CubaBrief: Courageous Cubans and The Fracturing of Communist Cuba’s Propaganda Machine

The Economist published in their January 9, 2021 issue a letter to the editor, reproduced below, by Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute explaining that the wariness of Cubans to speak up and back dissidents was due to the fear of being terrorized by Castro’s police state but added that “as the San Isidro Movement shows, this is beginning to change.”

Reason magazine published an article and released a video titled “The Fracturing of Communist Cuba’s Propaganda Machine” that explains one of the factors driving this change. It describes independent Cuban journalist Yoani Sanchez’s role in breaking the information monopoly that is fracturing the Castro regime’s narrative, and how she started in the mid 2000s, and the challenges she faced. Reports by 14ymedio, and other dissident journalists, on the San Isidro Movement and the nonviolent protests to free Denis Solis and their expansion on November 27, 2020 by hundreds of artists and intellectuals placed the dictatorship on the defensive.

Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Cuba watchers should continue to monitor them in 2021.

The Economist, January 9, 2021

Courageous Cubans

The art of dissent” (December 5th) provided an excellent overview of the clash between the state and a growing civil society in Cuba. One quibble. You suggest that Cubans show little interest in supporting dissidents or demanding more freedoms because they are too busy scavenging for food, then imply that a more lenient American embargo might ease shortages and encourage Cubans to be braver. That is rather simplistic.

Shortages of food in Cuba are as chronic as political repression, a consequence of domestic policies that always prioritise political power over all else. For six decades Cubans have been terrorised by a totalitarian state that is as efficient in its repression as it is incompetent in its handling of the economy. Cubans are wary not because they are hungry or busy, but because they are afraid. As the San Isidro Movement shows, this is beginning to change regardless of scarcity or American policy.

Associate director
Cuban Research Institute
Florida International University

Reason, January 6, 2021

The Fracturing of Communist Cuba’s Propaganda Machine

“When I started my blog,” says journalist Yoani Sánchez, “it was like an exorcism of something that was inside of me.”

Jim Epstein | 1.6.2021

“Information is entering through the pores” of Cuban society, journalist Yoani Sánchez tells Reason, a process that is causing the official narrative of the country’s dictatorship “to rupture.”

Sánchez, the founder of 14ymedio, Cuba’s first independent digital media outlet, gained international acclaim in the mid-2000s for her vivid accounts of life under a communist dictatorship—and for her courage in flouting government censorship. “When I started my blog,” she tells Reason, “it was like an exorcism of something that was inside of me.”

“[U]nder the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot: freedom of speech,” noted Time magazine in 2008, listing her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world that year. “The pieces she has been clandestinely sending out from Internet cafés—while posing as a tourist—are often funny, elegantly written and poignant.”

The 45-year-old writer and podcaster, who built her first computer in 1994, is also an avid technologist. In her speeches and public appearances, Sánchez often reflects on how the personal computer, the internet, USB flash drives, and Twitter and other digital platforms have empowered the Cuban people.

Sánchez sat down with Reason in February of 2020 in Guatemala City at a conference organized by the Reason Foundation, the organization that publishes this website. Shortly after she returned to Cuba, the government closed the borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to an increase in the harassment and imprisonment of political dissidents.

Interview by Jim Epstein. Camera by Pablo Gordillo. Motion graphics by Lex Villena.

Music Credits: Cobalt 2 by Tom Quick, Feel It by Stoic