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Obama responses stun Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez

Yoani Sánchez at home in Cuba. (Reuters)

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez was astounded this week by President Barack Obama's decision to respond a written questionnaire Sánchez submitted to the White House. Still recovering from bruises left by a recent vicious attack by state security agents, she told CPJ from her home in Havana: "This is the best way to get better." 

The blogger said that she had tried for months to reach the U.S. president through different channels. Sánchez said she had sent written questions to Obama through a wide range of different people before the White House responded. On her blog Generación Y, where she has posted Obama's answers to her seven questions, Sánchez explained that the questions were based on issues "that keep me from sleeping," and were born from her personal experience.

"It was a very pleasant surprise," Sánchez said, acknowledging that the chances that Obama would reply were minimal. Before responding to the questions, Obama thanked Sánchez for the opportunity to exchange views with her and her readers in Cuba, and congratulated her for receiving Columbia's University Maria Moors Cabot Award for excellence in Latin American reporting.  

"Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba," Obama wrote. "It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely, and I applaud your collective efforts to empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology. The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals."

Sánchez asked Obama questions that ranged from U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba, to the legitimacy of President Raúl Castro and the potential involvement of the Cuban exile community, the political opposition, and nascent civil society groups.

Sánchez also raised the issue of limited Internet access in Cuba, asking whether the U.S. embargo has anything to do with it. Obama responded by saying that his administration has taken steps "to promote the free flow of information to and from the Cuban people particularly through new technologies." But Obama warned that this will not have its full effect without action from Cuba. "I understand the Cuban government has announced a plan to provide Cubans greater access to the Internet at post offices," said Obama. The president urged the Cuban government "to allow its people to enjoy unrestricted access to the Internet and to information."

When Sánchez asked if he would be willing to travel to Cuba, Obama said he "would never rule out a course of action that could advance the interests of the United States and advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people." Surprising to Sánchez was that Obama said that the U.S. "has no intention of using military force in Cuba."

Sánchez, who has received several international awards and blogs regularly for the U.S.-based Huffington Post, said she was satisfied by Obama's responses, which she described as cautious, moderate, and diplomatic. She has also sent a series of questions to Raúl Castro, but hasn't received a response yet. 

In a recent report, CPJ described the emergence of a vibrant independent blogging community in Cuba. Despite severe legal, economic, and practical restrictions the number of independent journalism blogs has grown since the first few emerged in 2007, CPJ research has found. The bloggers, mainly young and from a variety of professions, critically examine the issues that Cubans face daily: food shortages, health care, education, housing problems, and the lack of Internet access.

Free press advocates and Cuban journalists point to Sánchez as a pioneer in this evolving blogging community. Sánchez, who started blogging in April 2007, was the first to write under her own byline. Generación Y and six Cuban blogs are hosted by the German-based portal Desde Cuba (From Cuba), a place where, as its introduction says, "citizen journalists" can offer "opinions that don't have room in official Cuban outlets or any other publication that is conditioned by political requirements."

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Comments

WOW!!!!!!!!! for Yoani Sanchez.......

Viva Yoani Sanchez! You make me proud of being cuban.

julian l. alfonso November 21, 2009 11:30:47 AM ET

FUERZA A NUESTRA VOZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YOANI TE DIGO QUE GENTE COMO TU SON IGUAL QUE MACEO MARTI Y TODO ESO QUERRERO QUE SI QUERIAN A CUBA ESO 2 HIJO DEL DIABLO PORQUE NO SE PUEDE JUGAR A SU MADRE POR CULPA DE ELLO LUCHA SIEMPRE QUE DESDE AQUI DE LA TIERRA DE LIBERTAD TE VAMOS A POYAR HAY QUE HACERLE SABER AL PUEBLO DE CUBA LA VERDAD YO SOY RAMON GARBEY BOXEADOR FUI GRAN BOXEADOR EN CUBA Y MEDI CUENTA QUE AQUELLO ERA UN DESASTRE CUANDO VISITE LA UNION SOVIETICA EN EL ANO 1987 Y VIZ LA DIFERENCIA DEL COSMUNIMO DE CUBA CON EL DE UNION SOVIETICA TENIA 16 ANO AUNQUE YO SABIA QUE ESE PAIS ERA UN FRAGASO DESDE JOVEN CUANDO EL MARIEL LUCHA HASTA EL FINAL AL IGUAL QUE YO Y TODOS LOS CUBANO QUE ESTAMOS EN MIAMI Y TODAS PARTE DEL MUNDO POR LA LIBERTA DE UN PUEBLO QUE LLEVA 50 ANO DE ESPLOTACION POR 2 HOMBRE SIN ESCLUPULO Y CORAZON NI CENTIMIENTO

yo soy cubana estoy de acuerdo con todo lo que dice yoanis sanchez es una realidad de cuba no somos libres no tenemos libertad de expresion en cuba nadie escucha a nadie botan a las personas de los trabajos sin importarles nada las situacion de las viviendas son insostanibles la miseria y el hambre esta acabando con los cubanos no tenemos derecho a nada somos mas de 11 millones de esclavos de los castro

yoanis sigue adelante eres la voz de los jovenes cubanos es verdad que hace tiempo habia que empesar a desmentir todas las artimanas de los duenos de cuba nosotros no somos nadie

Como el presidente de una de las potencias mas grande y ricas del emisferio,los Estados Unidos de America ;con millones de trabajos a realizar y desarrollar,que de ahi debienen la vida y seguridad de millones de personas,se tomo parte de ese valioso tiempo de trabajo para responder via internet a una simple y pobre damita que vive en un pequeno apartamente en la Habana,Cuba.,que adedmas ni es ciudadana votante del mismo E.U.
Y como el mismo presidente de su propio pais Cuba,con muy pocos problemas que resolver y muy poco que hacer,ya que segun las pruebas palpables,esta destruido y sin trabajo aparente por la ineficacia y desabastecimiento generalizado,no ha podido en varias ocaciones,contestar a la misma damita residente ciudadana por nacimiento de su propio pais y tomarse unos minutos para contestar sus pocas preguntas efectuadas en ocaciones anteriores.
Resumen,porque el "presidente" de Cuba Raul Castro no le responde a Joany Sanchez y Obama que ni es su presidente ni la cabeza de un Guanajo,se tomo el tiempo en su apretadicimo y costo tiempo, el trabajo de contestarle inmediatamente.???...Quien responde?...elnenedeguira

Lo siento Yoani,has perdido toda la credibilidad al firmar esa carta que ha traicionado a los cubanos de dentro y fuera de Cuba muy en especial a los presos politicos.
Te quedaste sin corona,la verdad que lo siento. Angel.

Yoani, I'm an American of parents born in Cuba. I am an American first, but my heart is Cuba. I promise some day to do my part to free all Cubans. Please keep fighting. Our dream of liberty in Cuba is near

totalmente de acuerdo de la realidad de cuba que no son libres no tienen la libertad de expresion, nadie los escucha a nadie, botan a las personas de los trabajos sin importarles nada las situacion de las viviendas son insostanibles la miseria y el hambre esta acabando con los cubanos no tinen derecho a nada son mas de 11 millones de esclavos de los castro... que cruel realidad!!