IMO, Person of the Year in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez

A Cuban migrant navigating the internet on her cellphone from a shelter in Nazareht, Costa Rica (Reinaldo Escobar)

A Cuban migrant navigating the internet on her cellphone from a shelter in Nazareht, Costa Rica (photo 14ymedio)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 28 November 2015 – December will soon be here and numerous lists of this year’s protagonists will be published in Cuba. A difficult task in a country that over the last 12 months was visited by a pope, a secretary of state and even by Mick Jagger. However, the person who takes all the palms is not a politician, a religious leader or a rocker. It is a mobile application with a short name and a profound impact on our reality: IMO.

With over 150 million accounts worldwide, this video-call tool burst into our daily lives mid-year to shorten distances and reunite families. With its simple interface and capacity to adapt itself to the low speeds of our internet connection, IMO has achieved what insularity and politics has limited for so long: contact with the world.

Headquartered in Palo Alto, the startup responsible for this tool for text chats, voice and video, was founded by one of the first ten Google employees, who says that he likes working “on challenging projects.” A maxim that has been extensively tested in Cuba, where despite the technological obstacles the app has spread virally through smartphones and tablets.

Anyone who says that technology distances us and locks us in solitude, can wander through the wifi zone on Havana’s La Rampa and see the tears and smiles this utility gives rise to when Cubans connect between here and there. The emotions are very much as if they were face to face. There is no coldness on the screen, nothing dehumanizing on the keyboard, when they are the only chance of encountering the people we love.

The corner of Infanta and 23rd, any Saturday. A lady enjoys the son she hasn’t seen for two decades, checks out his latest hair dye, while the emigrant’s sister has brought the dog who also participates in the moment. At their side, a young man no more than 20 insistently repeats, while holding the phone in front of his face, “Don’t delay, get me out of here.” Through IMO we have tackled, in recent months, our hopes and our despair.

Even prostitution with foreigners has become more technological through the new utility. Now “the merchandise” is evaluated before the customer arrives in the country. The other day a young girl swept a tablet with a camera over her whole body while, on the other side, someone with a German accent asked if it was true that she was over 18.

However, IMO deserves the title of Person of the Year above all because of the key role it has played in the migratory crisis facing close to 4,000 Cubans on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. While the official media remained silent about these rafters-on-foot, this tool has kept their families on the island informed about the fates of their loved ones trapped in Central America.

59 thoughts on “IMO, Person of the Year in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez

  1. DEAR Mario! THAT OLD TACTIC OF CALLING ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA A “Cuba Hater” IS JUST THE SAME OLD WAY TO DEMONIZE THE OPPOSITION DEAR! A BETTER TITLE IS “Castro Hater”! DUH!

    NPR AUDIO STORY: Thousands of Cuban migrants are stuck at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba, won’t let the migrants enter into its country to continue north to the United States. – by Carrie Kahn & Lynn Neary
    http://www.npr.org/2015/12/06/458699533/restrictions-in-travel-leave-cuban-migrants-stranded-on-the-way

  2. IF THE REVOLUTIONARY LAW PROHIBITS PRIVATE SLAUGHTER OF CATTLE THERE ARE ONLY TWO ANSWERS: KEEP THEM TO PRODUCE MILK OR SELL THEM

    Article 240 of the Cuban Penal Code has a sanction of up to 10 years of prison for the crime, but the courts a usually more lenient.

    Cuba haters like to exaggerate the current implementation of the law, some say that every offender gets 10 years, some swear that they heard of 12 year sentences and if you really, really hate Cuba you will say: 15 years.

  3. DEAR Mario, HATE TO TELL YOU BUT Barak Obama IS BEHAVING LIKE A KING! FOR EXAMPLE, KEEPING THE US-CUBA AND US-IRAN DEAL A SECRET TO STARTERS! HE NOW WANTS TO FORCE FEED THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THE IDEA THAT A GUN BAN IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS NEEDED TO CUT THE RASH OF VIOLENCE IN THE USA. IT IS MUCH MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT BUT HIS ATTEMPT IS PUTTING HIM AGAINST THE WALL SINCE HE WANTED TO DISMISS THAT THE SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTERS WERE NOT RADICAL MUSLIMS! HE HAD TO BACK OFF ON THAT YESTERDAY!

    IF YOU KILL A COW ILLEGALLY IN CUBA YOU GET 15 YEARS IN JAIL!

    NEWSWEEK: Cows, Capitalism and the Future of Cuba – By Taylor Wofford

    In Cuba, shortages—from toothpaste to toilet paper—are a fact of life. Food is no exception. Beef, once a staple of the Cuban diet, can be next to impossible to find on the island. Sometimes, it will disappear from markets without warning for months, says Alexis Naranjo, whose restaurant, Los Naranjos, recently debuted in Havana’s tony Vedado neighborhood. “I can’t sell it,” he says, because “there isn’t any place to buy it.” When you can find it, it’s exorbitantly expensive, which means tourists are among the few people in Cuba who consume it.

    Like most restaurant owners here, Naranjo sometimes turns to the thriving black market to meet his needs. But he won’t buy beef there. “If you get meat and the police find out, they will close the restaurant,” he says. It’s not that the government is concerned about the health ramifications of eating black market beef, which is mostly pilfered from state-run butcher shops. It’s because beef is so scarce, the government controls who gets carne and who doesn’t. To protect its monopoly, the state even passed legislation making slaughtering cattle without explicit government permission a crime carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison—even if you own the cow.

    The shortage is worse outside the major cities. And the contrast between meat served at Havana’s privately owned restaurants and what rural Cubans eat is “shocking,” says Parr Rosson, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University and an expert on U.S.-Cuba trade. “There are cuts of chicken you can’t identify,” he says. “I don’t know what they are.”

    So as Cuba transforms and opens to free enterprise, the Communist Party is proceeding cautiously, trying to make sure nothing endangers its monopoly on power. As Fidel Castro explained in a 1966 speech, “Revolutions are not undertaken to leave things as they were.”

    Soviet Sugar High

    Cuba hasn’t always been a nation with empty shelves, and its beef shortage is a relatively recent phenomenon. In 1958, one year before Castro ousted the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, there was nearly one cow for each of the island’s approximately 6.5 million inhabitants. More than 50 years later, there are almost twice as many Cubans, but the country’s herds are 30 percent smaller than they were in 1958, according to Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuban-born economist at the University of Pittsburgh.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.newsweek.com/2015/12/11/cuba-cows-capitalism-400027.html

  4. Humberto, if you don’t like Obama, call him a puppet, or a talking face, not a king.
    Any major Pentagon general, any spy agency director has more to say then the President of the United States.

    He promised to close the Guantanamo prison some 8 years ago and he can’t. The military-inteligence-industrial complex doesn’t let him.

  5. It’s impossible for the opposition NOT to win in Vzla, but the Chavistas can alter the election results with a few mouse clicks. The opposition won’t accept that, and then, how much blood will flow?

  6. OF COURSE, KING OBAMA REFUSES TO SAY THE WORD “DICTATORSHIP” WHEN DISCUSSING VENEZUELA!
    THE ATLANTIC: Venezuela: A Dictatorship Masquerading as a Democracy – Ahead of a major election, the country is looking more and more like a failed state. – by MOISÉS NAÍM
    Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, recently announced that if the opposition were to gain a majority in the National Assembly in elections this Sunday, “We would not give up the revolution and … we would govern with the people in a civil-military union.” To ensure that no one would accuse him of not being a true democrat, he clarified that “we would do this with the constitution in hand.” The president conveniently ignored the small detail that the constitution does not have any provision for a “civil-military” government, nor does it give the government the option of disregarding the outcome of an election. What Maduro did stress, however, was that if the revolution fails, “there will be a massacre”—a threat he has repeatedly made throughout the campaign. He usually follows such threats with reassurances that this violence will not ensue since it is impossible for opposition candidates to win enough votes for a legislative majority, which Maduro’s party has enjoyed for the past 17 years.
    An employee reportedly caught Montañez on tape conducting a town-hall meeting in which he menacingly ordered his personnel to vote for regime candidates and bring in a picture of their ballot the day after the election to prove they voted “correctly.” Maduro also knows he can count on the massive and unaccountable use of public funds and resources to support his candidates. His faith in the impossibility of the “transmuted scenario” is surely bolstered by the aggressive and frequent deployment of dirty tricks to defame opposition leaders, jail them, or prevent them from running for office. The opposition has also had to contend with “armed people’s militias” that violently attack their marches and sometimes even murder their leaders, as recently happened to Luis Manuel Diaz.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/12/maduro-venezuela-election-democracy/418860/

  7. Weakness not strength, how true! They have systematically destroyed their own revolicion.
    Something’s gotta change, and they know it. Exactly how and when nobody knows, but it’s started!

  8. Almost everybody is being too polite when they talk about change in Vzla. Normal, democratic change can’t happen, because the Chavista narco gang won’t let it happen. Is it possible that the military can get rid of Chavista power and that real elections can happen, unlike what happened in Egypt?

  9. FASCISMO Y CENSURA EN VENEZUELA! DUH!! A SOLO HORAS PARA LAS ELECCIONES LEGISLATIVAS, EN EL MISMO AEROPUERTO DE CARACAS COMIENZA LA CENSURA A LA PRENSA, MIRE USTED:

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