Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yoani Sánchez: a few cards short of a full deck

By Machetera

November 11, 2009

Untreated mental illness is never a lovely thing to gaze upon, so in the case of Yoani Sánchez, the self-proclaimed “blocked” Cuban blogger, it’s hard to fathom the cruelty of a U.S. State Department which in lieu of quietly suggesting psychological help for its client blogger, amplifies and repeats her ravings for the simple reason that they are so very helpful to the propaganda war against Cuba going on fifty years now.

On Monday, November 9, the same State Department which remained stoically silent in the face of so many criminal assaults and murders carried out by its client putschists in Honduras over the past four months, moved itself to issue a statement in which it “strongly deplore[d] the assault on bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, and Claudia Cadelo.” Taking the Cuban government over its knee once again, it delivered a lecture about repression and violence, freedom and reconciliation. There are multiple problems with the State Department’s touching level of concern, though.

First, there’s no independent confirmation of the claims of the three itinerant bloggers that they were forced into a black Chinese car driven by state security and then beaten in order to not attend a seriously strange demonstration (Against violence? In Cuba? Come on…). And considering Yoani’s predilection for gobbling up Cuba’s scarce bandwidth in order to upload pictures and videos of herself, the lack of photographic evidence for the claimed beating is remarkable. The exhibitionist blogger who doesn’t flinch at dressing up as a clownish parody of a German(?) tourist in order to create a spectacle at an otherwise serious gathering of journalists and academics, is suddenly reticent, shy and withdrawn, privately nursing her self-reported wounds with the assistance of her local medical clinic. (Whose services, she naturally does not mention, were provided free of charge.)

When doubts are raised about the oddly dramatic nature of Yoani’s tale, she posts again – still no pictures – accusing the doubting Thomases in her case of engaging in a game of blame-the-victim. It’s a curious pathology. Whether Sánchez is a paranoid bipolar personality, or a bipolar personality with paranoid tendencies is something for Cuban mental health professionals to decide, but the evidence is becoming quite clear – the pronounced and repeated delusions of grandeur coupled with tall tales about persecution which are clearly designed for foreign consumption indicate a troubled young woman whose skewed perception of reality is being stoked, rather than calmed.

Her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, a washed-up ex-journalist with a trail of burned bridges within the Cuban dissident community, bears much of the blame, in my opinion. According to Yoani, she and Reinaldo returned to Cuba from a rather uncomfortable existence in Switzerland where due to his advanced age and inability to master a foreign language, his employment prospects were precisely the same as for any other immigrant in a similar situation – hard, menial, poorly paid. It was not exactly the kind of lifestyle either of them had in mind, and indeed it compares rather unfavorably with swanning around the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana, carting brand new laptops and making hidden camera videos of themselves harassing the hired help while their assistant, Ernesto Hernández Busto, rattles the begging cup on their behalf in Barcelona.

For ages now, Yoani has been longing to be arrested, but her greatest sorrow is that she cannot and never will be arrested in Cuba for the reason she most desires – that of making a fool of herself. She knows very well that she can, however, be arrested for taking money from foreign interests in order to attack Cuba and this is where Hernández Busto’s help is invaluable; putting an extra level of distance between Yoani and her sponsors.

I’ve never considered it particularly productive to wonder about anyone’s possible CIA affiliation, because whether someone is or is not an agent is not the important question – what needs to be asked is whether the person’s activities are or are not useful to the Company. In Yoani’s and Reinaldo’s case, the answer is an indisputable yes. After Yoani’s performance at the Internet discussion sponsored by Temas magazine at Fresa y Chocolate in Havana last week, while Reinaldo was holding an impromptu press conference for the foreign press on the street, she immediately went forth to grant a loony interview to nothing less than the CIA-sponsored Radio Martí.

Claiming that she was forced to wear a ridiculous platinum blonde wig in order to evade the police security around her building (not, it must be noted, to gain entrance to the event at Fresa y Chocolate – that was never her claim) the lies continued to tumble forth, including one about Cuban journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde accusing her of being a CIA agent – something which never crossed Elizalde’s lips. Rosa Miriam’s contribution to the discussion was calm, eloquent, never personal; she pointed out that in regard to the Internet, Cuba is enduring something practically schizophrenic. While the island struggles with the very real technological obstacles imposed upon it by the U.S.-led blockade, outside Cuba, there is an overabundance of criticism unleashed upon it for the censorship claimed by Yoani. “One of the things you have to ask yourself is how such visibility is obtained?…It’s a political manipulation; you have to look at it in context,” said Rosa Miriam.

Yoani is so intimidated by Rosa Miriam that she could not bring herself to even utter her name, nor her real title (editor of, preferring instead to mis-characterize her as an anonymous university professor on the attack, both in the interview with Radio Martí and at her own blog. Jorge Sariol, another Cuban journalist who was present for the performance, wrote the following at his blog:

“Later, came the public participation; some candid, roughly disguised, others incisive, naively disguised, some serious, others neither one nor the other, until one arrived claiming that she was making a ‘mockery of the police persecution’ under cover of a platinum wig that actually made her invisible…well, to herself anyway; she took the wig off theatrically and began to speak, it was more like a soap opera than anything else.

A thousand watt lightbulb vying for attention could not have done it better, because what was said were a few mashed up bits of nonsense that had very little to do with the debate and only provoked a polite rustling from a few of the animatronic seals. I was disappointed by this Yoani, considered by certain press to be one of the 100 most I-don’t-know-what persons in the world.

I disapprove of debates where the arguer is devalued rather than the arguments but in this case that’s not even necessary. I thought that between all that, the discourse had to be of some caliber, or her manners or attitude. But all I saw was a little clown. Worse, a grotesque little clown. And certain foreign colleagues swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.

Or were they dining knowingly?

I don’t know which it was, but something didn’t fit in the comedy I saw.”

Rosa Baéz, another Cuban journalist present reported the event this way, in her article titled “When Lying Becomes a Vice:”

“To encourage this idea of Cuba as a country that restricts Internet access, a number of people have come forth, elevated to the level of [public] ‘figures’ courtesy of dollars and media manipulation. I had the misfortune of participating for the first time, live and in person, in one of the performances of Yoani Sánchez, the ’star blogger,’ otherwise known by this editor as the ‘wormy blogger’ for her obvious animal resemblance, as well as the similar physical characteristics evident between the two, for her ‘relevance’: both serve as bait. There at Fresa y Chocolate, we heard lie after lie, about the supposed censorship of her site, Generación Y (which is completely duplicated elsewhere, also under her name, and is promoted as a ‘Cuban voice’ which in itself proves the fallacy of this supposed censorship: the blog is blocked and yet its clone is allowed to be visible in all its ’splendor?’ It’s completely illogical!) Also in her speech, she referred to certain other supposedly blocked or censored sites, among others that of her partner, Claudia Codelo (Octavo cerco) that also has no proof of being fenced in, not even by the most minimal fence, as can be proven on this screenshot taken from my PC:

I was also able to look at some of the links Yoani shows off at her clone, such as for example Bloggers Cuba; Itinerario blogger (where I got a good laugh at the cyber-terrorism classes she gives at her ‘besieged home.’ How did the 13 or 14 participants get around the ‘police barricade’ outside her home? Are they such modern ninjas that they climbed the outer walls, 14 stories up to her apartment?)”

Baez includes this observation from Rosa Miriam Elizalde:

“It’s tiresome. When we write in the Cuban press, we know well enough, and we’re used to it; what can you do if lots of people are committed to selective reading, to lies instead of reality, to absurdity as a currency? […] But the most tiresome is not this unbearable trickle of platitudes, something that has been taking place for more than four decades with anything that concerns Cuba, and that sooner or later comes down like a deflated hot-air balloon. The most truly exhausting thing is that from day to day, that which could be called ‘the incorporation of lying,’ extends and grows; this frivolous way of putting everything in the country under a prejudicial label. And that’s not only harmful and corrupt, it’s irrational and fanatical.”

And so we come to the latest irrational and fanatical Yoani/Reinaldo production, just days after the wigged display at Fresa y Chocolate; complete with claims of mysterious black security vehicles, secret police beatings, fear of kidnapping – no kidding, that’s why Yoani claimed she refused to enter an unmarked car; she feared being kidnapped or maybe even raped, as though she were in Bogotá rather than Havana. Or Tegucigalpa for that matter.

The scene as written by Yoani/Reinaldo is made for Hollywood:

“Orlando was already inside [the car], immobilized by a karate hold that kept his head glued to the floor. One [of them] put his knee on my chest and the other, hit me in the kidneys from the passenger seat and hit my head so that I would open my mouth and spit out the paper. For a moment I felt as though I would never get out of that car. ‘This is it, Yoani,’ ‘The clowning around is over,’ said the one seated in front who was pulling my hair. In the back seat a rare spectacle ensued: my legs in the air, my face reddening from the pressure and my body in pain, while Orlando was pinned by a professional thug on the other side. I just managed to grab [the thug’s] testicles, through his pants, in an act of desperation. I sunk in my fingernails, imagining that he was going to continue to smash my chest until the very last breath. ‘Kill me already,’ I yelled, with the last breath remaining to me, and the one in the front seat told the younger one ‘Let her breathe.’”

The script was stirring but not uncritically received, except at the State Department and the offices of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz Balart. One commenter noted wryly, “How did Yoani sink her fingernails anywhere when it is obvious that she has none?”

Suddenly the story shifts a little. Yoani tells the BBC that the real bruising blows were delivered to her bum, which naturally she cannot expose, while insisting that her cheek and eyebrow were swollen over the weekend (again miraculously healed by Monday). And ludicrous photos and videos were finally released, reminiscent of the world-class faker Armando Valladares: Yoani With Crutch, Yoani Limping About in Great Pain. But truth be told, Valladares was a piker in comparison to Yoani; his fabulations about paralysis only revealed when he was finally released from prison on the condition that he walk on his own two feet down the stairs from the airplane that delivered him to Miami. Valladares’s lies were concocted to gain his release from prison. Yoani’s on the other hand seem crafted to lead her there, even though the Cuban government is plainly unwilling to indulge this peculiar sick fantasy.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s serious internet deficiency continues; its professional journalists, scientists, educators and technicians struggle daily with the hobbling characteristics of an internet connection that is so slow and costly as to feel positively stone-age in this era of fiber optics and widespread DSL, in the developed world anyway. It must be frustrating and infuriating to continually have to deal with the utter indifference of the foreign press to such an appalling story, as it prefers instead to feast on the pathological sideshow provided by Yoani and Reinaldo. Yet as long as the show completes its designed function; funding the family business while diverting attention from the real news and demonizing Cuba into the bargain, the mental toll it takes on anyone else is very much beside the point.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This article may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the author is cited.


JG: Yoani Sánchez is the Jerry Springer of Cuban blogging: "Look Ma, I'm a star, and the Yankees pay me well."

Her major promoters are the bleeding hearts of Time Magazine and the feminazis of Huffington Post.

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