Cuba takes up Twitter – and encounters opposition

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Mariela Castro, daughter of the Cuban president, debuted on Twitter and Youtube this week to shed another light on a recent interview she gave to Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW). But her venture into social media immediately led to an online clash with a dissident in her own country.

[media:factfile]Mariela Castro wrote on her Twitter account about a recent trip to Amsterdam where she visited the red light district in her role as director for Cuba's National Centre for Sexual Education. She told RNW that she was impressed with the way prostitution is legal and organised in The Netherlands.

But on Twitter, Castro Espin said her remarks were taken out of context and that she would use social media to clarify her position. A video was published on Youtube in which she explained that she never said the Dutch model should be exported to Cuba.

"Without a doubt, there have been misunderstandings, manipulations, as always. At least there is the Web... and WikiLeaks," Mariela Castro tweeted.

Within a few hours Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez, a well known critic of the Castro regime who lives in Havana, tweeted a response. "Welcome to the plurality of Twitter," Sanchez wrote. "Here no one can shut me up, or deny me permission to travel or block my entry." Mariela Castro replied: "Your focus on tolerance reproduces the old mechanisms of power. To improve your 'services' you need to study."

[media:image]It’s likely this provoked a shower of angry reactions invisible to the public, as she then posted this message: "Despicable parasites: Did you receive the order from your employers to respond in unison and with the same predetermined script? Be creative."

Mariela Castro is the niece of Fidel Castro. Her father, Raul Castro, took over Fidel’s presidential duties in 2006, and became president in 2008.

RNW’s video interview with Mariela Castro Espin, her video answer on Youtube and the unedited audio of the complete video can be viewed here (in Spanish)

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide