Into the White House, Out of the U.N.

by  and translated by Alex Higson  /  April 1, 2013  / 1 Comment

As Yoani Sánchez gains an audience abroad, Castro supporters turn up the heat.

Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo meet with human rights activists. Photo: Bruno L'Ecuyer.

Recently, from Washington, D.C. to New York, renowned Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez and I have shared some unforgettable days together as pro-democracy activists.

  1. Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
  2. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer, photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009) and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine Voces.

After a complicated process involving application forms and NGOs, we were welcomed in Washington by U.S. Representatives, members of Congress, senators, and by various ministries of the White House and the State Department.

During those very brief, but intense encounters, the focus was on mutual respect for each other’s opinions, the process of building bridges through dialog (something that the Cuban State military will never forgive us for), and on looking towards a future of understanding rather than dwelling on a past of irreconcilable mistrust. There was a lot of good humor too, with smiles replacing the fear that might have still been dwelling in our hearts.

With its monumental spaces and its winter nights, which we shared with a community of Cubans, who until then knew us only through the internet, Washington seemed like the most civil city in the world, free of armed troops guarding government buildings, and with a sea of students excitedly visiting Capitol Hill and the White House. Such a thing would be inconceivable at the ministries in my country.

As part of the Cuban State’s fight to the death against its citizens (on and off of the Island), our presentation to U.N. journalists in New York was boycotted from Havana and, via a top-level protest (supported by anti-democratic nations), they denied us our right to speak in one of the public rooms. Instead, our speech had to take place in a tiny corridor, where Sánchez’s voice resonated like a ray of hope (under the harassment of some Castroist reporters), and the world came to see how human rights are disregarded in today’s Cuba—and perhaps in tomorrow’s too, once Raúl Castro has put in place, once and for all, his State capitalism which no Cuban ever voted for.

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