Cuban authorities block Yoani Sanchez trip to Spain

Sanchez believes that her case would be the "perfect test" to see if the opening up announced by Raúl Castro is real or just an empty declaration

ELPAIS.com Madrid 5 MAY 2008 - 19:50 CET

The Cuban government has set up obstacles for Yoani Sánchez, creator of the blog Generación Y and winner of the EL PAÍS-issued Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize, in her efforts to reach Spain. On the eve of the ceremony where she should be receiving her prize - at Madrid's Circulo de Bellas Artes - the blogger has still not been given permission by the Cuban government to leave the island.

Via telephone from Havana yesterday, Sánchez said she was "pessimistic" but was still clinging to the thread of hope that she could still technically travel to Madrid if she received permission today. "I haven't received any answer from the authorities; and the case is being held up," she explained, adding: "Cuban bureaucracy is very cryptic," making it impossible to know what the next step will be. "I had a flight last Saturday, but I missed it because I couldn't get an answer from the authorities, so I moved the flight to [today]. I have still not been given an answer and I am pessimistic but will keep hoping until the last minute."

Sanchez believes that her case would be the "perfect test" to see if the opening up announced by Raúl Castro is real or just an empty declaration. Despite the fact that her blog has received a lot of attention outside of Cuba, Sanchez has never left the island to promote it or receive a prize. "Now we will see if something is really changing or not," she said.

Sanchez, a 32-year-old Cuban philologist, started the webpage in 2007, not long after the action by a group of Cuban intellectuals, known as the Guerra de los e-mails (War of the emails), began to send shockwaves through cyberspace. In just a few months, Generación Y had become the island's most popular blog, with more than a million visitors per month. This page, filled with ingenious criticisms of the government, is published over a German server. Sanchez also belongs to the editorial board for the digital magazine Consenso, pushed by her husband, the journalist Reynaldo Escobar.

In spite of everything Sánchez does not consider she is a cyber-dissident. Instead, she chooses the term "free electron," Her success is such that she has been included this month in the list of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people on the planet. Yoani Sánchez was awarded in the category for best public work on the internet. The judges took into account the perspicacity with which Generación Y had pushed the limits of free expression allowed in Cuba. It also recognized the vibrant and direct style of the information and the "energy with which she has fitted herself within the space of citizen journalism."

The lack of free press in Cuba has been criticised by Reporters without Borders in their last report. This organization has stated that the island is "of the biggest jails in the world" for reporters, second only to China.

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