Friday, November 6, 2009

Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Detained, Beaten

I thought I'd spend a quiet weekend away from New York City and away from my blog. However, it seems that we're seeing the first signs of a violent crackdown against Cuba's incipient independent blogger movement.

See the preliminary report from Juan Tamayo of the Miami Herald here.

Tamayo's longer, follow-up story on Cuba's blogging phenomenon was published on Monday and Tuesday in the Herald. It is here (in English) and here (in Spanish).

CubaEncuentro has it's own report on the incident here.

CNN also caught up with Sanchez at home hobbling around on crutches after her ordeal. The video with English translation is here. A second video is here.


  1. Besides this account the Herald gives us, Yoani also spoke to Reuters and AP. There is a very curious lack of any mention of a "beatings," "violence," "karate holds," "judo," "punches," "blows" or being "violently thrown on the street." None. The closest thing to any of that is that she says her PURSE was "thrown on the street as they drove off" in the Reuters piece. Not her body. The Reuters article, in fact,makes note that Yoani "had no injuries." The AP article does say that Yoani claimed it was very violent, but the supposed violence is not mentioned any other time.

    Another inconsistency is that she says "there was no time to resist" getting taken in the (presumably) security services car, in the Reuters account. In the Herald and AP pieces, she says she "resisted" and "refused" to get in the car. She says that is when the first instance of violence occurred. The other when she took a piece of paper with information on it from the agents pocket, and put it in her mouth to destroy it.

    I certainly can not explain why one account sounds like an episode from a low budget mafia movie and the other sounds rather typical what has happened in Cuba forever - a dissident is not arrested, bus is prevented from attending a particular anti-Government rally or event. In this case, it seems pretty clear that Yoani seemed to indeed resist the security forces. So there was inevitably some force in getting her into the car. She then chose to take something from the agents pocket - and another altercation broke out.

    I will not argue whether security forces ought to be preventing certain well known activists from attending demonstrations. I hope for a day when that is not seen as a necessary tactic in Cuba, Boston or Honduras. Rightly or wrongly (because none of us have all the facts), Yoani has appeared to cross a line. Whether through her sheer celebrity, her moxie or too many exaggerations (or lies). Maybe it was visiting too many foreign Embassies? Maybe her cooperation with (illegal) US Government run entities like Radio Marti or one of her new Miami connections? She, predictably, says it is about her writings. She could, conceivably test that theory by sticking to writing for a spell and leaving the Embassies and the US Government propaganda outlets alone. But as Yoani said a long time ago, her interest is to find out where the lines are in Cuba. She may have found it.

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  3. Very sad instance of government's incompetence. As in any police regime build on power and force, Cuba is no different. Such events just prove tot he rest of the world inability of Cuban political elite to provide reasonable and fair dialogue with opposition. I have seen numerous events of open violence against peaceful protesters in Russia, were beaten, imprisoned and if not convinced to "shut up", killed. Recent unsolved murder of Anna Politkovskaya, among many others, shows that vertically build regimes, based on police and repressions, will never allow open press and criticism towards them.
    Prof, Henken, recently while discussing the issue of Cuba's current regime and Yoani Sanchez' attempts to publicize the severity of situation in her blog, I raised a question about her safety. Having experienced and read about constant denial of rights in similar regimes, safety if the first thing that came to my mind. Now, it is apparent that such ideas were not just a result of my imagination. As history proves over and over again, such political regimes choose the easiest way to deal with opposition, by means of physical violence and detainment. Maybe Cuban government does not yet realize that such methods only lead to inevitable collapse of such regimes.

    "Death solves all problems. No person, no problem" - Joseph Stalin.

  4. Nick, you seem awfuly certain about the nature of this incident. That it was the intention of the Cuban authorities was to physically harm Yoani. Do you really beleive that, given what we know about the incident.

    I think it is much more fair to conclude that what we have in actuality is a case of resisting arrest gone bad. As I know first hand, once you begin to resist, anything reasonable that happens as a result is not the fault of the officers. In this case, we have more than resistance to getting in the car, we have at least 2 acts of agression by Yoani. First reaching and taking a piece of paper from the official's pocket (and then swallowing it). Much of the "blows" were clearly a result of the police trying to get her to open up her mouth to spit it out. Then she went and dug her nails into the officer's balls. Nice.

    One doesn't have to ponder too hard what would happen in Brazil, El Salvador or Los Angeles if someone took something from a policeman's pocket, and then went after his groin.

    And if you think the Cuban Government is not interested in dialogue, I suggest you read this account from NPR titled - A New Freedom For Cubans, To Criticize Economy. It details the efforts being made right now to have Cubans "debate fearlessly" (Raul Castro's words) their problems and solutions. Thousands of "dialogues" are going on this month across the island. Nothing is taboo. But I am sure Yoani has no use for such dialogues and debates. They do not make the evening news in the US.