Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Roberto Leon/ NBC News
Cuban blogger Yoanis Sanchez works on her computer.
CUBA MUZZLES POPULAR BLOGGER
Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 9:00 AM
Filed Under: Havana, Cuba
By Mary Murray, NBC News Producer
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has something to say and she thinks the government is trying to gag her.
For the past 11 months the 32-year-old cyber rebel has ruthlessly disparaged life on the socialist island in her "Generation Y" blog, tackling taboo topics like the country’s aging leadership and what she sees as Raul Castro’s "vague promises of change.".
She even called for Fidel Castro’s resignation months before he issued it and sarcastically suggested that the next ruler should be a "pragmatic housewife" instead of a soldier, charismatic leader or a great orator.
Since last Thursday, Sanchez charges, Internet users in Cuba are experiencing difficulty logging on to her web site.
She is convinced government censors added filtering software to her page to intentionally slow down the connection.
"So, the anonymous censors of our famished cyberspace have tried to shut me in a room, turn off the light and not let my friends in," Sanchez blogged on Monday.
"It won’t work," she vowed. "This is just fuel for my fire."
Still, it’s frustrating. On Monday, it took Sanchez about 20 minutes to download her page from a public Internet café.
On Tuesday all she got was an "error" message – finding the page completely blocked.
To be fair, the problem could be government interference or just Cuba’s spotty Internet service.
Even corporate customers in recent days complained about the overall poor performance on their high-speed Internet lines, said a tech support person for Etecsa, the government-run phone company and sole Internet provider.
Sanchez though doesn’t buy it, arguing instead that this is a tactic employed by a government determined to muzzle the free expression of public opinion.
The Internet, she says, has become a forum where Cubans are airing complaints. "The authorities are afraid this is turning into something massive."
And, unlike the rest of the press on the island, there is no government control over the printed word on the Internet. "We’ve gone beyond the status quo," said Sanchez.
Her blog, posted on a server in Germany, is growing in popularity. Last month, she says it received over 1.2 million hits. Sanchez believes about a quarter of her readership resides on the island, mostly young Cubans.