Yoani is Not Infallible

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Yoani Sanchez is a talented and courageous democracy activist and journalist.

Her compelling critiques of the Castro dictatorship have even awakened the most virulent anti-American left to consider Cuba's tragic reality.

That is great news for the cause of freedom.

Yoani deserves our respect and admiration.

However, her words are her testimony -- a powerful one at that.  

They are neither scripture nor heresy.

As Professor Andy Gomez of The University of Miami said in today's Miami Herald, "She’s not a politician; she’s not an academic; she’s not a public figure by design and people abroad have made her into a public figure. She’s one of the many — many dissidents on the island. I hope she doesn't burn out."

Of course, opponents of U.S. policy towards Cuba -- both the well-intentioned and the Castro apologists -- are (once again) trying to use her opposition to sanctions to further their agenda.

They did the same thing in 2010 when Congress was considering legislation to ease travel and agricultural financing sanctions toward Cuba (the "Peterson-Berman bill").

At the time, they procured a letter from Yoani and 73 other dissidents opposing sanctions.

This letter was countered by another one signed by nearly 500 dissidents on the island supporting sanctions.

That didn't turn Yoani and the 500 dissidents that publicly disagreed with her into foes. To the contrary, when Yoani has been in trouble, they have sought to help her -- and vice-versa.

That's democracy in a bubble. It's a respectful disagreement among colleagues.

Today, in Brazil, Yoani extended a flawed rationale for lifting sanctions -- that it gets rid of an "excuse" for Castro -- to releasing five Cuban agents serving time in U.S. federal prison for conspiracy to commit murder and espionage.  She was also cornered into advocating for the closing of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo.

Policy-making is not about getting rid of "excuses" for tyrants, for they will simply come up with another one.  Moreover, such decisions have serious implications and deserve more than a frivolous rationale.

Yoani's comment regarding the five Cuban spies was particularly ill-timed, as February 24th is the 17th anniversary of the shoot-down of two civilian planes by Castro's MIGs, which pulverized four young pilots. Some of the convicted spies were implicated in these murders.

As a mother herself, Yoani should know better. The mothers of those four young pilots lost their sons forever.

Perhaps Yoani will reconsider. Give her some time. She's not infallible.

UPDATE:  In a message to The Miami Herald, Yoani has just written, "At no time in Brazil did I ask for the liberation of the five members of (Castro's) Ministry of the Interior. I was using irony to make the point that if they were freed, then Cuba would save the millions it wastes on [the "Free the Five"] campaign that's been ongoing for fifteen years. If my irony didn't work, if my nervousness or my terms didn't make the message clear, please forgive me. My position remains that they are not innocent. Hugs from Sao Paulo, Yoani Sanchez."