By Juan Carlos Chavez, email@example.com
Arguing that Cuba’s government wastes money, time and resources in an international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies, opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez said Wednesday in Brazil that she would support their release. The five men were convicted in a highly-publicized trial in Miami in 2000 for being part of the Wasp Network, the largest the biggest Cuban spy ring known to have been dismantled in the U.S.
“The amount of money that my country’s government is spending on this worldwide campaign, on [ad] space of international media by the Interior Ministry, the number of hours spent in schools talking about those five people, in order to bring that campaign to an end, they should free them,’’ said Sánchez, 37. “I’m worried about my country’s coffers and would prefer their release to see if they save more [money] because there are more issues on the table.”
Sánchez is the creator of the blog Generación Y, an award-winning journalism and human rights blog published in various countries. She is in Brazil as part of an 80-day trip outside of the island and was received on Wednesday at the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia where a documentary titled, Cuba-Honduras Connection was screened. The film was supposed to be shown on Monday in the northeastern city of Feira de Santana but was canceled due to violent demonstrations and protests by Cuba government supporters.
In his meeting with Brazilian lawmakers, Sánchez also criticized the U.S. trade embargo. She referred to it as “interventionist” and said that it has not worked. “As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and not in order of importance, it should end as soon as possible is that it is used by the Cuban government as the fundamental reason to explain its economic failure and political and social repression,” Sánchez said. Sánchez’s remarks began to spread quickly on the Internet. The remarks were first reported in the Viewpoint blog of journalist Joan Antonio Guerrero Vall, a collaborator Martí Noticias.
One of the five spies is serving two life sentences on charges of conspiracy to murder and help Cuban warplanes shoot down two civilian planes in 1996, killing the four crew members from Miami who were aboard. Three others are still in prison and the fifth finished his 13-year prison sentence last year and is now completing three years of probation. Trial evidence showed that ring members, some using fake identities, tried to infiltrate U.S. military installations and Cuban exile groups in an effort to feed military and political information back to Havana.
Sánchez arrived Monday in Brazil and was met with protests by supporters of the Cuban regime at airports in Recife and Salvador, but the most serious incident occurred in Feira de Santana, where a larger group interrupted the scheduled Monday night documentary with shouts of “Long live the revolution” and “Cuba yes, Yankees no.” Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, the ruling Workers Party (PT), who participated in the act, tried in vain to mediate between the protesters and the blogger, who could only speak a few minutes in an impromptu debate. Deputy Mendonça Filho, of the Democrats opposition party, also asked the Federal Police to take charge of Sánchez’s safety while in Brazil, the first stop in the blogger’s visit to a dozen countries.
Sánchez, who is scheduled to visit Miami on April 1, had been denied permission to leave Cuba 20 times in six years. Her trip was approved by Cuban authorities under new immigration reforms that took effect in January.