Cuba's Online Superstar

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Clipping Castro one blog at a time
Cubans are forbidden to log on, yet Yoani Sanchez's website has made her a subversive star

by Matthew Campell

CUBAN dissidents have found a brave new figurehead in Yoani Sanchez, a blogger whose observations about life in one of the world's last communist bastions have angered the state and made her a global celebrity.

Sanchez, a 33-year-old philologist, has attracted a loyal fan base with her gentle mockery of the regime in Havana, which seems to be at a loss over how to rein in "cyber-space rebels".

"They regard me as an enemy of the state," said Sanchez last week in a telephone interview. "That is because the blogging phenomenon has opened up a crack in government control which is almost impossible to repair."

Although it is read all over the world, Sanchez's blog, Generation Y, is blocked in Cuba. However, like Soviet-era homemade samizdat copies of censored books, it circulates on computer memory sticks and CDs as well as on paper.

"I know that I am being read because people recognise me in the street," said Sanchez, who sometimes has had to pose as a Swiss tourist so as to be able to post her blog on the internet from a Havana hotel. "People come up to me all the time to wish me luck."

The government of Raul Castro, 77-year-old brother of the retired Fidel, accuses her of being part of a "counter-revolutionary" conspiracy. Elsewhere she is regarded as a hero: Time magazine recently named her among the 100 most influential people in the world.

As for the Castro "dynasty", she believes that it has run out of steam. "The Cuban system is like one of those gravity-defying houses in Old Havana," she said. "How does it stay up? Maybe one day they pull a small nail from the door and the house comes tumbling down. In today's Cuba, that small nail could be anything."

Perhaps it will be her. 

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.