“There are moments when my knees shake, and I ask myself, ‘Why did I get into this?’ ” Sanchez said. “But there is no turning back now. I can’t stop, and they can’t erase what’s in the blog.”
Sanchez recounted her work last week across a crackling phone line from Prague, the second stop of her 80-day, multi-nation tour that began last month. The trip, which includes a visit to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York on Thursday followed by meetings with members of Congress in Washington next week, was made possible when Cuban President Raul Castro eliminated restrictions that barred ordinary Cubans from traveling.
“For five years I’ve tried on 20 occasions to travel, every time I received an invitation,” she said, describing the universities and book fairs that wanted her to attend, often to honor her with awards. “So this is a trip that I owe myself to be able to recoup a little bit of what was denied me by my government.”
The trip comes at a time of potential change for Cuba and the Castros, Raul and his brother, Fidel. Their longtime benefactor, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, died last week, and his successor faces serious economic problems. Chavez had provided 100,000 barrels of oil daily in a cut-rate deal to the Cubans, replacing the largesse the Castros lost when the Soviet Union collapsed.
All that has helped spike interest in what Sanchez has to say.
“I lament that the life of a nation depends so much on the death of one man,” she said. “I feel that the political absence of Hugo Chavez will, without a doubt, influence the national destiny.”
Protests in Brazil
Her Twitter followers increased by 35,000 after she arrived in Brazil, where pro-Castro protesters met her at an airport and then broke into a film screening she was attending, forcing the organizers to cancel.
“They were small but very noisy groups that shouted the same insults Cuban propaganda uses, that I’m a mercenary, a traitor, anti-fatherland, anti-Cuban, all the usual lexicon,” she said.
The Brazilian press later revealed that a Cuban official had met with pro-Castro groups and passed out dossiers on Sanchez.
In televised reports of the protests, Sanchez spoke with calm, a slightly bemused look on her face as demonstrators shouted her down. In the end, she went to Brasilia and addressed the country’s congress.
“I very much like the plurality of ideas and wish it was like this in my country,” Sanchez said later in the interview.
In Cuba, where those deemed political threats are tracked by the intelligence service, Sanchez had to be discreet when she started blogging in 2007. She would sneak into hotels, head to the business center and fire off vignettes to friends on the outside who would then post them on her site.