Cuba detained activist and blogger Yoani Sanchez in the eastern city of Bayamo, where she was attending the trial of a man charged in the driving death of another dissident, the pro-government Cuban blog Yohandry said.
Sanchez, who writes the “Generation Y” blog that discusses shortcomings of the Caribbean island’s communist government and her failed attempts to travel abroad, was provoking a “media show” over the trial, Yohandry said.
Sanchez’s son Teo and other activists confirmed that she was arrested last night, said Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York who writes about Cuban bloggers.
“It’s part of a pattern by the Cuban government of systematic and brief detentions to prevent dissidents attending rallies to shine any light on what they don’t want publicity for,” Henken said in a phone interview today. “Sanchez is probably the most prominent lightning rod for that.”
Officials at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington didn’t answer calls by Bloomberg. An e-mail to Cuban officials at the country’s United Nations’ mission wasn’t immediately answered.
Sanchez, 37, has drawn tens of thousands of followers worldwide through her blog and use of social media. President Barack Obama responded to Sanchez’s questions in an interview posted on the Huffington Post website in 2009.
Among the last posts on her twitter account yesterday, Sanchez said that she and her husband were stopped by authorities several times to fumigate the car they were driving.
“The question I had for police was whether it was for dengue and they remained silent,” she wrote.
Sanchez was covering the trial of Spaniard Angel Carromero as a freelance reporter for El Pais, the Madrid-based newspaper said on its website today.
William Ostick, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said that Cuba was cracking down on independent journalists and other activists, including Sakharov Prize laureate Guillermo Farinas, who was arrested yesterday in Santa Clara.
“We are deeply disturbed by the Cuban government’s repeated use of arbitrary detention to silence critics,” Ostick said in Washington today. “Cuba remains the outlier in a democratic region, quashing dissent with unsettling frequency and ease.”
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement last night that 20 pro-democracy activists were also arrested yesterday as part of the crackdown.
The Yohandry blog said Sanchez was arrested while rallying outside the trial of Carromero, who is charged in the July 22 death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya in a road accident.