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Daily Archives: April 2, 2013

Paralympic skier Caleb Brousseau says leaving Cuba meant crawling to
plane seat

Caleb Brousseau complains Sunwing didn't provide an aisle wheelchair;
airline disputes his story, saying it is "ready and happy to
accommodate" disabled passengers.
By: Wendy Gillis News reporter, Published on Fri Mar 29 2013

As a member of Canada's Paralympic alpine ski team, Caleb Brousseau, a
24-year-old paralyzed from the waist down, has travelled extensively and
never encountered a serious mobility problem while flying.

But on a recent trip to Cuba, he says, Toronto-based Sunwing Airlines
did not provide him with the necessary equipment to enter or exit the
plane in a timely manner, prompting him to crawl the distance between
the airplane door and his seat.

Sunwing, however, has concluded after an initial investigation that
employees were in the process of retrieving the equipment, and says
Brousseau's version of events differs significantly from their own.

The dispute involves Brousseau's arrival and departure from Varadero. He
alleges that Sunwing failed to supply a narrow specialty wheelchair —
used to carry a passenger between the door and seat — within a
reasonable period of time.

The trip from Varadero to Toronto on Tuesday was particularly bad, he
said, because he was left waiting for the chair, known as a boarding or
aisle chair, at the door of the plane for 15 minutes — all the while
blocking off the entrance and causing a passenger bottleneck.

He and his girlfriend, Andrea Dziewior, say that when they told a flight
attendant Brousseau needed the chair, they were told there wasn't one in
the area.

According to Brousseau, the attendant then proceeded to speak to a
nearby airport employee in another language, and was not taking any
visible action to get it or providing them with updates about the
chair's whereabouts.

Feeling frustrated, ignored and hopeless about the prospect of getting a
chair — and worried about causing a delay for others — Brousseau decided
to crawl the short distance to his seat in the second row.

"They weren't asking me to move to the side, they weren't doing anything
like that, or going and getting it," Brousseau said in an interview with
the Star from his home in Whistler, B.C. " 'They obviously want me to
board the plane,' is what went through my head."

Sunwing president Mark Williams said that while the airline would
continue to investigate, it has found that Brousseau's version is "not
consistent with what has been reported in our account of the situation."

"We were ready and would have been happy to accommodate this passenger's
needs in Varadero," he said.

Williams said the boarding chairs Brousseau required are readily
available at that airport. If one is not immediately available, it
wouldn't take more than two or three minutes to get one, he said.

The chairs can also be brought on planes upon a passenger's request;
Brousseau said he did not ask for the chair to be brought on board.

In the case of the flight from Varadero to Toronto, the airline
acknowledges that there wasn't a boarding chair waiting for Brousseau
right away, but that the male flight attendant was in the process of
getting one.

Brousseau also claims he had to crawl to an airport-owned wheelchair on
the flight from Toronto to Varadero because no boarding chair was available.

One male employee offered to carry him off the plane, Brousseau said —
an offer he refused because he could be seriously injured in a fall.

Sunwing contests whether Brousseau had to crawl on the Toronto to
Varadero flight, because there is no indication of a problem in the
flight record.

"We even called the in-charge flight attendant because there was nothing
in the report, and she said if someone had had an issue getting off the
aircraft and had to crawl off, it would have absolutely been in her
report," he said.

On the Varadero-Toronto flight, Dziewior snapped a photo of Brousseau
while he was crawling so she would have evidence, and alleges the flight
attendant tried to stop her from taking it.

Williams said it wasn't clear from the report if the airline was
investigating whether the flight attendant attempted to stop Dziewior
from taking a photo.

In general, Williams said, Sunwing is well equipped to meet the needs of
passengers with mobility issues, and does so on a regular basis.

Staff is trained in aiding all passengers, including those with mobility
issues, when they are hired and at during annual retraining, Williams said.

Brousseau was also upset that, when leaving Varadero, he was asked to
leave his wheelchair at the check-in, despite the fact that airlines
usually wait until boarding to take it, so passengers can use them
inside the terminal.

Brousseau said he accepted that, but was frustrated when there was a
long delay to get an airport wheelchair; Dziewior said she finally found
one herself because she and Brousseau were concerned about missing the
flight.

Williams said every Cuban airport has a policy to take wheelchairs at
check-in, because the government wants to inspect each chair before it
is loaded on the aircraft.

"It's certainly possible there might have been a wait to get a
wheelchair. I can't say there wasn't," Williams said.

Pat Danforth, who leads the transportation committee for the Council of
Canadians with Disabilities, said special boarding chairs have become a
common service on planes and getting one shouldn't have been a problem.

She uses a wheelchair and has not encountered an issue accessing the
chair while travelling.

"But it just has to happen to you once to make you a lot more hesitant
to travel," Danforth said.

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency, the federal air
transportation regulations that include rules about accessibility apply
to domestic travel only, meaning the airline is not legally obligated to
provide the chair.

"However, carriers are expected to apply the spirit of those regulations
to international travel," said Chantal Laflamme, an agency spokesperson.

Passengers on an international flight can still complain to the agency,
and it would investigate.

Brousseau said he plans to launch a formal complaint.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/03/29/paralympic_skier_caleb_brousseau_says_leaving_cuba_meant_crawling_to_plane_seat.html Continue reading
Yoani Sanchez: technology will help bring democracy to Cuba

MIAMI, April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Cuban blogger and
independent journalist Yoani Sanchez said despite restrictions on
cyberspace in Cuba, the Internet is changing the communist country,
during a lecture at Florida International University in Miami.

"The virtual Cuba is influencing, directly and definitively, the real
Cuba," she said, after recounting a story about how Cubans, using text
messages on the government-controlled cell phone network, were able to
mobilize hurricane relief for the Oriente area of Cuba. "The Internet is
helping us explain to the world what is happening inside our country."
Sanchez addressed an audience of 500 on the restrictions the Cuban
government places on free expression, including Internet access, and the
impact of technology on the possible democratization of Cuba. The
lecture took place at the FIU Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing
Arts Center. Recordings of the lecture are available in English and Spanish.

Sanchez also said that technology and being able to reach the outside
world has protected her and other government opponents.

"We feel protected precisely because of the shield that technology has
provided to us," she said.

FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg presented Sanchez with the Medallion of
Courage, which recognizes individuals who pursue or defend a noble cause
at a personal cost.

"We honor and salute you for the eloquent act of resistance that has
given hope to the people of your homeland as it garners the praise of a
watching world," Rosenberg said during the medallion presentation.

Sanchez, 37, has become known around the world as a vocal critic of the
Cuban government. For the last six years she has documented her life on
the island through her blog, GeneracionY, and her Twitter updates via
@yoanisanchez.

"This was a unique opportunity for the South Florida community to hear
Sanchez's thoughts on how expanding access to the Internet and enabling
the use of blogs, Twitter, and other social media can help to break
Cuba's isolation from the rest of the world," said Jorge Duany, director
of FIU's Cuban Research Institute. "Her visit will foster the open
exchange of information, ideas, and proposals about Cuba's possible
futures."

http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2013/04/01/7030642.htm Continue reading
Dissident Cuban blogger gets warm reception from Miami exiles
By David Adams
MIAMI | Mon Apr 1, 2013 10:15pm EDT

(Reuters) - Cuba's best-known dissident, journalist Yoani Sanchez,
received a hero's welcome on Monday from the Cuban-American exile
community in Miami, her latest stop in an 80-day tour of more than a
dozen countries.

It was the largest and most politically unified reception in at least a
decade for a dissident from the island by Miami's Cuban-American exile
community, which has often clashed with opposition figures in Cuba over
political strategy.


With many leaders of Miami's Cuban-exile community in attendance,
Sanchez was introduced as "an authentic defender and heroine" of human
rights in Cuba by Eduardo Padron, the president of Miami Dade College,
which hosted the event.

She was greeted by about 1,000 invitees with a standing ovation
accompanied by shouts of "Freedom! Freedom!" as she took the stage at
Miami's iconic Freedom Tower, a one-time processing center in the 1960s
for Cuban refugees.

Seemingly surprised by the warmth and size of the reception, she smiled
and flashed the V for victory sign in response, before receiving the
keys to the city of Miami.

Sanchez, a slender 37-year-old Havana resident with striking
waist-length hair, has incurred the wrath of Cuba's government for
constantly criticizing its communist system in her "Generation Y" blog
and using Twitter to denounce repression.

The blog has won several top international journalism prizes and is
translated into 20 languages, while her Twitter account has nearly
500,000 followers. Few of these though are in Cuba, where the government
severely restricts the Internet.

In a prepared speech, Sanchez described in often poignant terms her
empathy with the pain felt by many Cuban exiles who have left the island
over the last half century following the 1959 revolution that swept
Fidel Castro to power.

Sanchez blamed the Castro government for dividing the country and called
for unity between exiles and Cubans still living on the island.

"That's why I am here today with you so that nobody again can divide
us," she said to roars of approval. "Without you (exiles) our country
would be incomplete, like someone missing an amputated limb," she added.

CUBA'S BERLIN WALL

Sanchez compared Cuba to Germany before the Berlin Wall was brought down
in 1990. Unlike the Berlin wall, Cuba's was "not made of concrete but of
lies," she said, to another standing ovation.

Despite her sharp attacks on Cuba's one-party rule, she plans to return
to Cuba in May where she said she hopes to dedicate the rest of her life
to practicing and teaching journalism.

Sanchez defended her highly publicized criticism of the longstanding
U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, saying it provided the Cuban
government with an excuse for tough living conditions on the island
under communist rule.

"There are much more important things (than the embargo)," she said.
"The (Cuban) government has exaggerated its importance," she added,
saying different opinions about the embargo among opponents of the Cuban
government were not a reason for division.

Unlike other dissidents, who have been received with suspicion in Miami,
Sanchez appears to have won the exile community over with her charm and
wit, as well as her straight-talking blog.

"No one has been more effective in denouncing what's going on in Cuba
and the myths of the Cuban regime," said Carlos Alberto Montaner, a
prominent Cuban exile politician and journalist.

"I don't know of any dissident from the island who has been this warmly
received," said Felice Gorordo, co-founder of Roots of Hope, a group of
young, Cuban American professionals and university students. "She has
the ability to speak to the pain of the exiles and to the daily
struggles of life in Cuba."

REFORM IN CUBA

Sanchez's case is viewed as a test of the Cuban government's commitment
to free travel under reforms announced late last year that require only
a passport, renewed every two years, to leave the country.

It is the first time Cuban authorities have allowed Sanchez to leave the
island since 2004, when she returned from a two-year stay in Switzerland
and began launching a string of digital publications.

Cuba's leaders consider dissidents traitorous mercenaries in the employ
of the United States and other enemies. Official bloggers regularly
charge that Sanchez's international renown has been stage-managed by
Western intelligence services.

Asked on Monday how she has been able to finance her trip crisscrossing
the Atlantic several times between the United States, Europe and Latin
America, Sanchez praised the generosity of friends and universities that
have invited her to speak.

"The Cuban government says I am a millionaire. It's true. I have
millions of friends," she said.

Sanchez is in Miami this week for a string of public appearances at
local universities and a family reunion with her sister, a pharmacist,
and brother-in-law, as well as her niece, whom she has not seen since
they left Cuba two years ago.

She arrived in Miami after stops in Washington and New York that
followed visits to Brazil and Mexico. She leaves for Peru on Thursday
before returning to Europe, including stops in Germany.

(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/02/us-usa-cuba-dissident-idUSBRE9300MS20130402 Continue reading
Cuba Sees an Opening
By Mauricio Claver-Carone Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The State Department is reportedly considering dropping Cuba's
designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Doing so would hand Havana
a major – and unmerited – diplomatic victory.

Cuba's Castro brothers have spent billions of dollars over the last
decade seducing U.S. farm bureaus and agri-business to lobby Congress to
support lifting sanctions on Cuba. Recently recognizing that Congress is
unlikely to support unconditional changes, and perceiving a possible
opening with the new Secretary of State John Kerry, Castro lobbyists
have shifted their focus to the Obama administration and a related goal:
the removal of Cuba from the State Department's list of state sponsors
of terrorism.

Kerry supported unilaterally easing sanctions on Cuba during his Senate
career, and speculation that the State Department is considering
removing Cuba from the state sponsor list – which also includes Iran,
Sudan, and Syria – has been spurred by news reports citing contradictory
remarks from anonymous administration sources. Some high-level diplomats
have suggested Cuba be dropped from the list, according to the Boston
Globe. But the State Department's spokesperson Victoria Nuland clarified
in late February that it had "no current plans" to change Cuba's
designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, that has not
slowed efforts by those seeking rapprochement with the Castro regime, as
a final decision will not be officially revealed until April 30.

Cuba has been on the state sponsors of terrorism list since 1982 due to
its hostile acts and support of armed insurgency groups. While being on
the list of terrorist sponsors imposes sanctions such as prohibiting the
United States from selling arms or providing economic assistance,
removing Cuba from that list would have little effect on these
sanctions, as these were separately codified in 1996. However, it would
certainly hand the Castro brothers a major – and unmerited – diplomatic
victory. The Castros have long protested and sought to escape the
ostracism associated with the terrorism listing, while refusing to
modify the egregious behavior that earned them the designation. They are
also hoping the change could improve their standing among otherwise
reluctant members of Congress and lead to an unconditional lifting of
sanctions in the near future.

Pursuant to the statutory criteria stipulated under Section 6(j) of the
Export Administration Act (as currently re-authorized under the
International Emergency Economic Powers Act), Cuba can only be removed
from the state sponsors of terrorism list in two ways:

Option one is to have the U.S. president submit a report to Congress
certifying that there has been a fundamental change in the leadership
and policies of Cuba's government, that Cuba no longer supports acts of
international terrorism, and that Cuba has provided "assurances" that it
will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

"The Castros have long protested and sought to escape the ostracism
associated with the terrorism listing, while refusing to modify the
egregious behavior that earned them the designation."

It would be disingenuous for anyone to argue that there has been a
"fundamental change" when the Castros have ruled Cuba with an iron fist
for 54 years. Option one does not pass the laugh test.

Option two is to have the president decide to terminate the listing and
submit, at least 45 days before doing so, a report to Congress that the
Cuban government has not provided any support for international
terrorism during the preceding six months and has made assurances to the
United States that it will not support terrorist acts in the future.

It would be an insult to the American people if Cuba were to be removed
from the list of state sponsors of terrorism based solely on assurances
of change by a dictatorship that brutally represses its population,
defies the rule of law, routinely foments anti-Americanism around the
world with provocative anti-democratic rhetoric, and is holding in its
prisons an American aid worker, Alan P. Gross. Arrested in December
2009, Gross's "crime" was helping members of Cuba's Jewish community
connect to the Internet.

The last time the United States relied on a dictator's "assurances" to
justify removing a country from the sponsors list was in 2008, when
President George W. Bush accepted the assurances of the Kim family that
North Korea would not provide support for or engage in international
terrorism. That obviously has not worked out well.

The Castro brothers' lack of credibility alone is legally sufficient to
prohibit changing Cuba's designation. Cuba should also be disqualified
because it continues to promote and support international terrorism. The
State Department's 2011 Country Reports on Terrorism lays out a
three-point rationale for Cuba's designation as a sponsor of terrorism:

First, "current and former members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty
(ETA) continue to reside in Cuba … Press reporting indicated that the
Cuban government provided medical care and political assistance to the
FARC. There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons
or paramilitary training for either ETA or the FARC."

"Cuba's close political ties with other state sponsors of
terrorism, particularly Iran and Syria, and its history of sharing
intelligence with rogue regimes, are of serious concern."

The United States designates ETA and the FARC as foreign terrorist
organizations and Cuba continues to provide support for both groups. The
favorite new argument of those seeking Cuba's removal from the list is
to note that peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the
FARC are taking place in Havana. But the United States would need to
rescind its designation of ETA and the FARC as foreign terrorist
organizations before it could remove Cuba from the terrorism sponsor
list. More importantly, there is no peace agreement or peace in Colombia
and ETA continues to threaten Spain.

Testifying on Colombia before the House Armed Services Committee,
General John F. Kelly, head of the U.S. Southern Command, provided some
perspective:

Terrorist groups represent a persistent challenge that has plagued the
region for decades. The FARC is the region's oldest, largest, most
capable, and best equipped insurgency. The government of Colombia is
currently in peace negotiations with the FARC, but the fight is far from
over and a successful peace accord is not guaranteed. Although weakened,
the FARC continues to confront the Colombian state by employing
improvised explosive devices and attacking energy infrastructure and oil
pipelines.

Second, the State Department country report says that "the Cuban
government continued to permit fugitives wanted in the United States to
reside in Cuba and also provided support such as housing, food ration
books, and medical care for these individuals."

That has not changed either. The FBI estimates that Cuba has provided
safe harbor to more than 70 fugitives from U.S. justice who live on the
island under the protection of the Castro regime. Some of these
fugitives are charged with or have been convicted of murder, kidnapping,
and hijacking, and they include notorious killers of police officers in
New Jersey and New Mexico.

Warranting special mention are the outstanding U.S. indictments against
Cuban Air Force pilots Lorenzo Alberto Pérez-Pérez and Francisco
Pérez-Pérez and General Rubén Martínez Puente, the head of the Cuban Air
Force, who in 1996 ordered the pilots to shoot down two civilian
American aircraft over international waters in the Florida Straits. That
act of terrorism killed four men, three of them American citizens.

"The last time the United States relied on a dictator's
'assurances' to justify removing a country from the state sponsor of
terrorism list was in 2008 with North Korea."

Third, the State Department report says that the Financial Action Task
Force has identified Cuba as having deficiencies in combatting money
laundering and terrorism financing. In February, the Castro regime made
"a high-level political commitment" to work with the FATF to address
money laundering and the flow of money through Cuba to terrorists. There
has been no discernible effort since to criminalize money laundering or
to establish procedures to identify and freeze the assets of terrorists.

The State Department's previous rationale for continuing to list Cuba as
a state sponsor of terrorism stands and now new justifications can be added:

Terrorism is defined in U.S. law as "the unlawful use of force and
violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a
government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in
furtherance of political or social objectives." The arrest and arbitrary
imprisonment of Alan P. Gross for actions internationally protected
under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which
Cuba is a signatory, is an act of terrorism. Moreover, the Castro regime
has now made it clear that Gross will be held hostage until the United
States releases five Cuban spies convicted in U.S. federal courts.

In addition, thousands of Cuban soldiers and intelligence officials are
stationed in Venezuela. Cuba's presence and control over the highest
levels of Venezuela's military, police, and intelligence services not
only threatens to subvert democracy in that nation, but it allows those
Venezuelan authorities to be Cuba's proxies in trafficking drugs and
weapons, and in providing support to such extremist organizations as
Hezbollah and Iran's al-Quds.

Cuba's close political ties with other state sponsors of terrorism –
particularly Iran and Syria – and its history of sharing intelligence
with rogue regimes are of serious concern and, according to former U.S.
intelligence officials, pose a risk to U.S. counterterrorism efforts in
the Middle East and elsewhere.

As President Obama himself recognized last month when he renewed the
"national emergency" designation regulating the movement and anchorage
of vessels in the Florida Straits (a yearly evaluation process
undertaken by U.S. presidents since the 1996 downing of U.S. civilian
aircraft by the Castro regime), "the Cuban government has not
demonstrated that it will refrain from the use of excessive force
against U.S. vessels or aircraft that may engage in memorial activities
or peaceful protest north of Cuba."

To remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list based on mere
hopes of bettering relations would be foreign-policy malpractice. Cuba
must earn its removal from this list. Clearly it has not done so, and,
as long as the Castro brothers retain their absolute control over the
island, nor is it likely to do so.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and
host of "From Washington al Mundo" on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio. He is
an attorney, served as an attorney-advisor with the U.S. Treasury
Department, and was a member of the law faculty at the Catholic
University of America and George Washington University.

http://www.american.com/archive/2013/april/cuba-should-remain-designated-as-a-state-sponsor-of-terrorism Continue reading
Cuba accuses US of backing illegal use of cigar trademark
Xinhua | 2013-4-2 10:32:40
By Agencies

Cuba has accused the United States of backing the "outright theft" of a
Cuban cigar trademark as part of its 50-year embargo against the
Caribbean island, the official website Cubadebate said Monday.

The accusation was filed after a US federal commission ruled last week
that the US company General Cigar can continue to use the Cohiba brand
name to market its cigars in the United States.

"It is the most recent verdict in an almost 16-year legal battle between
both cigar companies over that brand, which belongs to Cuba," Cubadebate
said.

In 2009, Cuba's state-owned cigar maker Cubatabaco, a partner with the
French-Spanish firm Altadis, won a lawsuit against the US company for
using the Cohiba brand inside the United States, but General Cigar
appealed against that ruling.

The US Trials and Appeals Committee on Trademarks ruled that since
Cubatabaco cannot sell its cigars in the United States due to the US
economic sanctions against Cuba, the Cuban firm cannot litigate its case
there, Cubadebate reported.

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/772394.shtml#.UVq9g1cuDIg Continue reading
In Miami, Cuban Dissident Blogger Calls for Unity
By CHRISTINE ARMARIO
MIAMI April 1, 2013 (AP)

They came from all over to hear her speak. Old Cuban ladies with
wrinkled faces and pristine makeup. Young students with iPhones and
digital cameras. Men and women who fled Cuba decades ago and just last
year, on makeshift rafts and planes.

When Cuban dissident and blogger Yoani Sanchez entered the room to speak
Monday, dressed simply in white, they all stood up in applause and the
politics that divide Cubans, even here in Miami, temporarily disappeared.

"In the Cuba that so many of us dream of, there is no need to clarify
what type of Cuban you are," she said. "We'll be just Cubans. Cubans,
period."

The crowd of several hundred stood on their feet, chanted "Freedom!" and
applauded.

Sanchez, a Cuban mother and wife who turned to blogging just five years
ago, has gained a following and accolades worldwide for her candid
descriptions of modern life in Cuba on her blog Generation Y. In 2009,
she was named one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" by
Time magazine. She is currently on an international tour that has taken
her to three continents after being allowed to leave Cuba for the first
time in nearly a decade.

She went to Brazil, where boisterous protesters backing the Cuban
government called her a "mercenary" financed by the CIA and even tugged
at her hair. She incited controversy when, in an ironic tone, she
suggested the U.S. should let five Cuban men convicted in 2001 of
attempting to infiltrate military installations in South Florida free
because of all the money Cuba could save and spend on more important
matters than campaigning for their release.

She has met with young Cuban-Americans born in the U.S. with dreams of a
homeland they have known only in photographs and stories. And she has
shaken hands with some of the most powerful politicians in Washington,
while calling on the U.S. to end its longstanding embargo against the
communist island.

But the most anticipated stop of her 80-day tour has been Miami, the
heart of the exile community.

When she arrived last Thursday, one of Sanchez's first stops was to La
Ermita de la Caridad, a shrine to our Lady of Charity of El Cobre,
Cuba's patron saint. She walked along a stretch of Miami's shoreline she
called the city's "Malecon," a reference to Havana's coastal boulevard.

After spending the weekend catching up with her sister, brother-in-law
and niece, Sanchez made her first public appearance. The site was aptly
chosen: Miami's Freedom Tower, a golden yellow Mediterranean style
building where thousands of Cubans fleeing the 1959 communist revolution
were processed, given food and connected with social services. A line of
men and women who did not have tickets but hoped to still get in
stretched down the block.

Among them were sisters Magaly Consuegra, 65, and Maria Santa Cruz, 74.

"This is a historical building for us," said Consuegra, who remembered
standing in a line in that same spot, when she first arrived five
decades ago. "I admire her so much because she had the courage that so
many Cubans don't have."

Consuegra came when she was 15 and sometimes, she regrets that she did
not stay or go back, like Sanchez has vowed to do. There are an
estimated 1 million Cubans in exile in the U.S., most in Miami, almost
one-tenth the size of the island's population.

Enormous box trucks drove by repeatedly, the words, "Welcome Yoani
Sanchez" stretching along the side. Others held signs calling for Raul
Castro to step down as president and for the years of communist rule to end.

Just one small group of about a dozen exiles held a protest,
demonstrating against Sanchez's position against the embargo and her
comments on the Cuban spies. But they dispersed before the event began
as a few rain clouds rolled in.

Sanchez told the story of leaving Berlin on a train the first time she
left Cuba years ago. She struck up a conversation with a young man who
asked her, "You're from Cuba? From the Cuba of Fidel or from the Cuba of
Miami?"

"My face turned red, I forgot all of the little German I knew and I
answered him in my best Central Havana Spanish, 'Chico, I'm from the
Cuba of Jose Marti,'" Sanchez said, referring to Cuba's most famous
national hero and poet.

"That ended our brief conversation," Sanchez said. "But for the rest of
my life, that conversation stayed in my mind. I've asked myself many
times what led that Berliner and so many other people in the world to
see Cubans inside and outside the island as two separate worlds, two
irreconcilable worlds."

She said she was standing there, before exiles, "to make sure that no
one, ever again, can divide us between one type of Cuban or another."

"Without you our country would be incomplete, as if someone had
amputated its limbs," she said.

Sanchez lived in Switzerland in 2002, but soon decided to return,
believing she was better off with her family and vowing to live in Cuba
freely. Since starting her blog in 2007, she had tried to leave dozens
of times to accept prizes and speak at universities, but was
consistently denied an exit permit. In October, Cuba eliminated the
permit that had been required of islanders for five decades and she was
allowed to leave.

Cuban authorities can still deny travel in cases of defense and
"national security," and some dissidents face restrictions. Her visit
has been seen as a test of the new law, one of the most significant
reforms Castro has made in his ongoing revision of the economy,
government and society.

Before she left the Freedom Tower, she was bestowed with keys to the
city of Miami, perhaps the only Cuban still living on the island to
receive such an honor. And in a display of the unity she'd just spoken
on, people in the audience commented how it seemed to be the first time
they could recall where Cubans from so many different generations, who
had arrived at different times, and had different opinions on the
embargo were all under one roof, applauding the same speech.

Alejandro Barreras, who runs a blog in Miami called On Two Shores, said
he sat behind a man who had yelled at him not so long ago for attending
a concert of Carlos Varela, a Cuban folk musician. Now they were sitting
one behind the other, equally captivated by Sanchez's words.

"You can't help but feel hopeful," he said.

Follow Christine Armario on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cearmario

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/miami-cuban-dissident-blogger-calls-unity-18857027#.UVq8LFcuDIg Continue reading
Dissident Calls for Cuban Unity

MIAMI – Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez on Monday issued a call to Cuban
exiles to help forge a feeling of unity among all Cubans and to end the
existence of "Fidel's Cubans and Miami's Cubans."

"There is no you and us, there is only us. We won't permit them to
remain separate," she said from Miami's Freedom Tower, an emblematic
site for Cubans who left the island after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Now, 54 years later, the Cuban exile community received the 37-year-old
Sanchez with shouts of "Libertad, libertad" (Freedom, freedom), although
there was also a protest against her opposition to the U.S. embargo and
her decision to return to Cuba once she has finished her current
international tour.

Before a packed, standing-room-only hall, the blogger made an effort to
extend her hand, avoid confrontation, seek agreement and express
affection for the Cubans living abroad.

Attending the speech were local authorities, who received Sanchez as "a
real freedom fighter," in the words of Eduardo Padron, president of
Miami Dade College and the organizer of the event at which Sanchez was
presented with an award.

"I've asked myself many times why we see the Cubans inside and outside
the island as two irreconcilable worlds," said Sanchez, who referred to
those present as people who "have lived the sorrow of exile, who left in
the majority of cases with only what they were wearing and said goodbye
to relatives, many of whom they never saw again."

"We won't permit them to keep separating us," said Sanchez, who asked
all those present not to let anyone be able ever again to make a
distinction "between one type of Cuban and another."

"Help us to topple that wall, which in contrast to the one in Berlin is
not concrete but (made) of lies, silences and bad intentions," said
Sanchez. EFE

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Zapata lives
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