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Yoani Sanchez Hopes To Give Cubans 'Alternative Voice' At Summit

Andre Deak

The meeting of heads of state from throughout the western hemisphere known as the Summit of the Americas starts later this week in Panama.

For the first time, Cuba will be there – and so will Cuba’s most famous dissident blogger, YoaniSánchez.

En route, Sánchez stopped at the Coral Gables Congregational Church Monday night to help Cuban-American healthcare billionaire Mike Fernandez launch his new memoir, “Humbled by the Journey.” But the event was also a showcase for Sánchez’s new online newspaper, 14ymedio. It’s been called one of the most important independent media ventures in communist Cuba’s history. And its presence at the two-day Panama summit, which starts Friday, is just as historic.

"Our aim is to arm Cubans for once with something other than the official version of an important international event like the summit," Sánchez told WLRN. "An alternative Cuban voice."

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro are expected to shake hands at the summit. Sánchez said the process to normalize relations between the two cold-war foes is having an electric effect on the island.

“Right now there’s a lot of hope – too much hope, really, because Cubans want short-term results from this,” Sánchez said. “But those expectations are good because they can help change the country.”

Other members of Cuban civil society, including dissidents and entrepreneurs, will also be at the summit. Monday's event, a conversation between Sánchez and Fernandez, was presented by Books & Books and Roots of Hope, a group that promotes dialogue between Cubans here and on the island.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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