FIU To Award Yoani Sánchez Medallion of Courage

As we’ve reported previously, Yoani Sánchez, dissident blogger and “vocal critic of the Cuban government,” has finally been allowed to travel, and South Florida is on her itinerary. Her three-month trip also includes several Latin American and European nations and a few U.S. cities, including Miami.
Yoani’s blog, GeneraciónY, and its English translation, Generation Y, which can be seen at and her Twitter updates via @yoanisanchez are well-known throughout the world. She has received many awards, but has never been able to accept one outside Cuba in person.
Photo from her site:  
I was trying to figure out when she will be in South Florida today, and found the exciting news that she will appear at Florida International University (FIU) to speak and be awarded FIU’s Medallion of Courage.  What a fitting name for the award! The host of the presentation at FIU is its Cuban Research Institute. 
Sánchez’s presentation, which is titled “Can Technologies and Social Media Accelerate Cuba’s Democratization?” is scheduled for April 1, 2013. See the link for details.
We previously examined the international flurry of government takeovers based on social media and discussed the fact that mobile Internet technology is not prevalent in Cuba. Even last week, we heard of new restrictions on certain Internet sites in Cuba, as a means of tamping the ability to communicate freely.  In July of 2011, Yoani was invited to appear on a panel about a similar topic, called “How to Ignite, or Quash, a Revolution in 140 Characters or Less,” in Washington, D.C., but of course, she was forbidden the opportunity to leave.  See our prior blog on the subject at 
The Medallion of Courage is an honor created by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg to recognize individuals who "pursue or defend a noble cause at a personal cost.” 
Jorge Duany, Ph.D., ( of the Cuban Research Institute and Professor of Anthropology at FIU, said “Yoani is an important voice in public discussions about Cuba’s present and future. We are pleased to provide a forum for Sánchez to have an open and honest conversation with our faculty, students and members of the South Florida community.
Also, see the following 2011 posting on this Blog about Yoani’s wish to travel:

I have tried multiple times to figure out how I could meet Yoani.  I asked her English translator once whether she could arrange a meeting when I was in Havana. Every time I am in Havana, and using the Internet in a hotel, am looking around for Yoani.  I am definitely going to do whatever I can go obtain a ticket and attend this event.

Yoani Sanchez Is on the Move

Yoani Sanchez's international trip has commenced. After years of being denied the right to travel, the Cuban dissident blogger, is in Brazil, the first leg of a three-month long multi-country trip.

She was surprised to note that no officials interrogated her, took to her a separate room, searched her or paid any attention to her.

The Associated Press has posted articles on the trip.  The Miami Herald has posted the AP stories.

Yoani tweeted [translated] At the arrival many friends were welcoming me and other people yelling insults. I wish it would be the same in Cuba. Long live freedom!”

Yesterday, the Miami Herald showed an Associated Press article written by Marco Sibaja, stating that Yoani was heckled by pro-Castro demonstrators in Brazil as she attended a documentary that featured her.

The article said, "Small groups of protesters met Sánchez when she arrived earlier Monday at two airports in Brazil’s northeast. They called her a “mercenary” who was being financed by the CIA and tossed photocopied U.S. dollar bills her way. One protester got close enough to pull her hair."

Read more here:

Other articles:

Las Damas de Blanco – Nobel Peace Prize 2013?

Las Damas de Blanco, or The Ladies in White, is an activist group in Cuba whose husbands are political prisoners.  They regularly antagonize the Cuban government.

Here is their web site:

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), along with fifteen senators and representatives, sent a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating Cuba’s Ladies in White for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Following is a quote from Representative Ros-Lehtinen on her web site:

“The Ladies in White have demonstrated their unwavering courage and will to call out the human rights injustices perpetrated by the Castro tyrannical regime. These brave women have been beaten, harassed, and falsely imprisoned simply for speaking out against the dictatorship and demanding freedom and democracy for the Cuban people. For these reasons, my colleagues and I are proud to have written and signed a letter nominating the Ladies in White for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

This is the actual letter, again from her web site:

February 1, 2013
His Excellency, Thorbjorn Jagland
Nobel Peace Prize Committee
Henrik Ibsens Gate 51
0255 Oslo
Dear Chairman Jagland and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee:
As Members of the United States Congress, we nominate the Ladies in White to receive the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. These brave women come together every Sunday dressed in their signature all white garments carrying a symbolic gladiolus flower as they walk to attend Catholic mass to pray for the release of their loved ones. In response to these peaceful demonstrations, the Castro regime has employed its thugs to viciously harass, intimidate, and imprison the Ladies in White to disrupt their weekly walks. 
The Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco) are a leading Cuba based pro-democracy group that was formed by the wives, mothers, sister and aunts of Cuban political prisoners to advance their cause in the call for freedom and human rights. By serving as non-violent and outspoken activists against the Cuban dictatorship, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, they have struggled against everyday tyranny and dedicated themselves to political reform.
A leading founder of this movement, Laura Pollan became ill after enduring another beating at the hands of Cuban State Security and died in October 2011. She was an active critic of the Castro dictatorship after her husband was arrested in March 2003 with 75 other independent journalists and dissidents, during what is now referred to as the Black Spring. Since that time, the Ladies in White have projected a peaceful message of change and brought international attention to the plight of prisoners of conscience in Cuba. In 2005, the Ladies in White were even awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European parliament for their work, but the group was unable to accept the award because they were not granted authorization by the Castro regime to travel to France to accept it.
In the last year, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of arbitrary arrests, beatings, and abuse of peaceful dissident groups by the Cuban regime. In fact, just last week, over 35 members of the Ladies in White were beaten, threatened, and temporarily arrested while on their way to mass by Castro’s security forces. These abuses and restrictions of basic freedoms and rights are a commonplace occurrence in Cuba. Ms. Pollan understood this and even after her husband was released she continued the struggle for freedom stating, “I started fighting for my husband, then for the group, and now it’s for changes for the better of the country.” These words underscore that there will never be real change and freedom on the island until there is a political change from the current communist regime.
To this day, millions of Cubans continue to live under the oppressive Castro dictatorship. Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and due process of law continue to be forbidden by the communist regime. The courageous members of the Ladies in White understand this denial and have dedicated their lives to promote change through non-violent social action and resistance. They may not have started out as activists, but through their fearless efforts they have become the voices of a generation that will no longer tolerate the cruelty and violence of the Castro regime.
Their achievements have not gone unnoticed. Amnesty International has commented that, “Cuban authorities must stop repressing legitimate dissent and harassing those who are only asking for justice and exercising their freedom of expression.” In similar support, Freedom House noted that “the group helped raise awareness and expand the movement beyond the capital of Havana and was instrumental in the release of the political prisoners.”
By awarding these activists the Nobel Peace Prize, the international community has the opportunity to bring worldwide attention to the plight of the Cuban people and promote the fundamental freedoms that have been denied to the citizens on the island for so long. It is our moral obligation to join the voices of those who are suffering under oppression and help them achieve freedom."
So far, the Ladies in White are not even listed in the odds list of possibly winning. 

In late 2011, one of the most visible members of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollán died of a heart attack. She was nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, but did not receive it.  

Maybe the group as a whole will receive more attention this year.