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Cablegate: Cuban Refusal to Allow Yoani Sanchez to Travel

VZCZCXRO1669
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #0524 1331043
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121043Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4751
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0274

UNCLAS MADRID 000524

SIPDIS

FOR WHA/CCA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM CU SP
SUBJECT: CUBAN REFUSAL TO ALLOW YOANI SANCHEZ TO TRAVEL
RECEIVES WIDE COVERAGE; ZOE VALDES VISITS MADRID

1. Cuban "bloguera" Yoani Sanchez was chosen by leading
Spanish daily El Pais and the prestigious Spanish foundation
Ortega y Gasset as a 2008 journalism prize winner.
Unfortunately, the GOC did not allow Sanchez to travel to
Madrid to participate in the May 7 awards gala. El Pais (a
left of center paper) carried an interview with Sanchez on
the eve of the awards ceremony in which Sanchez expressed her
(entirely justified, as events proved) pessimism that she
would be allowed to travel. Sanchez, creator of the
"Generacion Y" website, said her travel request was a
"perfect test" of whether Raul Castro's announced opening was
real or merely talk. El Pais carried a second interview with
Sanchez the day after the awards ceremony in which Sanchez
said the GOC had not offered any explanation for refusing her
permission to travel. Asked about reprisals, she noted no
one had knocked on her door and she had no proof, but she
suspected she was under surveillance, her phone tapped, and
that the GOC was trying to frighten her friends.
Nevertheless, she rejected the label dissident. Asked
whether a new political moment had come in Cuba, she said
there was an attempt to make one believe it had, but she had
seen no evidence. She did say there was a new and more
critical attitude among citizens although the forces of
political intolerance had conceded little. She expressed
doubt about the ability of the system to reform itself ("that
which is sick in its essence cannot transform and improve
itself"). Asked about the small changes seen so far, Sanchez
said all the changes to date had one objective: holding onto
power. The idea was to provide a certain improvement in
welfare and relax somewhat the accumulated tensions, but this
would only continue to the point where it imperiled the
regime's control over society.

2. The May 7 awards ceremony was an "A list" event attended
by government, journalism, and literary luminaries.
Attendees at a post-award ceremony cocktail were quizzed
about Sanchez. First President Fernandez de la Vega was
quoted as saying "the rhythm of the changes have to be
decided by the Cubans. Timing in politics is very important.
It is the Cuban people that have to take decisions according
to their necessities and worries, which are many. What we
have to do is help the Cubans so that they have their own
democratic process." Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon
(Popular Party) said the GOC had not "calibrated the
magnitude of the error it had committed upon prohibiting
Yoani Sanchez from attending" the ceremony. He added, "I am
sure that this gesture of power, that could have been one of
tolerance, will end in precipitating more the changes toward
liberty." Secretary of State for Cooperation Leire Pajin
expressed confidence in seeing "important changes" in Cuba.
Whereas former Colombian President Belisario Betancur
described the changes as "superslow" judging by what had
happened to Sanchez. Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon
criticized the lack of an opening on the part of Raul
Castro's government. A May 8 El Pais editorial urged that
Raul Castro "preach by example and not with rhetoric." It
called the GOC's silence in the face of Sanchez' travel
request "the most pusillanimous response." "What are the
Castro authorities afraid of?" asked the paper before saying
the systems of the "sole party" lived paralyzed by the terror
of change.

3. The same week as the Ortega y Gasset ceremony, the Spanish
press covered the visit to Madrid of Cuban writer Zoe Valdes
to promote her book, "La Ficcion Fidel" ("The Fidel
Fiction"). In addition to blasting the Cuban regime, Valdes
told the press in no uncertain terms the Spanish Government
should take a hard line with Raul Castro.

4. Comment: The GOC treatment of Sanchez underscored what we
have been telling the Spanish Government: we will know there
is meaningful change in Cuba when the GOC demonstrates
respect for human rights, including the right of expression
and a free press; frees political prisoners; and allows space
for political dissent.
Llorens

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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