Friday, November 20, 2009

Reinaldo Escobar Is My Brother

"This is not a political statement. It has no 'interested' motive, it seeks to provoke no immediate action 'for' or 'against' this or that side in the (undeclared) war between the United States and Cuba or over the Cuban revolution.

It is on the contrary a human and personal statement and an anguished plea for the Cuban journalist, blogger, and buen esposo Reinaldo Escobar who is my brother.

He is more my brother than many who are nearer to me by race and nationality, because he and I see things exactly the same way. He and I deplore the ongoing war that has long been ravaging his country. We deplore it for exactly the same reasons: human reasons, reasons of sanity, justice and (can I say it?) love.

We deplore the needless destruction, the fantastic and callous ravaging of human life, the rape of the culture and spirit of an exhausted people (los dos embargos - desde afuera y desde adentro). It is surely evident that this carnage serves no purpose that can be discerned and indeed contradicts the alleged intentions of the two proud, mighty, and self-important nations that have claimed to be the defenders of the people they are destroying..."

The forgoing paragraphs are the stolen and slightly altered words that the great Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote about his fellow (Buddhist) monk Thich Nhat Hanh, in a 1966 essay, "Nhat Hanh Is My Brother." I use them here to reflect the revulsion I experienced when I turned on my computer late today and found the first two photos I have posted here along with a description of the hateful attacks (aka, supposedly spontaneous, grass roots, mitines de repudio) on Reinaldo Escobar as he attempted to challenge his wife's cowardly attacker to a verbal duel, while simultaneously promoting rational dialogue in a culture of irrational monologue; attempting to be a pacifista in una cultura machista. (Update: Escobar's narration of events is now available in a new post, "Para Empezar a Perdonar" - To Begin to Forgive).

(Question: Escobar's blog, Desde Aqui is blocked in Cuba, so how did all these cubanos de a pie find out about his duel date with Rodney? Astroturf anyone? Y donde esta Rodney? Parece que hay muchos Rodney).

I'm sorry to say that after I met Reinaldo and his well-known wife in Cuba in July 2008, I kept hearing the same facile refrain from many of my other Cuban friends to explain her gift for words: "Well, we know who's behind her and her pretty face - her husband, that disgraced journalist." This misogynistic explanation of Sanchez's talent has also been popular among some leftist bloggers who are sure (without any evidence apart from clever innuendo and claims of guilt-by-association) that she must either be a puppet of her "Svengali" husband or a product of the CIA or the Miami Mafia - when it's fairly clear that she is really una hija (mala) de una revolucion (gastada). (Some of this back and forth is deftly chronicled here).

While it is difficult for some to believe that this gallita is a sui-generis construction, I will concede one thing to them - she is not alone. Apart from her obvious skills as a communicator (in both the written word and verbal dexterity), the thing that most impressed me about "Yoarey" (Yoani y Reinaldo) when I met the couple in their apartment last summer was their mutual respect, deep affection, and natural teamwork. I was especially astounded by this man (perhaps 30 years his wife's senior) who listened attentively to, clearly admired, and worked constantly to support his partner and their ongoing common project - I think all us men (Cuban or not) could learn a lesson from this "manly" show of respect, humility, and love.

Perhaps the best example of this (and likely the best tribute so far in writing to Yoani's irrepressible spirit) is Reinaldo's post on his own blog, Desde Aqui, on December 31, 2008 (que clase de año nuevo!), appropriately entitled, "El Año de Yoani." His words are powerful but the picture is indeed worth a thousand words!


  1. Excellent posting, let's hope for the best. I share your view. I do think that Yoani represents the "cubano/a de a pie" in Cuba and everywhere.

  2. While I have been critical of Yoani, I do think some of the attempts to paint her as a stooge of her husband or the Pentagon/CIA are pretty clumsy. At the same time, when we are dealing with classified US programs, well grounded suspicion trying to connect dots is sometimes the best that can be done to try to get to a buried truth.

    And it is not like we have nothing to go on. After all, just in the last month, we have learned about her contacts with foreign embassies and her work with US propoganda outlet Radio Marti. Add to that another high profile instance of (let's be kind) bending the truth to fit her objectives. Now in the last week, we can add to her resume a (fascist) Cuban Liberty Council award winner, as well as someone with an open line to President Obama. Busy girl.

    While we know the US has a police of regime change in Cuba and spends millions on it, something that bears mentioning is the "pilot project" sponsored by the US Government "Office of Transition Initiatives" (OTI), whereby at least a million dollars went to the notorious "Freedom House" organization to "train" and "develop networks" for internet "activists" in Cuba. Who received this training and what networds were built are US secrets. The US Government could help us relieve Yoani of any suspicion of collusion by releasing their work publicly. But this is all secret. After all, the "Office of Transition Initiatives" does not like the world to know who exactly the US Government is training for regime change.

    But I trust that no serious person would believe that Cuba can allow the US Government "Transition" office to train opposition activists and develop organization networks with impunity. The US Government would never allow the Cuban or Iranian Government to do the same thing.

  3. leftside, even by the pathetic standards of the Castro apologists, your insinuations and straw man arguments hit a new low.

    What the Cuban government needs to do is give up its monopoly on political power and stop repressing its own citizens. Citizens who are guilty of nothing other than peacefully exercising their fundamental human rights, including their right to free expression and association.