Cuba arrests Yoani Sanchez, a well-known anti-Castro blogger
By William Booth,
MEXICO CITY — Cuban authorities arrested one of the island’s most vocal anti-government bloggers and several other activists on the eve of a politically charged trial, human rights watchers and others in Cuba said Friday.
The blogger, Yoani Sanchez, and her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, were driving into the eastern city of Bayamo on Thursday when they were detained by police. Sanchez’s cellphone appeared to be turned off Friday.
Late Friday, however, Sanchez tweeted that she was released from custody after 30 hours.
Cuban officials declined to comment on her detention. In Cuba, dissidents are sometimes arrested and held for a day or two and released without charges — a technique that groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned.
“There are few details about the detention, is almost like a kidnapping, an abduction,” said Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, a fellow blogger. “She was on the street yesterday between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., arriving in Bayamo, the authorities were waiting for her, they cut off their cellphones and then made the arrest.”
News of her arrest was first reported by a pro-government Web site, which said authorities were concerned that Sanchez would turn the trial into a “media show.”
Sanchez, an award-winning social media maven and political activist, is more popular off the island than on it, partly because of limited access to the Internet in Cuba.
Her Spanish-language blog, “Generation Y,” is translated into English and runs regularly on the Huffington Post. Her editorials about Cuba — echoing her frustrations with her country’s heavy-handed state and limited freedoms — have appeared in The Washington Post and the New York Times.Sanchez’s blog details the daily travails of ordinary Cubans and the harassment she and other activists face. She has been repeatedly denied permission to travel.
Her critics say that her projects are paid for by the U.S. government and Cuban exile organizations trying to overturn the Cuban revolution.
Sanchez was en route to Bayamo to attend the trial of Spanish activist Angel Carromero, charged with vehicular manslaughter in a July highway crash in which Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died.
Paya’s family and others accused the Cuban government of playing a role in the accident.
Cuban prosecutors, however, charge that Carromero, who heads the youth wing of Spain’s ruling party, was driving at excessive speeds in a small rental car when he lost control on an unpaved road under repair and crashed into a tree. Paya and Cepero were in the back seat and were not wearing seat belts.
Carromero and Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig were in the front seats, wearing seat belts and were mostly unharmed.
Kerenia Nunez Perez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said Sanchez might be held only a day or two — just long enough to keep her away from the trial.
She said such arrests are common.
“Yoani is a person known worldwide, she has prestige, and so it is not convenient for the authorities to make a greater public spectacle, to keep her detained for long without cause,” she said.
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Gabriela Martinez contributed to this report.