How credible is Human Rights Watch on Cuba?

Human Rights Watch does not see the US blockade of Cuba as a human rights abuse.

By Tim Anderson

February 11, 2010 -- In late 2009 the New York-based group Human Rights Watch published a report titled New Castro Same Cuba. Based on the testimony of former prisoners, the report systematically condemns the Cuban government as an “abusive” regime that uses its “repressive machinery … draconian laws and sham trials to incarcerate scores more who have dared to exercise their fundamental freedoms”.

The group says it interviewed 40 political prisoners and claims to have identified extraordinary laws by which Cubans can be imprisoned simply for expressing views critical of their socialist system.

At first glance one might be forgiven for thinking that Cuba must be among the worst of human rights abusers in the Americas. A little reflection, however, might lead one to question such statements coming from the USA, a country with thousands held in an international network of secret prisons, many subject to torture regimes.

So how credible is this scathing report on Cuba? And who does Human Rights Watch represent?

Answering the latter question is a little more difficult than it is for other organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), established by the US government, or even the France-based Reporters without Borders (RSF), funded directly by the US State Department for some of its anti-Cuba campaigns. In the manner of "embedded journalists" who travel with US troops around the world, the NED and RSF can be considered "embedded watchdogs", helping to legitimise or delegitimise regimes, consistent with US policy.

`Privatised, US-based selection of issues'

Human Rights Watch, however, is not funded by the US government. Yet it gets most of its funds from a variety of US foundations, in turn funded by many of the biggest US corporations. These wealthy, private foundations often tie their contributions to particular projects. So for example HRW's Middle East reports often rely on and acknowledge grants from pro-Israel foundations. Other groups ask for a focus on women’s rights or HIV/AIDS issues. More than 90% of HRW’s US$100 million budget in 2009 was "restricted" in this way. In other words, HRW offers a privatised, wealthy, US-based selection of rights issues.

The coordination of all these interests is best illustrated through HRW’s new chairperson, James F. Hoge Jr. A publisher and journalist, Hoge was editor of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 2009, and a prominent member of that magazine’s sponsor, the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR, regarded as the most influential of US foreign policy think tank, includes much of the US corporate elite (including banks and media) as well as past and present leaders of the two major parties. Past US secretaries of state, such as Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, and the current US secretary of deence Robert Gates are CFR members. It is really a "Who’s Who" of the US elite.

The HRW board is similarly dominated by the US corporate elite, such as banking and corporate media executives, and some academics, but not government officials. The board includes former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda (a former Marxist academic turned right-wing politician), while Chilean-born lawyer José Miguel Vivanco serves as director of HRW’s Americas division.

Vivanco has been the subject of most controversy in Latin America through his attacks on Venezuela and Cuba. If HRW has at times appeared to be acting somewhat independently of US foreign policy, for example, when it supported the US "war on terror" but criticised US operations in Iraq, this has not been the case in Latin America, where the group has closely followed Washington’s line.

Of the HRW's reports on Latin America over the past few years, the only systematic criticism of regimes has been of Venezuela and Cuba. Reports on Brazil, Honduras and Mexico have been on much more specific issues, such as police violence, transgender people's rights and military justice. When it comes to Colombia, HRW has published reports on the use of landmines and the "paramilitary mafias". The latter report does note that Colombia has had worse violence "than almost any other country in the western hemisphere". Indeed, Colombia is way ahead of any other Latin American country in terms of the murder of trade unionists, journalists, lawyers and ordinary people. The Colombian military and its allied right-wing militias have been responsible for most of this slaughter, yet HRW blames left guerrillas and right militias equally, without implicating the regime of Alvaro Uribe, the major Latin American recipient of US aid.

Biased reports

On the other hand, the group’s December 2008 report on Venezuela (A Decade Under Chavez) had an open political motivation. According to Vivanco, it was written “because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone”. That report was roundly criticised by more than a hundred academics for not meeting "even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy of credibility". Rather than a careful report on human rights, it was an attempt to discredit a government, mainly on the basis on allegations of "political discrimination" in employment and the judiciary. The evidence was poor and the approach anything but systematic. HRW disregarded this criticism.

The recent report on Cuba (Different Castro, Same Cuba) is a similar attempt to pillory an entire social system on the basis of some anecdotes. As has been the case for some years, the major US focus on "human rights" in Cuba is on the few dozen people arrested and jailed for what HRW says was simply pursuing their basic rights. The Cuban government says most of these people were taking money from US programs designed to overthrow the Cuban social system. HRW ignores Cuba’s right to protect itself from Washington’s interventionist programs.

In respect of the 40 former prisoners said to have been interviewed in Cuba, HRW draws attention to what it calls a law:

“that allows the state to imprison individuals before they have committed a crime, on the suspicion that they might commit an offence in the future … This ‘dangerousness’ provision [refers to] any behaviour that contradicts socialist norms. The most Orwellian of Cuba’s laws, it captures the essence of the Cuban government’s repressive mindset.”

Other laws have been used, it says, which:

“criminalize the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including laws penalizing contempt, insubordination, and acts against the independence of the state. Indeed, article 62 of the Cuban constitution prohibits the exercise of any basic right that runs contrary to ‘the ends of the socialist state’.”

HRW also claims that in January 2009 a number of young people in eastern Cuba were charged with "dangerousness" simply for being unemployed. One was said to have been jailed for two years just “for being unemployed”. HRW notes that Cuba links some arrests to “a US policy aimed at toppling the Castro government … However, in the scores of cases Human Rights Watch examined for this report, this argument falls flat.”

Let’s examine some of the legal and practical aspects of these claims.

Firstly, article 62 of the Cuban constitution actually says that citizens liberties "cannot be used against that established by constitution and the law, nor against the existence and objects of the socialist state, nor against the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism". That is not the same thing as "prohibiting the exercise of any basic right that runs contrary to ‘the ends of the socialist state'". Dissent is not the same thing as attacking the constitutional order.

Legally, there is indeed a principle of "social dangerousness" in Cuban law, but is a concept that qualifies criminal and other offences. For example, "social dangerousness" can aggravate an "act" which is an offence under labour law (Law 176). Conversely, under the Penal Code (art. 14) the absence of "social dangerousness" can mitigate the penalty for an offence. The "dangerous state" defined by the Penal Code (art. 72) is also a qualifier to a range of anti-social conduct, including drunkenness.

In other words, the HRW focus on "dangerousness" is an artefact. There is no substantive offence of "dangerousness". It is a qualifier to actual conduct. Similarly ,the fact of being unemployed in Cuba is not any sort of offence. That is just absurd.


However in the case of the celebrated "dissidents" – which include many of the "independent journalists" and "human rights defenders" funded by the US State Department and USAID programs to promote a "transition" in Cuba – the possession of large amounts of money while unemployed can constitute evidence of an offence.

For example, "dissident" Oscar Espinosa Chepe had been unemployed for 10 years at the time of his March 2003 arrest, yet he had more than $7000 hidden in the lining of his suit. That money could have been in the bank with his other savings, but it had recently come from a US-linked group. Similarly, Raúl Rivero, Héctor Palacios, Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés and others were charged because there was evidence (including receipts) that they had received money from US programs aimed to overthrow the Cuban constitution. The HRW report ignores this evidence.

The same Miami groups that sent money to these Cubans (but note, most of the US government money stays in Miami, provoking conflicts within these groups) had organised bombings of tourist hotels in Cuba in the late 1990s. Cuban authorities are unsurprisingly intolerant of this terrorism. The March 2003 arrests were provoked by Cuban fears that the Bush regime would mount an Iraq-style invasion, making use of these paid agents.

After the New Castro report, Human Rights Watch maintained its campaign on behalf of the US-funded "dissidents". It demanded in January 2010 that the Cuban government "immediately cease its harassment of the blind human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva, a leader of the Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs". González Leiva heads the Camagüey chapter of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, a body which has been funded by Washington via Miami for at least a decade.

Some US "aid" for Cuban agents bypasses Miami. The US government directly supports the "independent journalists" over whom both Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and HRW express so much righteous anger. The US Interests Section in Havana (the de facto embassy) directly prints the Revista de Cuba magazine of the "Márquez Sterling Journalists Society", while El Disidente magazine is printed in Puerto Rico but distributed through the Interests Section.

This information is published in some detail in Cuba but is barely mentioned by HRW, or in any other US reports. Since the US "consensus" has effectively disqualified the entire Cuban system, no regard need be paid to such detail. Yet there can be no doubt that independent countries have the right to self-defence from US subversion and terrorism.

HRW does not condemn US blockade

HRW says the 50-year economic blockade by the US of Cuba has failed, but (unlike the 187 countries that voted against the blockade at the United Nations in 2009) the New York-based group does not condemn this blockade as a violation of human rights.

Rather, HRW argues that Cuba uses the blockade as a pretext for repression. It proposes a new program against Cuba where Europe and Latin America join with Washington in demanding "the unconditional release of all political prisoners", including "the 53 dissidents still in prison from the 2003 crackdown". If these demands do not achieve their end, then countries, including the US, "should be able to choose individually whether or not to impose their own restrictions on Cuba". In fact, the US is the only country with such sanctions against Cuba.

This sort of "human rights intervention" is consistent with US foreign policy in Latin America. Dispensing with troublesome, independent regimes was practised ad nauseum throughout the "American Century", and was always backed by the US corporate elite. Delegitimisation campaigns have always preceded "regime change", for example in Guatemala and Chile. Human Rights Watch apparently sees no abuse of human rights in such interventions.

Sitting down with CIA agents

José Miguel Vivanco has sat on panels with Caleb McCarry, the Bush-appointed and Washington-based "Transition Administrator" for a "Free Cuba", without a word about the appalling human rights abuse implicit in one country pretending to organise the political "transition" of another country. On this count, HRW needs a little homework on article 1 of the International Bill of Rights, which sets out the "right of a people to self-determination".

Vivanco has similarly spoken on panels with former CIA agents Frank Calzon and Carlos Montaner, people who have personally organised terrorist attacks on Cuba. He did not sit down to condemn them for these attacks, but rather to concur with them over support for the US-backed "dissidents". Such is the flexibility of his advocacy.

As a reward for his services, in June 2009 Vivanco received a National Endowment for Democracy award for his work for "Democracy in Cuba". This made the US government link quite clear.

US propaganda campaigns against Cuba have not flagged in half a century, and HRW is just one of the more recent contributors. Responding to cries from the US for "human rights and freedom", one Cuban diplomat wearily replied, "of course, and the US has a very long history in this, from Batista, Somoza, Trujillo, Duvalier, Pinochet, Videla", referring to the US-backed dictators of Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Chile and Argentina.

All the prisoners HRW spoke with had been released. One wonders what the HRW report might have said had it discovered a hidden prison in Cuba where hundreds were held without charge, tortured and argued to be beyond the reach of any legal system?

In the case of those prisoners – held by the US military in occupied Cuba, at Guantanamo Bay – HRW wrote (in January 2010) that US President Barrack Obama should “renew his pledge” to close the prison. No condemnation of the "abusive" Washington regime for its "repressive machinery". But why should we expect such candour and self-criticism from the US elite?

The lesson from the Human Rights Watch reports on Cuba is that we have nothing to learn about the little Caribbean island – whether on its weaknesses or strengths – from a self-appointed organisation which represents the US corporate and foreign policy elite.

[Tim Anderson is a senior lecturer in political economy at Sydney University.]

A note on sources: Some detail of the charges against the "dissidents" arrested in March 2003 was published at that time by Cuba’s foreign ministry (MINREX), and remains online. More detail emerged in the 2003 book The Dissidents by Cuban journalists Luis Báez and Rosa Miriam Elizalde. Many articles on the US-funded organisations (mostly Miami-based, but also the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders) that work with the US government against Cuba have been written by the French-Canadian journalist Jean-Guy Allard, French academic Salim Lamrani and US journalist Diana Barahona. Human Rights Watch funders appear in its annual reports and linked funding is often acknowledged in its country reports.]

¿Es creíble Human Rights Watch cuando habla de Cuba?

Por Tim Anderson
Traducido para Rebelión por S. Seguí

A finales de 2009, la organización Human Rights Watch (HRW), con razón social en Nueva York, publicó un informe titulado Un nuevo Castro, la misma Cuba. Basándose en el testimonio de ex presos, el informe condenaba de manera sistemática al gobierno cubano, calificándolo de tiránico y acusándolo de utilizar “su maquinaria represiva, leyes draconianas y juicios arbitrarios para encarcelar a decenas de personas que osaron ejercer sus libertades fundamentales”.

El grupo afirma que entrevistó a 40 prisioneros políticos y que analizó las leyes extraordinarias que permiten que los cubanos puedan ser encarcelados simplemente por expresar opiniones críticas de su sistema socialista.

A primera vista, se nos podría perdonar por pensar que Cuba es uno de los peores violadores de los derechos humanos en las Américas. Sin embargo, la más somera reflexión podría llevar a cuestionar tales declaraciones procedentes de los EE.UU., un país con miles de prisioneros mantenidos en una red internacional de cárceles secretas, muchos de ellos sometidos a regímenes de tortura. 

¿Es creíble este informe crítico sobre Cuba? ¿A quién representa Human Rights Watch?

La respuesta a la última pregunta es un poco más difícil que en el caso de otras organizaciones como la National Endowment for Democracy (NED), establecida por el gobierno de los EE.UU., o incluso Reporteros sin Fronteras (RSF), con sede en Francia y financiada directamente por el Departamento de Estado usamericano en algunas de sus campañas contra Cuba. A la manera de los “periodistas empotrados” que viajan con las tropas de EE.UU. en todo el mundo, la NED y RSF pueden ser considerados “vigilantes empotrados” que contribuyen a legitimar o deslegitimar determinados gobiernos en función de la política de EE.UU.

Human Rights Watch, sin embargo, no está financiada por el gobierno de los EE.UU., si bien obtiene la mayor parte de sus fondos de una serie de fundaciones usamericanas a su vez financiadas por muchas de las mayores corporaciones de este país. Estas fundaciones, privadas y adineradas, suelen vincular sus contribuciones a proyectos específicos. Así, por ejemplo, los informes de HRW sobre Oriente Próximo a menudo se basan en informes de fundaciones pro israelíes y reciben financiación de las mismas. Otros grupos piden un enfoque sobre los derechos de la mujer o el VIH/SIDA. Más del 90% de los 100 millones de dólares del presupuesto de HRW para 2009 estuvo “limitado” de esta manera. En otras palabras, HRW ofrece una selección de asuntos privatizada y realizada en EE.UU. que sirve a los intereses de los ricos.

La coordinación de todos estos intereses se ilustra con toda claridad por medio del nuevo presidente de HRW, James F. Hoge, Jr., editor y periodista, redactor jefe de la publicación Foreign Affairs, de 1992 a 2009, y miembro prominente del patrocinador de la misma, el Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), ubicado en Nueva York. El CFR, considerado como el más influyente think tank de la política exterior de los EE.UU., incluye gran parte de la elite empresarial usamericana (entre otros los bancos y los medios de comunicación), así como líderes pasados y presentes de los dos grandes partidos. Ex secretarios de Estado como Henry Kissinger y Condoleezza Rice, y el actual secretario de Defensa Robert Gates, son miembros del CFR. Su lista de miembros es realmente un Quién es quién de las elites usamericanas.

El consejo directivo de HRW está igualmente dominado por la elite corporativa de EE.UU., como la banca y los grandes medios de comunicación, y algunos académicos, aunque no por funcionarios del gobierno. El consejo directivo incluye al ex ministro de Asuntos Exteriores mexicano Jorge Castañeda (académico que una vez fue marxista reconvertido en político de derecha), mientras que el abogado de origen chileno José Miguel Vivanco es director de la División de las Américas de HRW.

Vivanco ha sido objeto de una gran controversia en América Latina a causa de sus ataques contra Venezuela y Cuba. Si HRW a veces parecía actuar con cierta independencia de la política exterior de EE.UU., por ejemplo cuando apoyó la “guerra contra el terrorismo” pero criticó las operaciones de este país en Iraq, éste no ha sido el caso en América Latina, donde el grupo ha seguido al pie de la letra la línea de Washington.

De todos los informes de Human Rights Watch sobre América Latina de los últimos años, los únicos gobiernos a los que se les ha hecho estas críticas sistemáticas son los de Venezuela y Cuba. Otros informes, sobre Brasil, Honduras y México, han tratado de cuestiones mucho más concretas, como la violencia de la policía, los derechos de los transexuales o la justicia militar. Cuando se trata de Colombia, HRW ha publicado informes sobre el uso de minas terrestres y sobre las “mafias paramilitares”. Este último informe de hecho recoge que Colombia tiene un más alto nivel de violencia “que casi ningún otro país en el hemisferio occidental.” En realidad, Colombia está por delante de cualquier otro país latinoamericano en número de asesinatos de sindicalistas, periodistas, abogados y personas corrientes. Los militares colombianos y sus aliados de las milicias de extrema derecha han sido responsables de la mayor parte de estas masacres y sin embargo HRW culpa a la guerrilla de izquierda y a las milicias de derecha por igual, sin implicar al régimen de Álvaro Uribe, el mayor receptor ayuda usamericana en América Latina.

Parcialidad en los informes

Por otra parte, el informe del grupo de diciembre de 2008 sobre Venezuela, titulado Una década de Chávez, tuvo una motivación política clara. Según Vivanco, fue escrito “porque queríamos demostrar al mundo que Venezuela no es un modelo para nadie”. Dicho informe fue duramente criticado por más de un centenar de académicos por no cumplir “ni siquiera los estándares mínimos en materia de calidad académica, imparcialidad, exactitud o credibilidad.” Más que un informe detallado sobre los derechos humanos era un intento de desacreditar a un gobierno, principalmente sobre la base de las acusaciones de “discriminación política” en el empleo y el poder judicial. La evidencia era escasa y el enfoque en absoluto sistemático. HRW rechazó estas críticas.

El reciente informe sobre Cuba (Un nuevo Castro, la misma Cuba) es un intento de poner en la picota todo un sistema social basándose en algunas anécdotas. Al igual que desde hace algunos años, EE.UU. ha centrado su enfoque sobre derechos humanos en Cuba las pocas docenas de personas detenidas y encarceladas por lo que HRW considera que es simplemente la defensa de sus derechos básicos. El gobierno cubano dice que la mayoría de estas personas aceptaban dinero proveniente de los programas de EE.UU. para derrocar el sistema social cubano. HRW ignora el derecho de Cuba a protegerse de los programas intervencionistas de Washington.

Con respecto a los 40 ex presos que afirma haber entrevistado en Cuba, HRW llama la atención sobre lo que denomina una ley:

“… que permite al Estado encarcelar a personas antes de que hayan cometido un delito, bajo la sospecha de que pudieran cometer un delito en el futuro… Esta disposición de “peligrosidad” [se refiere] a cualquier conducta que contradiga las normas socialistas. Es la más orwelliana de las leyes de Cuba y refleja la esencia de la mentalidad represiva del gobierno cubano.”

Otras leyes se han utilizado, afirma, para:

“… tipificar como delito el ejercicio de libertades fundamentales, en particular leyes que penalizan el desacato, la insubordinación, y las acciones contra la independencia del Estado. En efecto, el artículo 62 de la Constitución cubana prohibe el ejercicio de cualquier derecho básico que sea contrario a “los fines del Estado socialista”.

HRW también afirma que en enero de 2009 algunos jóvenes de la zona oriental de Cuba fueron acusados de “peligrosidad” simplemente por estar desempleados. Se decía que uno de ellos había sido encarcelado durante dos años, sólo por estar desempleado. HRW señala que Cuba vincula algunas detenciones a “una política usamericana destinada a derrocar al gobierno de Castro... Sin embargo, en las decenas de casos que Human Rights Watch examinó para la elaboración de este informe, esta afirmación no se sostiene. 

Examen de algunos de los aspectos jurídicos y prácticos de estas afirmaciones.

En primer lugar, el artículo 62 de la Constitución cubana dice textualmente que “Ninguna de las libertades reconocidas a los ciudadanos puede ser ejercida contra lo establecido en la Constitución y las leyes, ni contra la existencia y fines del Estado socialista, ni contra la decisión del pueblo cubano de construir el socialismo y el comunismo. La infracción de este principio es punible.” (1) Eso no es lo mismo que “prohibir el ejercicio de cualquier derecho básico que vaya en contra de 'los fines del Estado socialista’. La disidencia no es lo mismo que atacar el orden constitucional.

Legalmente, hay ciertamente el principio de “peligrosidad social” en la legislación cubana, pero se trata de un concepto que tipifica las infracciones penales y de otro tipo. Por ejemplo, la peligrosidad social puede agravar un “acto” que sea un delito en virtud de la legislación laboral (Ley 176). Por el contrario, en el Código Penal (art. 14) la ausencia de “peligrosidad social” puede mitigar la pena por un delito. El “estado peligroso”, definido por el Código Penal (art. 72) tipifica también una serie de conductas antisociales, como la embriaguez.

En otras palabras, el enfoque de Human Rights Watch sobre “peligrosidad” es un montaje. No hay delito sustantivo de “peligrosidad”. Es un calificativo a la conducta real. Asimismo, el hecho de estar desempleado en Cuba no constituye ningún tipo de delito; es sencillamente absurdo.

Los “disidentes”

Sin embargo, en el caso de los famosos “disidentes” –entre los que se incluyen muchos de los calificados de periodistas independientes y defensores de derechos humanos, financiados por el Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. y los programas de USAID para promover una “transición” en Cuba— la posesión de grandes cantidades de dinero, en una situación de desempleo, puede constituir una prueba de delito.

Por ejemplo, el “disidente” Oscar Espinosa Chepe estaba en paro desde hacía diez años en el momento de su detención en marzo de 2003; sin embargo, tenía más de 7.000 dólares escondidos en el forro de su traje. Ese dinero podía haber estado en el banco junto con sus otros ahorros, pero lo había conseguido recientemente de un grupo vinculado a Estados Unidos. Del mismo modo, Raúl Rivero, Héctor Palacios, Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés y otros fueron acusados porque había pruebas (entre otras, recibos) de que habían recibido dinero de los programas de EE.UU. destinados a derrocar la Constitución cubana. El informe de HRW hace caso omiso de esta evidencia.

Los mismos grupos de Miami que enviaron el dinero a estos cubanos (aunque la mayor parte del dinero del gobierno usamericano se queda en Miami, lo que provoca conflictos dentro de estos grupos) eran los que habían organizado los atentados de los hoteles turísticos en Cuba en la década de 1990. No es sorprendente que las autoridades cubanas sean intolerantes ante este terrorismo. Las detenciones de marzo de 2003 fueron provocadas por los temores de Cuba de que el régimen de Bush pudiera organizar una invasión al estilo de Iraq haciendo uso de estos agentes pagados.

Tras el informe sobre el Nuevo Castro, HRW mantuvo su campaña en favor de los “disidentes” financiados por Estados Unidos. En enero de 2010 ha exigido que el gobierno cubano “ponga fin de inmediato al hostigamiento del invidente y defensor de los derechos humanos Juan Carlos González Leiva, líder del Consejo de Relatores de Derechos Humanos”. González Leiva encabeza el capítulo de Camagüey de la Fundación Cubana de Derechos Humanos, un organismo que ha sido financiado por Washington a través de Miami por lo menos durante diez años.

Una parte de la ayuda usamericana a los agentes cubanos pasa por alto a los cubanos de Miami. El gobierno de EE.UU. apoya directamente a los “periodistas independientes”, sobre los que tanto Reporteros Sin Fronteras (RSF) como Human Rights Watch manifiestan su santa indignación. La Sección de Intereses de EE.UU. en La Habana (la embajada usamericana de facto) imprime directamente la Revista de Cuba de la Marquez Sterling Journalist Society, mientras que la revista El Disidente se edita en Puerto Rico pero se distribuye a través de la citada Sección de Intereses.

Esta información se publica con cierto detalle en Cuba, pero es apenas mencionada por HRW, o en cualquier otro informe EE.UU. Dado que el “consenso usamericano” ha descalificado de manera efectiva el sistema cubano en su totalidad, no es preciso tener en cuenta este pequeño detalle. Sin embargo, no puede haber ninguna duda de que los países independientes tienen derecho a la autodefensa ante la subversión y el terrorismo usamericanos. 

HRW no condena el bloqueo de EE.UU.

HRW afirma que los 50 años de bloqueo económico de los EE.UU. sobre Cuba han sido un fracaso, sin embargo, a diferencia de los 187 países que votaron en la ONU en contra del bloqueo en 2009, este grupo con sede en Nueva York no lo condena como una violación de los Derechos Humanos.

Por el contrario, HRW afirma que Cuba utiliza el bloqueo como un pretexto para la represión. Propone un nuevo programa contra Cuba en el que Europa y América Latina se unan a Washington para exigir “la liberación incondicional de todos los presos políticos”, incluyendo “los 53 disidentes aún en prisión desde la oleada represiva de 2003.” Si estas demandas no logran su fin, entonces estos países, incluido EE.UU., “deben ser capaces de elegir individualmente si procede o no imponer sus propias restricciones sobre Cuba.” De hecho, EE.UU. es el único país que impone tales sanciones contra Cuba.

Este tipo de intervención con el pretexto de los derechos humanos es coherente con la política exterior de EE.UU. en América Latina. La eliminación de regímenes independientes molestos ha sido una práctica ad nauseam durante todo el siglo americano y fue siempre apoyada por la elite corporativa de EE.UU. Las campañas de deslegitimación siempre han precedido el “cambio de régimen”, por ejemplo, en Guatemala y Chile. Human Rights Watch, al parecer, no ve un abuso de los derechos humanos en dichas intervenciones.

Compartiendo mesa con agentes de la CIA

José Miguel Vivanco ha formado parte de paneles con Caleb McCarry, designado por el gobierno de Bush como “administrador de la transición hacia una Cuba libre”, sin decir una sola palabra acerca del terrible abuso de los derechos humanos implícito en el hecho de que un país pretenda organizar la “transición política” de otro. En este aspecto, HRW tiene que hacer sus deberes en lo relativo al artículo 1 del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos (2), que establece: “Todos los pueblos tienen el derecho de libre determinación.”

Vivanco también ha hablado en paneles en los que formaban parte ex agentes de la CIA como Frank Calzón y Carlos Montaner, personas que han organizado personalmente ataques terroristas contra Cuba. En ningún momento se sentó para condenarlos por estos ataques, sino más bien estuvo de acuerdo con ellos sobre el apoyo a los disidentes respaldados por Estados Unidos. Así de flexibles son sus posiciones.

Como recompensa por sus servicios, en junio de 2009 Vivanco recibió un premio del National Endowment for Democracy por su trabajo titulado “La democracia en Cuba”, con lo que quedó claro su vínculo con el gobierno de EE.UU.

Las campañas de propaganda de EE.UU. contra Cuba no han disminuido en medio siglo, y HRW es sólo uno de los colaboradores más recientes. Respondiendo a las quejas de EE.UU. sobre los “derechos humanos y la libertad”, un hastiado diplomático cubano respondió “Por supuesto, EE.UU. tiene una larga historia en esta materia, con los Batista, Somoza, Trujillo, Duvalier, Pinochet, Videla”, en referencia al respaldo de Estados Unidos a los dictadores de Cuba, Nicaragua, República Dominicana, Haití, Chile y Argentina.

Todos los presos con quienes habló Human Rights Watch habían sido liberados. Uno se pregunta qué hubiera dicho en su informe HRW de haber descubierto una prisión secreta cubana donde cientos de personas estuvieran detenidas sin cargos, fueran torturadas y ubicadas fuera del alcance de cualquier sistema jurídico.

En el caso de estos prisioneros –retenidos por los militares de EE.UU. en la Cuba ocupada, en Guantánamo— HRW escribió (en enero de 2010) que el presidente Barack Obama debe “renovar su compromiso” para cerrar la prisión. No hay condena del “abusivo” régimen de Washington por esta maquinaria represiva. Pero, ¿por qué deberíamos esperar tal sinceridad y la autocrítica de la elite de EE.UU.?

La lección que nos enseña el informe de derechos humanos de Human Rights Watch sobre Cuba es que nada nos tiene que enseñar sobre la pequeña isla del Caribe –ya sea en sus debilidades o fortaleza– una sedicente organización de derechos humanos que representa a la elite corporativa y de política exterior usamericana.

N.B. Algunos detalles de los cargos contra los “disidentes” arrestados en marzo de 2003 se publicaron en su momento por el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba (MINREX) y permanecen en línea. Para más detalles véase el libro, publicado en 2003, Los disidentes, de los periodistas cubanos Luis Báez y Rosa Miriam Elizalde. El periodista franco-canadiense Jean-Guy Allard, el académico francés Salim Lamrani y la periodista usamericana Diana Barahona han escrito numerosos artículos sobre la financiación por Estados Unidos de estas organizaciones (en su mayoría con sede en Miami, pero también con sede en París: Reporteros sin Fronteras) que colaboran con el gobierno de EE.UU. contra Cuba. Los financiadores de HRW aparecen en los informes anuales de esta organización, y la financiación vinculada figura a menudo en sus informes del país.



[Tim Anderson es profesor de economía política en la Universidad de Sydney (Australia). S. Seguí es miembro de Rebelión y Tlaxcala, la red de traductores por la diversidad lingüística.]

Alas, this article does not engage in the same rigour as the genuine criticisms of "A Decade Under Chavez". From opening with genetic fallacies, through apologetics of totalitarian aspects of the Cuban constitution, I am left with the impression that anything is justifiable, as long as it can phrased as protecting an existing government from "US subversion".



For half a century, U.S. foreign policy toward Havana, which goal is regime change, has rested on two pillars: drastic economic sanctions that affect all sectors of Cuban society and the organization and financing of internal opposition. Thus, on April 6, 1960 Lester D. Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, recalled in a memorandum to Roy R. Rubottom Jr., then Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, the objective of economic sanctions:

“The majority of Cubans support Castro […] There is no effective political opposition […]. The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [from the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship […].

Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life […] denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”1

From 1959 to 1990, the program of fostering internal dissent was kept secret. But, partially declassified U.S. files confirm the existence of multiple programs to create an opposition to the government of Fidel Castro, which would serve the interests of the United States in their quest for regime change. In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the financial and logistical support to Cuban dissidents became public and was integrated into U.S. law.

Funding internal opposition

During a meeting of the National Security Council on January 14, 1960, Undersecretary Livingston Merchant stated: Our objective is to tighten all our actions with a view to accelerate the development of an opposition in Cuba […]”. Mr. Rubottom added that “the approved program [destined to overthrow the Cuban government] has authorized us to offer our help to elements that oppose Castro’s government in Cuba so that it seems as if its fall might be a result of their own mistakes”.2

Beginning in 1991, convinced that the final hour of the Revolution had come, the U.S. has not hesitated to publicly state their support for internal opposition. Section 1705 of the Torricelli Act of 1992 provides that “the United States will provide assistance to non-governmental organizations suitable for support to individuals and organizations which promote democratic and non-violent change in Cuba”.3

Section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 provides that “The president [of the United States] is authorized to offer assistance and to offer all kinds of support to individuals and non-governmental independent organizations to organize forces with a view towards constructing a democracy in Cuba”.4

The first report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba plans to develop a "solid program of support which favors Cuban civil society" Among the planned measures $ 36 million are intended were earmarked to “support the democratic opposition and the strengthening of the emerging civil society”.5

On March 3, 2005 Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the Bush administration, said they had added $ 14.4 million to the $ 36 million budget contained the 2004 report. Noriega also revealed the identity of some of the Cubans in charge of developing U.S. foreign policy against Cuba, namely, Marta Beatriz Roque, the Damas de Blanco and Oswaldo Payá.6

The second report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in 2006 allocated another $31 million to the internal opposition and guaranteed a continuation of at least $20 million annually “until the dictatorship ceases to exist”.7 The plan included measures to “to train and equip independent journalists of the written, radio and television press in Cuba”.8

The State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) admits to financing the Cuban opposition. According to the Agency, for fiscal year 2009, the amount of aid to Cuban dissidents reached $15.62 million. “The vast majority of this money is intended for individuals on the ground in Cuba. Our objective is to maximize the amount of support that benefits Cubans on the island”.9

The government organization also emphasizes the following point: “We have trained hundreds of journalists over a ten year period whose work has appeared in major international news outlets.” This statement destroys the claims about the independent nature of the opposition journalists in Cuba. Trained and paid by the United States, they respond primarily to the interests of Washington whose goal is, as indicated by the official records of the Department of State, a "regime change" on the island.10

From a legal standpoint, this makes dissidents, who accept the remuneration offered by the USAID, agents in the service of a foreign power, which constitutes a serious violation of the penal code in Cuba, as it would in any country in the world. Aware of this reality, the Agency notes that “no one is required to accept or take part in any United States Government programs if they don’t want to.11

U.S. Interests Section (SINA) in Havana has confirmed this by stating: “It is long-standing US policy to provide humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people, specifically to provide assistance to families of political prisoners”.12

Laura Pollan, of the dissident group Ladies in White, admits to receiving U.S. money: “We unconditionally accept help and support from the extreme right to left.” 13 Opposition figure Vladimiro Roca confesses that the Cuban dissidents are subsidized by Washington saying that the financial aid received is “totally and completely legal.” For the dissident René Gómez, financial support from the United States “is not something you have to hide or be ashamed of.”14 Similarly, the opposition Elizardo Sanchez confirmed the existence of US funding, “The key is not who sends aid, but what is done with it.”15 Likewise, Marta Beatriz Roque said that the financial assistance received from the United States is indispensable for dissident activity.16

Agence France-Presse reported that “dissidents, meanwhile, claim and accept such financial assistance.”17 The Spanish news agency EFE refers to “opposition paid by U.S.”18 According to the British news agency Reuters, “the US government openly provides federally-funded support for dissident activities, which Cuba considers an illegal act”.19

U.S. news agency The Associated Press says that the policy of manufacturing and financing internal opposition is not new: “Over the years, the U.S. government has spent many millions of dollars to support Cuba’s opposition”.20 It also mentions the living standards of dissidents who benefit from the gifts of Washington and while also taking advantage of the Cuban social system:

“Some American funding comes directly from the U.S. government, whose laws call for ousting Fidel Castro and his younger brother Raul, Cuba's new president. USAID, which oversees governmental financial support for "democratic transition" in Cuba, budgeted more than $33 million for Cuban civil society this fiscal year [2008]”.

Nearly all Cubans – dissidents included – have free housing, health care and education through college. Rations of rice, potatoes, soap and other basics get people through part of each month.21

The French newspaper Libération said “Fariñas has never denied that he received 'donations' from the U.S. Interests Section to procure a computer for his activities as an 'independent journalist' on the Internet.”22

Amnesty International acknowledges that the “prisoners of conscience” “received funds and/or materials from the United States government in order to engage in activities the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba”.23

Wayne S. Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Cuba, confirms the subversive nature of American politics. According to him, it is completely “illegal and unwise to send money to the Cuban dissidents.24 He adds that “No one should give money to the dissidents, much less for the purpose of overthrowing the Cuban government” since “when the US declares its objective is to overthrow the government of Cuba and later admits that one of the means of achieving that goal is to provide funds to the Cuban dissidents, these dissidents finds themselves de facto in the position of agents paid by a foreign power to overthrow their own government.” 25

Dissent that lacks any popular base according to Washington

Despite all the political, economic, media and financial resources dedicated to the Cuban opposition, it has always lacked any popular base. Furthermore, it is deeply divided and aged as Jonathan D. Farrar, current head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, bitterly observed in a confidential memorandum of April 15, 2008 entitled “The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba”, directed the State Department.26

The diplomat acknowledged that Cuban President Raul Castro is currently in “a position of undisputed authority" and the role of dissents, is “none”" because Many opposition groups are prone to dominance by individuals with strong egos who do not work well together.Farrar states that the dissidents are old and out of touch”. In effect, thanks to the compensation received, the Cuban dissidents have a lifestyle that no ordinary citizen can afford.27

Farrar admits he is regularly in touch with most of the official dissident movement in Havana”, whose members frequently visit the U.S. Interests Section. However, he states that there is “very little evidence that the mainline dissident organizations have much resonance among ordinary Cubans. Informal polls we have carried out among visa and refugee applicants have shown virtually no awareness of dissident personalities or agendas.28

Farrar explains that this is due to the age of the opponents, most between 50 and 70 and cites Francisco Chaviano, Rene Gomez Manzano and Oswaldo Payá. “They have little contact with younger Cubans and, to the extent they have a message that is getting out, it does not appeal to that segment of society”.The diplomat regretted the infighting and lack of unity within the various groups. His assessment is implacable: “Despite claims that they represent "thousands of Cubans," we see little evidence of such support, at least from the admittedly limited vantage point we have in Havana”. He adds that they have little resonance within Cuban society and do not offer a political alternative to the government of Cuba”.29

Other European diplomats agree with this view, and expressed as much during a meeting with Farrar. “The EU representative at the meeting dismissed the dissidents in the same terms as the GOC, insisting that ‘they do not represent anyone’”.30

There is a reason for this: Cuban society is far from monolithic. Dissatisfied sectors of the population are scathing in their criticism of the authorities when it comes to exposing the contradictions, aberrations, sectarianism and injustice that the Cuban system sometimes engenders. The criticisms are bitter and uncompromising and are broadcast by the Cuban media according to Farrar who notes that "many newspaper articles are very critical of current policies." 31 However, despite the daily challenges, Cubans remain viscerally jealous of their independence and national sovereignty and cannot imagine that one of their compatriots would serve a foreign power that has always longed to regain possession of the island. This is the "anti-imperialist" political legacy left by the nation's forefathers José Martí, Antonio Maceo, Máximo Gómez, Julio Antonio Mella, Antonio Guiteras, Eduardo Chibas and Fidel Castro.

U.S. diplomat gave another reason: the persistent popularity of Fidel Castro among the Cuban people fifty years after coming to power. “It would be a mistake to underestimate […] the support the government has especially in poor communities and with some groups of University students. 32 Farrar emphasizes the “significant personal admiration for Fidel” in Cuban society. 33

The SINA also faults the program that feeds the greed of opponents who are only interested in the revenue gained from the business of dissent. “The greatest effort is directed at obtaining enough resources to keep the principal organizers and their key supporters living from day to day. One political party organization told the COM quite openly and frankly that it needed resources to pay salaries and presented him with a budget in the hope that USINT would be able to cover it. With seeking resources as a primary concern, the next most important pursuit seems to be to limit or marginalize the activities of erstwhile allies, thus preserving power and access to scarce resources”.34

However, Farrar reiterated the importance of the opposition in achieving U.S. goals and, therefore Washington “should continue to support” them while at the same time an alternative way of stimulating the dissident movement in Cuba must be sought.35


1 Lester D. Mallory, « Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mallory) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) », April 6, 1960, Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/4-660, Secret, Drafted by Mallory, in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba : (Washington : United States Government Printing Office, 1991), p. 885.

2 Marion W. Boggs, « Memorandum of Discussion at 432d meeting of the National Security Council, Washington », January 14, 1960, Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records, Top Secret, in Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960 (Washington : United States Government Printing Office, 1991), pp. 742-743.

3 Cuban Democracy Act, Title XVII, Section 1705, 1992.

4 Helms-Burton Act, Title I, Section 109, 1996.

5 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, May 2004. (website consulted on May 7, 2004), pp. 16, 22.

6 Roger F. Noriega, « Assistant Secretary Noriega’s Statement Before the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations », Department of State, March 3, 2005.

7 Condolezza Rice & Carlos Gutierrez, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, July 2006). (website consulted on July 12, 2006), p. 20.

8 Ibid., p. 22.

9 Along the Malecon, « Exclusive : Q & A with USAID », October 25, 2010. (website consulted on October 26, 2010).

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 The Associated Press/El Nuevo Herald, « Cuba : EEUU debe tomar ‘medidas’ contra diplomáticos », May 19, 2008.

13 El Nuevo Herald, « Disidente cubana teme que pueda ser encarcelada », May 21, 2008.

14 Patrick Bèle, « Cuba accuse Washington de payer les dissidents », Le Figaro, May 21, 2008.

15 Agence France-Presse, « Prensa estatal cubana hace inusual entrevista callejera a disidentes », May 22, 2008.

16 Tracey Eaton, « Factions Spar Over U.S. Aid for Cuba », The Houston Chronicle, December 18, 2010.

17 Agence France-Presse, « Financement de la dissidence : Cuba ‘somme’ Washington de s’expliquer », May 22, 2008.

18 EFE, « Un diputado cubano propone nuevos castigos a opositores pagados por EE UU », May 28, 2008.

19 Jeff Franks, « Top U.S. Diplomat Ferried Cash to Dissident : Cuba », Reuters, May 19, 2008.

20 Ben Feller, « Bush Touts Cuban Life After Castro », Associated Press, October 24, 2007.

21 Will Weissert, « Cuban Activists Rely On Foreign Funding », The Associated Press, August 15, 2008.

22 Félix Rousseau, « Fariñas, épine dans le pied de Raúl Castro », Libération, March 17, 2010.

23 Amnesty International, « Cuba. Five Years Too Many. New Government Must Release Jailed Dissidents », March 18, 2008. (website consulted on April 23, 2008).

24 Radio Habana Cuba, « Former Chief of US Interests Section in Havana Wayne Smith Says Sending Money to Mercenaries in Cuba is Illegal », May 21, 2008.

25 Wayne S. Smith, « New Cuba Commission Report : Formula for Continued Failure », Center for International Policy, July 10, 2006.

26 Jonathan D. Farrar, « The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba », United States Interests Section, April 9, 2009, cable 09HAVANA221. (website consulted on December 18, 2010).

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

30 Joaquin F. Monserrate, « GOC Signals ‘Readiness to Move Forward’ », United States Interests Section, September 25, 2009, cable 09HAVANA592, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).

31 Jonathan D. Farrar, « Key Trading Parters See No Big Economic Reforms », United States Interests Section, February 9, 2010, cable 10HAVANA84, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).

32 Michael E. Parmly, « Comsec Discusses Freedom and Democracy With Cubain Youth », United States Interests Section, January 18, 2008, 08HAVANA66, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).

33 Jonathan D. Farrar, « The Speculation on Fidel’s Health », United States Interests Section, January 9, 2009, cable 09HAVANA35, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).

34 Jonathan D. Farrar, « The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba », United States Interests Section, April 9, 2009, op. cit.

35 Ibid.

U.S. Diplomacy and Cuban Dissidence 2/2

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U.S. diplomacy sees the blogger Yoani Sánchez a credible alternative to traditional dissent and rely on her, which explains her international fame while she is totally unknown in Cuba. We believe it is the younger generation of "non-traditional dissidents" such as Yoani Sanchez that is likely to have a greater long term impact on post-Castro Cuba”. Farrar thus advised the State Department to focus its efforts on this dissent and to provide her more support. 36


Indeed, the unusual story of Yoani Sanchez raises some questions. After emigrating to Switzerland in 2002, she returned to Cuba two years later, in 2004. In 2007, she decided to enter the world of the opposition in Cuba to create her blog, Generation Y, and became an outspoken critic of the government of Havana. 37


Her criticisms are bitter and not very nuanced. She presents an apocalyptic view of Cuban and blames the authorities for all problems. She said Cuba is “a huge prison with ideological walls”38, “a ship taking on water about to sink”39, where “creatures of the shadows, like vampires feed on our human happiness, inoculate us with fear of beatings, threats, blackmail.”40 Yoani Sánchez's blog describes Cuba in a terrifying manner and no positive aspect of Cuban society appears. Similarly, she carefully avoids the unique geopolitical circumstances, under which Cuba has been since 1959.


Sanchez has a very precise discourse which often parallels the U.S. position. Thus, she minimizes the impact of economic sanctions claiming they are “an excuse” for the Cuban government, which “is responsible for 80% of the current economic crisis and 20% is economic sanctions.”41 The international community, far from sharing this opinion, condemned the economic siege, in 2010 for the nineteenth consecutive time at the United Nations (187 countries to two), considering it as the main obstacle to the development of the island. She justifies the blockade with the nationalizations that occurred in 1960 and the missile crisis.42 According to Yoani, “the embargo has been the perfect argument for the Cuban government to maintain intolerance, control and internal repression. If tomorrow the sanctions were lifted, I doubt any effects would be noticeable.”43


Regarding the case of five Cuban agents convicted in 1998 to life imprisonment in the United States for infiltrating small groups responsible for terrorist attacks against Cuba, the blogger also adopts the US point of view that “the five were engaged in espionage” and that they “provided information that caused the death of several people”, something that the Miami court was unable to prove.44


Moreover, the Atlanta Court of Appeals acknowledged that this was not a case of espionage, or an attack on national security. No less than ten Nobel Prize recipients filed an Amicus Curiae petition to the U.S. Supreme Court demanding a fair trial and the release of the five Cubans. Mary Robinson, former Irish President and High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations between 1997 and 2002; the Mexican Senate unanimously, with all political parties present; the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; the Cuban-American Scholars; the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen, the National Jury Project, the William C. Velazquez Institute and the Mexican American Political Association; the National Lawyers Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers; the Civil Right Clinic at Howard University School of Law, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers-Miami Chapter, the Center for International Policy and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs have called for the release of the five Cubans.45


This court case has been reported several times. Amnesty International considers the five Cuban to be political prisoners. For his part, Coronel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken against the trial: “But this case sort of takes the cake: to punish with life sentences men who came here to determine how and when their country was going to be attacked by people breaking U.S. law.” He called it a miscarriage of justice explaining, “These men were unarmed, not intent on any physical damage to the United States, and were motivated to protect their fellow citizens from invasion and repeated attacks by Cuban-Americans living in Florida.” He added, “We have to ask also, just how is it that we have become a safe haven for alleged terrorists? How is it that we—the United States of America—may rate a place on our own list of states that sponsor terrorism?”46


Similarly, Yoani Sánchez minimizes the social gains of the Cuban system and claims that “they already existed”47 in Cuba in the years preceding the Revolution. According to her, under the dictatorship of Batista, there “was a freedom of open and plural press, radio programs of all political tendencies”.48 In addition, she defends the Cuban Adjustment Act- unique in the world- approved by the U.S. Congress in 1966, which states that any Cuban who legally or illegally migrates to the U.S. after January 1, 1959 automatically gets permanent resident status after one year, as well as diverse socio-economic assistance.49 Even more unusual, she thinks that Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not deserved his Nobel Prize for Literature due to his friendship with Fidel Castro: “Many Latin American writers deserved the Nobel Prize for literature more than Gabriel García Márquez”.50 Recognizing that the objective of the United States government is to overthrow the Cuban government, she plainly admits that she shares the same goal: “The US wants a change of government in Cuba, but I want it too”.51 Sánchez also reaffirms her will to impose “a sui generis capitalism” in Cuba.52


Thus, in just one year of existence, while there are dozens of longer established blogs that are no less interesting than hers, Sanchez won the Journalism Award Ortega & Gasset, worth 15,000 Euros, on 4 April 2008 granted by the Spanish newspaper El País. Usually, this prestigious award is given to journalists or writers who have a long literary career. This is the first time a person with the Sanchez profile received it. 53 Similarly, she was selected among the 100 most influential people by Time magazine (2008), along with George W. Bush, Hu Jintao and the Dalai Lama.54 Her blog was included in the list of top 25 blogs in the world by CNN and Time magazine (2008) and also won the Spanish and The Bob's awards (2008 ).55 On November 30, 2008, the Spanish newspaper El País included her in its list of 100 most influential Hispanic personalities of the year (list which features neither Fidel Castro or Raul Castro).56 Foreign Policy magazine out did that by including her among the 10 leading intellectuals of the year in December 2008.57 The Mexican magazine Gato Pardo followed suit in 2008.58 The prestigious American University of Columbia granted her the Maria Moors Cabot prize.59 And the list goes on.60


Moreover, the Generation Y site of Yoani Sánchez receives 14 million hits a month and is the only one available in at least 18 languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Lithuanian, Czech, Bulgarian, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Greek). No other site in the world, including those of major international institutions such as UN, World Bank, IMF, OECD and the European Union, has as many language versions. Not even the sites of the US Department of State United States or the CIA have such variety.61 Another unique fact, U.S. President Barack Obama granted an interview to Yoani Sánchez.62


Never has any dissent in Cuba, perhaps in the world, achieved so many international awards in such a short period of time, which have provided Yoani Sánchez enough money to live well in Cuba the rest of her life. In fact, the blogger has been paid up to 250,000 Euros in total - an amount equivalent to more than twenty years of minimum wage salary in a country like France, the world's fifth power. The minimum monthly wage in Cuba is 420 pesos, or 18 dollars or 14 Euros, so Yoani Sanchez has achieved the equivalent of 1,488 years of the Cuban minimum wage for her opposition activities.63


Yoani Sanchez has close relations with U.S. diplomats in Cuba, as has been pointed out by a cable emanating from the USIS classified "secret" due to its sensitive content. The Obama Administration greatly values the Cuban blogger as evidenced by the secret meeting held in her apartment with the U.S. Secretary of State Bisa Williams during her visit to Cuba in September 2010. During her meeting with Williams, Sanchez announced her desire to benefit from the money transfer services of the U.S. company Paypal, which the Cubans cannot use because of economic sanctions, in order that she might more effectively fight for regime change in Cuba: “Do you know what all we could do if we could use Paypal?” This service allows you to receive money from around the world. The dissident has been heard and now the only site in Cuba that can use Paypal services is Generation Y. Although she regularly reports on her daily life, there is no trace of mention on her blog regarding this meeting with Williams, thus demonstrating its clandestine nature. But the diplomatic note revealed the link between the Cuban blogger and U.S. officials in Havana and the importance that Washington gives her.64


Another memorandum also recalls the importance of the interview with President Barack Obama to Sanchez, which contributed to her international press coverage.65


Lack of prospects for the Cuban opposition


However, Farrar is realistic: From our standpoint, however, there are few if any dissidents who have a political vision that could be applied to future governance. Though the dissidents will not acknowledge it, they are not widely known in Cuba outside the foreign diplomatic and press corps […].it is unlikely that they will play any significant role in whatever government succeeds the Castro brothers.66


The U.S. diplomat says the goal is “to support the good work of the dissident movement” in her campaign against the government in Havana, focusing the work on the theme of “human rights” and “political prisoners”- the two weapons Washington wields to maintain economic sanctions against Cuba. This campaign primarily targets international public opinion because, according to Farrar, it does not address the interests of Cubans who are more concerned about having greater opportunities to travel freely and live comfortably.”67


In another cable, USIS also admits being isolated on the issue of human rights in Cuba: “The Cuba overwhelming majority of the 100 foreign missions in Havana do not face a human rights dilemma in their dealings with the Cubans. These countries wouldn’t raise the issue anyway. The rest, a group that includes most of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States, claim to employ different approaches to address their human rights concerns in Cuba -- but the truth is that most of these countries do not press the issue at all in Cuba.”68


The USIS also notes that some U.S. allies, including Canada, do not share the same opinion on the issue of “political prisoners”, and recalls a discussion with their Canadian counterparts: “our Canadian counterparts claimed, if someone takes money from the U.S., does that make him a political prisoner? Canadian diplomacy thereby recognized that all Western nations sanction individuals who are funded by a foreign power with the aim of overthrowing the established order.69


U.S. diplomacy has no illusions about the effectiveness of U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba, which have beget a serious economic crisis in the country. According to the USIS, “The Cuban people have grown accustomed to tough times and will respond to future government belt tightening with similar endurance”70 The USIS dismisses the possibility of a serious crisis and notes that “Cuba and Cubans are not as vulnerable as they were in 1989 before the end of Soviet subsidies.” Moreover, “the standard of living for Cubans, while still not as high as twenty years ago before the end of Soviet subsidies, remains much better than the darkest days of the 1990 to 1993 period when GDP fell more than 35 percent”. Furthermore, “today's Cuban economy is less vulnerable […] thanks to more diversified sources of income and credits, a more resourceful Cuban population.” 71


However, despite economic sanctions imposed by Washington, U.S. diplomacy claims that Cubans do not feel a particular animosity toward its citizens, because Cubans do not consider the public responsible for the government's policy. The USIS emphasizes the Cuban's “positive feelings toward the American people.” 72




Nearly half a century after its elaboration, the U.S. policy, that consists in creating and supporting an internal opposition in Cuba, remains in place. This strategy, underground for nearly thirty years, is now publically claimed, although it is against international law. Thus, the US spends several million dollars a year on the Cuban dissidence. Faced with the erosion of the traditional opposition represented by Oswaldo Payá, Elizardo Sánchez, Vladimiro Roca, Marta Beatriz Roque, Guillermo Fariñas and the Ladies in White, Washington is now looking for the new generation of opponents whose figurehead is the Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.


The dissident's diplomatic contacts allow her access to the White House and regular meetings with senior U.S. officials such as Bisa Williams. To avoid criticism, United States has diversified its manner of support for the Cuban opposition. In addition to direct financial assistance, a “legal” funding mechanism has been devised to compensate the opposition to the government of Havana through prizes in the tens of thousands of dollars as illustrated by the spate of honors bestowed upon Sanchez, the new ninfa Egeria of Washington ,in the space of a few months.


Washington's aim is not to federate the Cuban people around those who advocate a system change in Cuba, since we know their speech is not audible to the island's inhabitants, most of whom remain faithful to the revolutionary process despite the difficulties and vicissitudes of daily life. The opposition allied with the US, in the best case, fuels indifference among Cubans, and often rejection. It is more of a media war. Maintaining the presence of an internal opposition, even without a popular base, helps the US to justify its policy of isolation and sanctions against the Havana government in the name of the struggle for “human rights and democracy.”


Translated by Dawn Gable


First Part:




36 Jonathan D. Farrar, « The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba », United States Interests Section, April 9, 2009, cable 09HAVANA221. (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


37 Yoaní Sánchez, «Mi perfil», Generación Y.


38 France 24, « Ce pays est une immense prison avec des murs idéologiques », October 22, 2009.


39 Yoaní Sánchez, « Siete preguntas », Generación Y, November 18, 2009.


40 Yoaní Sánchez, « Seres de la sombra », Generación Y, November 12, 2009.


41 Salim Lamrani, « Conversaciones con la bloguera cubana Yoani Sánchez », April 15, 2010, Rebelión, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


42 Ibid.


43 Ibid.


44 Ibid.


45 Supreme Court of the United States, « Brief of Amici Curiae of José Ramos-Horta, Wole Soyinka, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nadine Gordimer, Rigoberta Menchú, José Saramago, Zhores Alferov, Dario Fo, Gunter Grass, and Máeread Corrigan Maguire in support of the petition for writ of certiorari », N° 08-987, (website consulted on December 18, 2010). See also (website consulted on December 18, 2010)


46 Granma, « Ex ayudante de Colin Powell denuncia arbitrariedades contra los Cinco », November 24, 2007. (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


47 Salim Lamrani, « Conversaciones con la bloguera cubana Yoani Sánchez », op.cit.


48 Ibid.


49 Ibid.


50 Ibid.


51 Ibid.


52 Mauricio Vicent, « "Los cambios llegarán a Cuba, pero no a través del guión del Gobierno" », El País, May 7, 2008.


53 El País, « EL PAÍS convoca los Premios Ortega y Gasset de periodismo 2009 », January 12, 2009.


54 Time, « The 2008 Time 100 », 2008.,28757,1733748,00.html (website consulted on December 18, 2010)


55 Yoani Sánchez, « Premios », Generación Y.


56 Miriam Leiva, « La ‘Generación Y’cubana », El País, November 30, 2008.


57 Yoani Sánchez, « Premios », op. cit.


58 Ibid.


59 Ibid.


60 El País, « Una de las voces críticas del régimen cubano, mejor blog del año », November 28, 2008.


61 Yoani Sánchez, Generación Y.


62 Yoani Sánchez, « Respuestas de Barack Obama a Yoani Sánchez », Generación Y, November 20, 2009.


63 Yoani Sánchez, « Premios », op. cit.


64 Joaquín F. Monserrate, « GOC Signals ‘Readiness to Move Forward’ », United States Interests Section, September 25, 2009, cable 09HAVANA592, (website consulted on December 18, 2010) ; Yoani Sánchez, « Donar », Generación Y. (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


65 Joaquín F. Monserrate, « U.S.-Cuba Chill Exaggerated, But Old Ways », United States Interests Section, January 10, 2010, cable 10HAVANA9, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


66 Jonathan D. Farrar, « The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba », United States Interests Section, April 9, 2009, op. cit.


67 Ibid.


68 Joaquín F. Monserrate, « Feisty Little Missions Dent Cuba’s Record of Bullying Others to Silence on Human Rights », United States Interests Section, November 9, 2009, cable 09HAVANA706, (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


69 Ibid.


70 Jonathan D. Farrar, « Key Trading Parters See No Big Economic Reforms », United States Interests Section, February 9, 2010, op. cit.


71 Jonathan D. Farrar, « How Might Cuba Enter Another Special Period? », United States Interests Section, June 4, 2009. (website consulted on December 18, 2010).


72 Michael E. Parmly, « Comsec Discusses Freedom and Democracy With Cubain Youth », United States Interests Section, January 18, 2008, op. cit. Doctor in Iberian and Latin American Studies from the University of Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani is a lecturer at the University of Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV and University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, as well as a French journalist, specializing in relations between Cuba and the United States.