Mariela Castro – daughter of Raúl – calls dissidents 'despicable parasites'...
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 November 2011 07.19 EST
Mariela Castro implied that Cuban dissidents on Twitter were receiving orders from their 'employers' – the US. Photograph: Javier Galeano/AP
Within hours of signing up to Twitter, the daughter of the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, has got into the online equivalent of a shouting match with a prominent dissident blogger, Yoani Sánchez.
Mariela Castro called Sánchez and her supporters "despicable parasites" in a brief exchange that may have been the first direct confrontation, verbal or otherwise, between dissidents and a member of the Castro family after years of mutual animosity.
Sánchez, who regularly criticises the lack of freedoms in communist Cuba in her Generation Y blog, touched off the dispute by sending tweets that welcomed Mariela Castro to the "plurality of Twitter" where "no one can shut me up, deny me permission to travel or block entrance".
"When will we Cubans be able to come out of other closets?" she asked, alluding to Mariela Castro's championing of gay rights as head of Cuba's national centre for sex education.
"Tolerance is total or is it not?" Sánchez tweeted.
Castro, 49, replied coolly: "Your focus of tolerance reproduces the old mechanisms of power. To improve your 'services' you need to study."
But later, after apparently receiving a number of tweets from other dissidents, Castro lashed out.
"Despicable parasites: did you receive the order from your employers to respond to me in unison and with the same predetermined script? Be creative," she wrote, reflecting the contempt Cuban leaders have for dissidents.
This is fuelled by the belief that the protesters work for their longtime enemy, the United States.
Cuba's leaders can barely hide their rancour toward Sánchez in particular, but do not mention her or other dissidents by name.
Despite having an international following, Sánchez is little known in Cuba, where internet access is limited.
Mariela Castro, who is at the vanguard in Cuba in supporting gay rights, also appears to be the first in the Castro family to publicly and directly engage in tweeting.
Her father, who is 80, and her uncle, the former leader Fidel Castro, 85, have Twitter accounts but these are used only to post stories and columns from Cuba's state-run media.
After her exchange with Sánchez, she posted a link to an interview about her recent trip to the Netherlands, where she toured Amsterdam's red light district.
She raised eyebrows by saying there that she knew of Cubans who would prostitute themselves with labourers just so they could take a bath.
In a tweet, Mariela Castro said there had been "manipulations, like always" of her comments.