m “long winded” so I must be a commie propagandist. Ooookaayy…

I’ll leave it to those who read these comments to judge the worth of my input.

And… you have access to the IP logs for those who comment here.  It shouldn’t be hard for you to see where I’m coming from.  Nothing I can do to convince you that I’m not “hypnotized”, though…. wink

On April 06, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Rob, I thought your mission statement was that this was a place were people could discuss Cuban issues without censorship. If you just call someone a “commie” and threaten banning him from the site because he disagrees with you or has a different point of view or some factual knowledge to counter what you say, I think you are trying to censor the site. Do you only accept statements that agree with your perception of what goes on in Cuba? I guess you would call me a “commie” as well because I don’t conform to some of your views on Cuba. As I told you before, I’m just another Canadian pinko. You see, up here we can have a different perspective on things if we please.
As far as the internet to and from Cuba goes, I also have recieved replies from Cuba that were almost immediate, so I don’t think all the mail can be monitored, all of the time. With the new banking changes anounced, were the Cuban units of an Empresa can purchase directly from offshore companies with dollars etc., I think that this could have the effect of opening up the internet even more to at least those working in these units. I have noticed that more people are getting their own “E” mail adresses at their work sites.

Back to Yoani, I think that a lot of the stuff she writes I would classify as Whining. She doesn’t think about what or why things are that way. I.E. the elevator in her apartment being down for months. Maybee, because it’s of Soviet vintage, the company has gone out of buisiness. Does she realize what would have to transpire if they can’t repair it? Tens of thousands of dollars for a new elevator. Now lets imagine if there never was an embargo, maybee that building would have had a U.S. elevator in it and parts would be only hours away.

On April 06, 2009, publisher wrote:

Thanks for the feedback.

I don’t think I said I would ban him for being a good Communist. It’s his job or hobby anyway.

I won’t put up with persistent Communist propaganda that is constantly off topic.

This is a place for people to learn the truth not to be indoctrinated as good Communists supporting The Revolution.

And just to be fair, I would be saying this if there was a hardline old Cuban exile telling me how bad things are in Cuba and that we need to keep the Embargo.

There are always two extremes in this Cuba arena and I want the Havana Journal to be the place where the extremes are challenged and kept in check.

On April 06, 2009, paul wrote:

Como escribe porquerias este marekon…

On April 07, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Yoani is extraordinarily brave. Whether some people agree or not, I simply don’t care, but that is a fact. And bravery has everything to do with it.

Yes she is choosing to pursue her agenda…. that perfectly suits the interest NOT of the Cuban enemies but of the Cuban Government enemies. So what….. you are giving your opinion freely here which by the way pursue the agenda of the Cuban Government and nobody try to prosecute you for that.

Most Cubans know that she exist, many of them, probably some of the one you meet in your “several trips to Cuba” would deny knowing her because to know her is like being stigmatized in Cuba…. pretty much like in the 70s and 80s communicating with your family outside of Cuba.

If she is whining so are you and I here and the Castros and their cronies about the “blockade” while drinking american made coca colas in the afternoon.

She is obviously NOT whining the whole thing about the elevator was to try to give an idea of the kind of live that the Cubans have. That may look whining to you, which is ok because that’s your opinion but for most people that had never been in Cuba that would be simply descriptive of the reality because you like it or not the FACT is that the elevator had been broken for months.

I would not get in responding the April 6 Marek’s post because I do not have time to get into discussing completely brainwashed points of view. I can discuss intelligent and independent points of view but to say that Marek’s point of view is based in facts is simply an insult.

By the way in regard to your Canadian Pinko comment, I would like to mention that (probably to your surprise) I’m also a Canadian, YES, I’m a Canadian Citizen living in Canada, and I would add that I have never lived in the states, and YES I’m very left leaning too, but for me that do NOT means that there is Democracy in Cuba or that Fidel or Raul Castro were ever democratically elected and if you think so you simply need an electroshock.

On April 07, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Yoani quite simple has done nothing to help her country and seems not to understand the reasons for many of her whines.,

On April 08, 2009, paul wrote:

If Castro could thank you, he would thank you for defending censorship and authoritarianism.

On April 08, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Wow, so now she has done nothing for her country. She may have done nothing for what YOU consider to be her country but that’s not her country, that is actually the Cuban Government, the same government that prohibits freedom of meeting and speech, freedom of movement, etc, etc, etc…. and by the way that was the initial idea to denounce the absolutism in Cuba.

Unfortunately while most people recognize her tremendous contribution there would be always people with a much distorted point of view of the reality in Cuba.

Yoani has done a lot for Cuba and the average Cubans. She has done more damage to the government totalitarianism that many people in decades. 

She just started her blog without help and went all the way to be named to the Time’s World 100 most influential people.

Would like to add that she is also left leaning but again being left leaning is not necessarily to approve the vacuum of democracy in Cuba, like some people do.

On April 08, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Yoani is’t on the list of the top 100 2008, not even in the top 200. She was on a list of heros and pioneers.
Here is another of her whines. She was critisizing the Cuban gov. for buying salt from Chile when they have lots of coastline in Cuba. She never thought that it might be that Cuba produces salt by the evaperation method in Las Salinas (I was there once, beautiful beach). That takes a lot of time and labour. Cuba produces 0.164 million metric tons of salt per year. Chile produces 5.49 million metric tons/year and it is from an open pit mine 45 Km long by 60 mtrs deep, 99% pure. They just dig it out with big bucket loaders. Chile produces salt cheeper than any other country in the world. The U.S. buys half of their salt from Chile. They say that at their present production rate they have 50 years of reserve. Think before you whine Yoani.

On April 08, 2009, publisher wrote:


Don’t be an ass.

You think you have the balls to do what Yoani is doing if you lived in Cuba?

On April 09, 2009, paul wrote:

If he lived in Cuba, he’d be a happy government lackey handing down sentences for anyone insulting the red sun god castro.

On April 09, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

I haven’t had that intiment moment to check it out, but I don’t think she has balls. When I lved in Cuba, I was never followed, questioned, harrased or stopped from talking to anyone. Yoani embellishes eveything she writes about to put a negative spin on it. Of course if you throw rocks, you might get some thrown back.

On April 09, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Obviously the Cuban government would not follow or harass you as long you continue saying those tergiversate opinions that only favor the government while try to damage the image of good and decent Cubans.

By the way your salt comment just confirms that you have no dam idea about the Cuban economy. Cuba was for many years a salt exporter and the Cuban Salt is of excellent quality. If you want to talk about cheap, obviously producing salt in Cuba is several times cheaper that buying it in Chile. Labor costs in Cuba are I don’t know how many times lower than in Chile.

The problem is that the government is a terrible administrator, which has been well proven around the world but even worst in Cuba. The government has simply run down all spheres of the industry in Cuba, putting in charge good members of the Communist Party that had no clue about the business they were running.  The result is that the whole industry in Cuba is a debacle.

Sometimes the act of buying elsewhere instead of using local is not related to common sense or because the Chilean salt is cheaper, but simply related to the desire of government representatives to travel outside of Cuba (“afuera”) to buy things for their families and themselves. During the trips they would receive some hard currency allowance (“dieta”) that together with the meager salary they got would allow them to live better inside the walls. 

Cuba also came down from being among the largest world exporters of sugar to lately importing sugar from the United States, would that also means that the US produces sugar cheaper than Cuba?
Give me a break.

On April 09, 2009, paul wrote:

I can’t imagine a leftist having a negative experience in Cuba, it’s a fantasy park for them.

-Surrounded by Western world bashing.
-Welfare state giving people rights.
-No evil advertising, just glorious depictions of their socialist god castro.
-A nice invisible wall to shield Eden from the undemocratic West.
-Full political freedoms to bash the enemies of Eden.

On April 09, 2009, paul wrote:


Pipefitter will read your post, and it’ll be like the voice of Charlie Brown’s parents speaking.

On April 12, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

Its obvious that Yeyo, “Snoopy” hasn’t been to Las Salinas in Cuba were they produce salt and seen how they do it as I have. They manually flood different sections of flat lands and use the sun to evaporate the water leaving a layer of salt. They then, by hand rake this thin layer of salt into piles. They gather the piles, all by hand, and further dry the salt before it is bagged. In Chile, it is an open pit mine were they use huge front end loaders to just scoop up tons of 99% pure salt at a time. How fast can you produce a ton of salt. Cuba=1 week,Chile=5 seconds. Result= Chile much cheaper, Cuba too inefficient and costly.
In case you didn’t notice, I wasn’t talking about sugar and don’t know enough about your claim to comment.

On April 12, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Sorry to disappoint you but I do had been in the “Salinas” near Caimanera. I also have seen with my own eyes as the salt bags were loaded on a ship to be exported.

By the way at least in Caimanera the salt is piled by large front-loaders.

Even when the salt production in Chile is probably more technologically advanced than in Cuba, the production cost are still surely cheaper in Cuba, nobody can compete with USD 15.00 per month labourers.

On April 13, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

We are talking about different places, the salinas that I was at was in Camaguey I think around Nuevitas. A long drive out to the coast, very beautiful beach with some small cabinas.
  The German company that ownes the mine in Chile, says it’s salt is the most cheaply produced in the world and at present production they have a 50 year supply.