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Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Posted April 15, 2009 | 12:19 AM (EST)

Obama Threw the Ball, Now It's in Raul's Court


The ball is in Cuba's court after Obama threw it yesterday, as he announced new flexibility in his policies toward Cuba. The players on this side seem a bit confused, hesitating between grabbing the ball, criticizing it, or simply ignoring it. The context couldn't be better: loyalty to the government has never seemed more perverse and ideological fervor has never been as feeble as it is now. On top of that, few still believe the story that the powerful neighbor will attack us and the majority feel that this confrontation has gone on too long.

The next move is up to Raul Castro's government but we sense we will be left waiting. He should "decriminalize political dissent" which would immediately annul the long prison sentences of those who have been punished for differences of opinion. The ball we would like him to throw is the one that would open up spaces for citizens' initiatives, permit free association and, in a gesture of the utmost political honesty, put himself to the test of truly free elections. In a bold leap on the field "the permanent second" would have to dare to offer something more than an olive branch. We are hoping they eliminate the travel restrictions, which would put an end to that extortionary business of permission to come and go from the Island.

The game would become more dynamic if they let the Cuban people take hold of the erratic ball of change. Many would kick it to end censorship, State control over information, ideological selection in certain professions, indoctrination in education and the punishment of those who think differently. We would kick it to be able to surf the Internet without blocked web sites, to be able to say the word "freedom" into an open microphone without being accused of "a counter-revolutionary provocation."

Many of us have climbed down from the bleachers from where we were watching the game. If the Cuban government doesn't grab the ball, there are thousands of hands ready to take our turn to launch it.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.