Dissident Cuban blogger lauds Venezuelans' social media use

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez on Monday hailed Venezuelan anti-government demonstrators' use of social media as "worth imitating."

"Venezuelans are really fighting hard in social media, it is an example, really, of creativity, determination and effectiveness worth imitating," Sanchez told the Techweek Miami conference.

The comments were more direct than usual for Sanchez, who tends to highlight the Cuban human rights situation cautiously.

Sanchez, 38, a Havana resident whose blog on everyday life in communist Cuba has earned her a slew of international awards, noted that weeks ago, the hashtag #mejordesnudosque (#betternakedthan) went viral after protesting students allegedly were stripped by pro-government activists.

"That was a warning about what was going on. A creative, different and sort of silly way to warn people in social media about what is happening in Venezuela," which has been hit by its worst anti-government protests, she said.

Leftist President Nicolas Maduro is the closest regional ally of Cuba, the region's only one-party communist state.

Venezuelan economic support is critical to keeping afloat the Cuban government and economy afloat.

Cash-strapped Havana still has a centrally planned economy and cannot get access to international loans, and Venezuela supplies it with cut-rate oil.

But months of street protests, inflation near 60 percent, widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring crime have plunged the oil-rich OPEC member in an unresolved political and economic crisis since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez more than a year ago.

Though Sanchez has been honored by Time magazine and received Spain's Ortega y Gasset prize, most people in Cuba are not familiar with her work. The government controls all media, and most Cubans do not have Internet access.

Lately, the blogger has pledged to launch an online newspaper, which seems to have potential for generating a clash with authorities in Havana.

She was blunt in her remarks to attendees at the Miami event, in south Florida, home to almost one million Cubans and Cuban Americans.

"Look around at home when you are going to travel to the island (Cuba)," Sanchez told a cheering crowd.

"Tech accessories that can be plugged into a computer, or a memory stick, or a computer that you are not using any more. Those things could change a Cuban's life."