From Information to Action

Yoani Sanchez accepts the Knight International Journalism Award 2015. (karinkarlekar)

Yoani Sanchez accepts the Knight International Journalism Award 2015. (karinkarlekar)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 12 November 2015 — My grandmother only knew how to write the first letter of her name. She would sign documents with an almost childish looking capitalized “A.” In spite of being illiterate, Ana always advised me to study and learn as much as possible. Nevertheless, that laundress who never went to school taught me the best lesson of my life: that tenacity and hard work are needed to accomplish one’s dreams. She instilled in me the urgency of  “action.” Action with a capital “A,” like the only letter of her name that she could write.

However, action can become a problem if it is not appropriately accompanied by information. An uninformed citizen is easy prey for the powerful, a guaranteed victim for manipulation and control. In fact, an individual without information cannot be considered a whole citizen, because her rights will constantly be violated and she will not know how to demand and reclaim them.

The most expansive authoritarian regimes in history have been characterized by a strict control of the media and a high disregard for freedom of information. For these systems, a journalist is an uncomfortable individual who must be tamed, silenced, or eliminated. These are societies where a journalist is recognized only when she repeats the official government rhetoric, applauds the authorities, and sings praises to the system.

I have lived forty years under a government that considers that information is treason. At first, when I learned to read and began to pay attention to the national media, with its optimistic headlines and data on the country’s economic over-achievement, I blindly believed what those newspapers were saying. That country that only existed in the ink of the Cuban Communist Party’s national newspaper was similar to the one my teachers taught me about in school, similar to the one from the Marxist manuals and the speeches of the Maximum Leader. But it did not resemble the reality.

From the frustration between my desires to know and the wall of silence that the official Cuban press imposes on so many issues, the person I am now was born.

My first reaction in the face of so much manipulation and censorship – like that of so many of my fellow citizens – was simply to stop reading that press which served those in power, that propaganda disguised as journalism. Like millions of Cubans, I sought information that was hidden, censored news articles, and I learned to hear the radio transmissions coming from outside even with the interference that the government would impose on them.

I felt like I would drown if I wasn’t informed. But, then another moment came. A moment when I switched to “action.” It wasn’t enough to know everything that was being hidden from me and to decipher the truth behind so many false statistics and such editorial grandiloquence. I wanted to be part of those who narrated the Cuban reality. Thus, I began my blog Generation Y in April of 2007, and with it I took the path of no return as a reporter and a journalist. A path filled with danger, gratification, and great responsibility.

During the past eight years, I have lived all of the extremes of the journalistic profession: the honors and the pains; the frustration of not being allowed to enter an official press conferences and the marvel of finding an ordinary Cuban who gives me the most valuable of testimonies. I have had moments where I have exalted this profession and moments in which I wished I had never written that first word. There is no journalist who does not carry the burden of her own demons.

Now, I lead a media outlet, 14ymedio, the first independent news platform inside of Cuba. I am no longer the teenager who turned her eyes away from the official press, looked for other alternative news sources, and later began her own blog as if she were someone opening a window into the entrails of a country. I now have new responsibilities. I lead a group of journalists, who every day must cross the lines of illegality to perform their jobs.

I am responsible for each and every one of the journalists who are a part of the newsroom of our news platform. The worst moments are when one of them takes longer than expected to return from covering a story and we have to call their family to say that they have been arrested or are being interrogated. Those are the days that I wish that I had not written that first word…or that I had not written that first word the moment I did, but much earlier.

I feel that if we had moved towards action, and if we had exercised our right to inform much earlier, Cuba would now be a country where a journalist would not be synonymous with a tamed professional or a furtive criminal. But at least we have begun to do it. We have moved from information into action, to help change a nation through news, reporting, and journalism. It is Action with a capital “A,” like the one my grandmother wrote on those papers though she never really understood what they were saying.

Note: Speech delivered by Yoani Sanchez on 10 November in New York, at the ceremony for the 2015 Knight International Journalism Awards. The director of 14ymedio was given the award last May by the International Center for Journalists for her “uncommon resolve in the fight against censorship.”

71 thoughts on “From Information to Action

  1. NOT SURPRISED THAT THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY VOTED NO! GUESS KING OBAMA’S US-CUBA DEAL IS WORKING!
    Sad how any country — let alone so many elected members of the UN Human Rights Council — could vote against the suffering victims of North Korean atrocities. LIST OF SHAME: The following countries voted AGAINST a resolution on North Korea’s atrocities. Worse, many of them are elected members of the UN Human Rights Council (Algeria, Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela, Vietnam.

  2. The Revolutionary in the 21st century must know to use banks as good as he uses Kalashnikov!

    Cuban outcasts want to transit Nicaragua because they prefer US food stamps over the Cuban “libreta”? Fine. Why not to invent “Cuban Solidarity Transit Visa” for $1000 a pop?

  3. CUBAN ARTIST AND ACTIVIST Tania Bruguera WILL ARRIVE TOMORROW AT THE COSTA RICA/NICARAGUA BORDER CROSSING WHERE ALL THE ALMOST 3000 CUBAN IMMIGRANTS ARE WAITING TO CROSS NICARAGUA. THE FASCIST “GOVERNMENT” OF Daniel Ortega HAS REFUSED THEM CROSSING! IT IS VERY EASY TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM! THEY CAN BE ESCORTED THE 300 OR SO MILES BY THE NICARAGUANS AND THEY CAN EVEN GET PAID FOR THEIR SERVICES! BUT OF COURSE THEY ARE FOLLOWING THE CASTROFASCIST ORDERS, BUT THE INTERNET IS GETTING THE TRUTH OUT!

    ESTO SE ESTA PONIENDO BUENO! THINGS ARE GETTING GOOD!
    Mario Vallejo​: La artista plastica cubana Tania Beuguera llegara a la frontera de Costa Rica con Nicaragua, mañana, en solidaridad con los casi tres mil cubanos que se encuebntran varados en territorio costarricense. Noticias 23 esta en contacto directo con la reconocida artista plastica y estaremos informándoles sobre su labor, en nuestras ediciones de las 5:00 am, 6:00pm y 11 de la noche. confíe en nuestro profesionalismo y experiencia.

  4. ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: He Won Two Gold Medals, Melted Them Down, and Turned Them Into Teeth – Guillermo Rigondeaux, Cuba’s undefeated bantamweight boxer, enters the ring tonight. (Watch the fight on Pay-Per-View.) In an excerpt from his book, writer Brin-Jonathan Butler recounts the first time he met the fighter known as The Jackal. – by BY BRIN-JONATHAN BUTLER

    In the summer of 2007, two-time Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and his teammate, Erislandy Lara, had been arrested in Brazil after going AWOL from the Cuban team during the Pan Am Games. The defection attempt made international news and quickly became a national soap opera, regularly appearing on Cuban news and round table discussions. Castro, though largely out of public view since stepping down from power because of his secret illness the year before, spoke out in the state newspaper Granma. Castro branded Rigondeaux a “traitor” and “Judas” to the Cuban people. “They have reached a point of no return as members of a Cuban boxing team,” Castro wrote in Granma. “An athlete who abandons his team is like a soldier who abandons his fellow troops in the middle of combat.” And then Teófilo Stevenson, despite his legend being built on the foundation of having turned down every offer to leave Cuba, defended Rigondeaux and Lara. “They are not traitors,” Stevenson declared. “They slipped up. People will understand. They’ve repented. It is a victory that they have returned. Others did not.”
    http://www.esquire.com/sports/news/a39922/guillermo-rigondeaux-gold-medal-teeth/

  5. http://www.heritage.org/~/media/images/reports/2013/07/sr137/bg-terror-plots-july-2013-chart-2.ashx

    7 successful/stopped by luck out of 53 terrorist events or a simple probability of .13 for this sample of 53 terrorist events. Obama wants to let in 10,000 new Syrian immigrants. In the United States there are 2.7 Million Muslims. It is highly unlikely that terrorists will be in that sample of only 10,000 immigrants…If there is another terrorist attack in the United States it will probably come from the 2.7 Million Muslims in the country and not from the 10,000 Obama wants to let in.

  6. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY CENSORING AGAIN!! DUH!

    MOTHERBOARD: Cuba’s Only Email Service Has Been Mysteriously Shut Down – by Jason Koebler – November 19, 2015

    The Cuban government has shut down the island’s only official email service provider and it’s not clear when it’ll come back.

    The Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) announced in an official note Wednesday that it has had to “completely stop email services” in the country.

    As is often the case in Cuba, the communist government hasn’t given an official reason for the shutdown. Service on the island has been spotty for more than a week, according to Jose Luis Martinez, communications director at the Miami-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, who is in regular communication with people on the island. Earlier this week, ETECSA said that the “infrastructure that supports the accounts has had a technical failure that affects the sending and receiving of emails.”

    While there’s no law that stops Cubans from using Gmail or any other email service provider, the shutdown of all official email accounts, which are called Nauta accounts, will have huge ramifications for how people communicate on the island.

    There is very little wifi access in Cuba and no mobile internet service for Cubans whatsoever, but standard cell phone service is pretty widespread. The Cuban government allows its citizens to send and receive text-based emails on mobile phones using standard cell signal and Nauta accounts. As a result, Nauta emails are how a lot of business gets done on the island, and it’s how a lot of people communicate with those overseas while they’re on the go.

    “It’s the only email you’re allowed to have on your phone,” Martinez told me.

    Martinez says he’s been trying to email people on the island and has had the emails bounced back to him with this message: “This message has not yet been delivered. It will will keep trying to be delivered.”

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/cubas-only-email-service-has-been-mysteriously-shut-down

  7. IF YOU SEE OUR DEAR Omar Fundora (@TheTrue2) GO INTO A DIARRHEA OF POSTS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH CUBA OR CUBA RELATED ISSUES IS USUALLY A RESPONSE TO ONE OF MY FUACATAA!!!!!!! POSTS WHERE HE HAS NO RESPONSE FOR!

    THE DAILY SIGNAL: Has Cuba Manufactured a Refugee Crisis? – by Ana Quintana

    A humanitarian crisis is developing in Central America along the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Earlier this week, the Nicaraguan military began refusing to allow the passage of around 2,000 Cuban refugees fleeing the Castro dictatorship.

    Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government (and close ally of the Castro regime) has even resorted to using teargas and other deterrents.

    But has the Cuban government manufactured this refugee crisis in order to strong-arm the U.S.?

    Evidence of Havana’s manipulation can clearly be seen in the magnitude of refugee flows. Cuba is a totalitarian police state, where people are not even allowed to move from one house to another without the government’s approval. So is it reasonable to believe that 2,000 Cubans got to Costa Rica without Castro’s approval?

    This point is reinforced by the circumstances surrounding their departure. Vast majorities are leaving via government-owned and operated planes en route to Ecuador. State permission is also needed to fly in most cases.

    This is also not the first time the Cuban government has used refugees to coerce an American government to do its will, the most notable instances being the Mariel boatlifts of 1980 and the 1994 Cuban raft exodus. Prior to each, a common thread of events is clearly seen. In both cases, the regime sought to strong-arm the U.S.

    The events occurring now in Nicaragua are not at all different.

    The blame for this humanitarian catastrophe can then largely be attributed to President Obama’s new policy of support for the dictatorship in Havana.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://dailysignal.com/2015/11/19/has-cuba-manufactured-a-refugee-crisis/

  8. Omar,
    Anyone who says “Eliminate demand for illegal drugs” is dreaming.
    I can as well say eliminate theft ,or eliminate jealousy, or eliminate alcohol.

    Legalization (+education) is the only way to reduce the problem to the health issues. The crime would then go hungry.

  9. Omar,
    great picture showing how the drugs move across bordes.
    This map is a tribute to the Cuban MININT.
    Thank you, Cuban Ministry of Interior!!!

  10. IF YOU FOLKS WANT TO SEE THE REAL “FOREST” INSTEAD OF FOCUSING IN THE “TREES” AND DEMONIZING VENEZUELA AS SOMETHING OF A ROGUE STATE BECAUSE OF THIS HIGH RANKING CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT IN THE DRUG TRADE. PLEASE, VISIT THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND CHECKOUT THE INCSR REPORT FOR EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.
    2013 INCSR: Country Reports – Honduras through Mexico

  11. PRESENT LEGAL ENVIRONMENT IN THE STATES REGARDING ILLEGAL DRUGS
    Federal & State Laws

    Each state and the federal government have laws against unlawful use, possession, distribution or production of certain drugs. These include cocaine, heroin, marijuana and amphetamines. The idea, of course, is to reduce illegal drug use and cut down on drug-related crimes.

    There are five categories, or “schedules,” of drugs based on their potential for dependency and abuse as compared with their therapeutic or medicinal value. Schedule I controlled substances (such as heroin) have the highest potential for dependency and no accepted medical use. Schedule V drugs (like codeine) have a low potential for dependency and accepted medical uses.

    The penalties are harshest for illegal possession, sale or manufacture of Schedule I drugs. The US Attorney General can delete, add or reschedule drugs.

    State Laws

    Laws on drug-related crimes vary from state to state, but in general most states follow the federal drug schedules. State penalties usually match the federal scheme, too. However, it’s not uncommon for states to have stiffer penalties for making, selling or using certain drugs, and more lenient penalties for other drugs.

    Punishments for Drug-Related Crimes

    The punishments or sentences for drug crimes generally depends on:
    •The quantity of the drug
    •Its classification under the schedules
    •The purpose of possession

    The most serious drug crimes are:
    •Manufacturing or making drugs
    •Selling, distributing or “trafficking” in drugs
    •Possessing illegal drugs for the purpose of selling or them

    Key Notes on “Possession”

    In the federal scheme, possession can be a very serious crime – meaning jail time – depending the drug and how much is involved. Or, possession may mean having to pay a fine. For instance, possession of a small amount of some drugs for personal use may be punished by a $10,000 fine.

    However, possessing more than the personal use amount may lead to charges of possession with intent to distribute, which may mean years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines or both. Prosecutors can prove someone’s intent to distribute drugs just by showing the quantity of the drug, without any evidence the person ever really sold or distributed it.

    State Law. Again, many states mirror the federal law when it comes to possession. Punishments for possession of personal use amounts is often probation and a fine. However, possessing larger amounts of illegal drugs, even for personal use, may be more serious. And, in some states, possession of any amount of any scheduled drug is treated as a serious crime.

    Jail Time

    Whether an offender faces jail time and how much depends on the type and quantity of drug involved, as well as the offenders criminal record. Whether state or federal law was violated matters, too. However, most minimum sentences range from one year in jail to three years in prison for first-time offenders. The minimum sentences for repeat offenders? Three to 12 years in prison.

    Enhanced Punishment

    Many states have stiffer punishments or “enhanced penalties” when drug crimes are committed under certain circumstances, such as when:
    •Minors are used to distribute the drugs
    •The drugs are delivered or sold to minors
    •The drugs are sold or distributed near schools

    Also, federal law and the laws in most states call for the “forfeiture” of property used in connection with the drug crimes, and any profits from the crime. For example, the government may seize an offender’s home if it was used to make or distribute drugs.

    Professional Drug Dealers

    Special laws cover professional drug dealers. A “drug kingpin,” or a person organizing, financing or managing a business to manufacture, transport or sell drugs, commits a serious crime.

    There are special sentences for professional drug dealers. Federal law even has the death penalty for drug kingpins. Some states impose 25 years in prison without parole for professional drug dealers.

    As you can see, federal and state lawmakers take illegal drugs very seriously. Anyone who makes, sells or uses these drugs should think carefully about whether the “high” or the profits from the drugs is worth the legal and health consequences.

  12. Here is the argument for not making illegal drugs legal
    With the exceptions murder and other violent crimes, drug-related crimes are probably the most serious. Anyone involved with illegal drugs, whether they make or use them, faces jail time and fines.
    Why? Because illegal drugs cause serious health problems and even death for those who use them. They also lead to other violent crimes, and so pose threats to everyone’s safety.
    (Actually, most of the “other violent crimes” come from the illegal trade and as far as serious health issue goes, it is your right to put in your body whatever you like if you are of sound mind)

  13. Before I begin (George Lucas- famous movie man) my arguments, keep in mind that I myself do not do drugs, and am not arguing from the perspective of someone who wants drugs legal just so that he or she can be more irresponsible with them. And now for my arguments:

    1. The act of taking drugs does not violate rights
    The responsibility of the government, first and foremost, is to protect the rights of its citizens. In the act of taking drugs, nobody’s right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness has been violated. In fact, the user has taken advantage of his rights. He has the liberty to do anything as long as he does not infringe on the rights of others. So he does drugs. He also takes advantage of his right to the pursuit of happiness, since drugs make him happy. That’s why people take them. And while I myself wouldn’t make such a decision, it does not harm anyone, and should not be illegal.

    2. The failure of prohibition
    In 1920, the government made alcohol illegal. The thinking was that people would be healthier, and alcohol-related crime would go down. It failed horribly. Alcohol was readily available anyway, but it was no longer controlled by respectable businessmen. It was run by the mafia. Organized crime rose in power, to brew alcoholic beverages and protect other brewers, since the government wouldn’t. One man that rose out of prohibition was Al Capone, arguably the most infamous gangster of all time. In 1933, the government realized they had made a horrible mistake, and prohibition ended. While the drugs we are discussing in this debate are more dangerous that alcohol, on a philosophical level there is no difference. We are making the same mistakes, and pretending we are helping people.

    3. More power to gangs/cartel
    As I mentioned in my last argument, prohibition gave rise to the mafia. The War on Drugs has given rise to something else: the Mexican drug cartel. In Mexico, the Mexican drug war has various cartels fighting each other and the Mexican government, in what is basically an all-out war. The cartels make an estimated 39 billion dollars annually. The cartel does not stick to Mexico, however. A drug known as black tar heroin has made its way into the U.S. black market due to the cartel. The cartels are known to recruit in American high schools. A 14 year old from San Diego was turned into an assassin by the cartel. If drugs are legalized, the cartel will be obsolete, as legitimate companies will be able produce and sell drugs. The competition will no longer be the violence we have today, but businesses responding to the needs of consumers in an attempt to make a greater profit than their competitors. This is evidenced in the alcohol industry by Miller and Budweiser, for example.

    4. Users cannot be helped if they were scammed
    Let’s say somebody wants to get some drugs. They find a dealer, make the deal, and discover that the drugs are much less potent that what they were told. Maybe it was a simple mistake on the part of the dealer, or maybe it was fraud. In the world of legal products, One could go and get a refund if it was a simple mistake. If it was fraud, however, the customer might have to sue whoever sold them a faulty product. But in the world of illegal drugs, one couldn’t sue their dealer. If they did, they would announce to the government that they went and bought an illegal substance. And then they will likely go to jail. Is it fair that somebody would have to face legal punishment just because they wanted to report fraud? Of course not. And if drugs were legal, this problem would cease to exist.

    Sources:
    http://www.cato.org
    http://www.cnn.com

  14. Nadelmann is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. In a recent TED Talk, Nadelmann said:

    Look at the murder and mayhem in Mexico, Central America, so many other parts of the planet, the global black market estimated at 300 billion dollars a year, prisons packed in the United States and elsewhere, police and military drawn into an unwinnable war that violates basic rights, and ordinary citizens just hope they don’t get caught in the crossfire, and meanwhile, more people using more drugs than ever.

    It’s my country’s history with alcohol prohibition and Al Capone, times 50.

  15. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act into law — a day that Salon.com says the War on Drugs *really* started:
    The law has resulted in 25 years of disproportionately harsh prison sentences for defendants who are disproportionately black. It called for felony charges and mandatory minimum prison sentences for anyone caught with even a small amount of cocaine; inexplicably, it triggered the mandatory sentences for crack cocaine possession at 1/100 the amount of powder cocaine. Rather than rooting out the traffickers, it filled the country’s jails with blacks and Hispanics, who in some cases serve more time for possession than convicted murderers.

  16. While there might be differing opinions about the actual reasons behind the War on Drugs, Nadelmann gives us his expert opinion as someone who has studied the issue in depth:
    When hundreds of thousands of Chinese started showing up in my country, working hard on the railroads and the mines and then kicking back in the evening just like they had in the old country with a few puffs on that opium pipe, that’s when you saw the first drug prohibition laws in California and Nevada, driven by racist fears of Chinese transforming white women into opium-addicted sex slaves.

    The first cocaine prohibition laws, similarly prompted by racist fears of black men sniffing that white powder and forgetting their proper place in Southern society. And the first marijuana prohibition laws, all about fears of Mexican migrants in the West and the Southwest.

  17. Eliminate demand for illegal drugs and the illegal drug trade ends….or make it legal…I believe ex- president of Mexico Fox predicts that all illegal drugs will be legal in Mexico….This is actually not a bad idea…

  18. BREITBART NEWS: Venezuelan President’s Sons: Our Cocaine Belongs to Nation’s Second-in-Command – by Frances Martel
    An extensive report in Miami’s El Nuevo Herald claims that the nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, arrested for attempting to traffic 800 kilograms of cocaine into New York, have claimed the drugs belonged to the nation’s second-in-command, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. According to the Herald, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, both nephews of Venezuelan First Lady and legislative candidate Cilia Flores, have been extremely cooperative with American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials following their arrest in Haiti last week. The Herald cites a number of government sources familiar with the investigation as stating they have been willing to trade information with authorities on their attempted drug smuggling. One of them, the report claims, cried on the flight out of Haiti to New York.

    The two allegedly claimed Diosdado Cabello was the owner of the drugs they were trying to sell upon being arrested initially. They later changed their story and claimed they were trying to sell the cocaine on behalf of Tarek El Aissami, the governor of Venezuela’s Aragua state and head of the nation’s Islamic Relations.

    American authorities are investigating Both Cabello and El Aissami for being involved in the cocaine trade. Specifically, several high-profile witnesses have accused Cabello of being the head of the Cartel de los Soles, one of Latin America’s largest cocaine smuggling rings. The cartel is so named because it is believed to be run by members of the Venezuelan military, who sport a sun medallion on their uniforms. Reportedly, El Aissami is deeply involved in the trade, as well, though he is most prominently known as the official responsible for Venezuela’s cozy relationship with the Iranian regime and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/11/19/venezuelan-presidents-sons-our-cocaine-belongs-to-nations-2/

  19. FOX NEWS LATINO: Venezuelan plane caught with drugs departed from government-operated terminal – By Carlos Camacho – November 19, 2015

    CARACAS – Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Avila Mountain, the tallest on the east side of the Andes, lays Venezuela’s first airfield, the Simón Bolívar International Airport. From one of the government-operated terminals, a Cessna Citation 500 took off on Sunday Nov. 8 carrying more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine, according to the District Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. On board were two close relatives of Venezuela’s presidential family, both of them allegedly carrying Venezuelan diplomatic passports.

    Francisco Flores, 29, and Efraín Campos, 30, the nephews of first lady Cilia Flores, were among four passengers and two pilots on the Haiti-bound Citation 500. The plane was co-piloted by Pablo Urbano and Pedro Rodriguez, according to a copy of the flight log obtained by Fox News Latino.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2015/11/19/venezuelan-plane-caught-with-drugs-departed-from-government-operated-terminal/

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