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Interview with Yoani Sánchez

The Arab Spring and Technology

Yoani Sánchez: Yes, I think there’s a before and after the Arab Spring. In the case of dissidence and technology, the Arab Spring taught us that technology was not only a mechanism of escapism, it was not only about being in front of a keyboard, a screen, almost in complete solitude, but that it could be converted into an element that brings people together, a platform for civil complaints, to the extent that I think that for the activists on the island, the Arab Spring was like saying, “We can, we can do it.” Of course, you have to combine technology with actions in the streets, the virtual with the real.

There are some reasons that make an event like the Arab Spring almost impossible in the island of Cuba. In the first place, I think that that upheaval of young people, in agreement, rebellious, that was typical in countries in North Africa, is very much diminished in the case of Cuba. We have an increasingly elderly population and the majority of young people opt for immigration before rebellion. And well, the element of technology is quite different to what occurred in the Arab Spring. In the case of Cuba, for example the incidence of cell phones, the incidence of social networks, the incidence of the Internet, is still minimal, to the extent that we can’t rely on that infrastructure to come together, to gather ourselves at a plaza like Tahrir Square.

Global Interlocutors

YS: I identify very much with Chinese dissidents, for example, virtual dissent on the Internet, maybe because we live under similar systems, a bit like the control of information and the monopoly of the Communist Party. I also strongly identify with the figure of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the whole movement that is going on right now in Burma, perhaps towards a path to a transition to democracy. I think I identify with people who have experienced scenarios similar to mine.

Permanent Dissidence

YS: Without a doubt, dissent and opposition always have to be permanently pointing out what they dislike about the power structure. Why? Because if we leave them alone, if we leave the powerful surrounded by applause and words of encouragement instead of criticism, well then they simply take over the countries, they simply take nations on whatever course they want, in such a way that dissent is not only important, it is vital. A country without dissent, without opposition, without a critical sector, is an anesthetized country; it is a country that is easily governed, a manipulated country.