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Fri Oct 31 09:01:26 SAST 2014

Anti-regime Cuban blogger back at it despite two arrests in a month

Sapa-AFP | 11 November, 2012 10:26

Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Despite two arrests in a month, a defiant Cuban blogger is right back at it, criticizing the Havana government as part of a drive that has made her famous abroad even if she is little known at home.

Yoani Sanchez took to social media Friday and had little to say about the eight hours she spent in detention.

But she did say she was delighted with her role as regional vice chair for Cuba of the Inter American Press Association's Press Freedom Committee.

The Miami-based media watchdog named her to the post Thursday while the 37-year-old activist was held in a Havana police station with other opposition figures, trying to find out about dissidents picked up a day earlier.

Those 16 people were freed on Thursday night and early Friday.

When Sanchez was freed, she tweeted to her 355,423 followers, "Once again I can walk along the streets of Havana after being detained for several hours. I am fine. Thanks for your support!"

Bloggers close to Cuba's communist regime regularly attack Sanchez on social media. Oddly, her recent arrests were announced by her main detractor, a blogger who goes by the name of Yohandry Fontana.

Yohandry, who tweets all day, just as Sanchez does, defended her arrest.

"She was arrested for provoking Cuba on orders from the United States... just a few hours after" President Barack Obama won re-election on Tuesday.

Sanchez, whose blog Generacion Y is translated into 15 languages, had been arrested October 5 in the southeastern city of Bayamo and was freed 30 hours later in Havana.

She had tried to cover the trial of Spanish political activist Angel Carromero, the driver in a road accident that left leading Cuban opposition figure Oswaldo Paya dead in July.

The arrest of Sanchez was covered profusely by Yohandry. In Cuba, such events are rarely made public.

Sanchez tweeted Friday that one of the main challenges of her new role at the IAPA will be to prepare a detailed report on freedom of the press in Cuba.

Although she is an international celebrity, Sanchez is almost unknown in Cuba, especially outside Havana.

In Cuba, the Americas' only one-party Communist regime, it is illegal to speak out against the government, news outlets are controlled by the state, access to the Internet is tightly controlled and there is no broadband.

"Her face is not familiar for most Cubans, but her name is," said dissident Elizardo Sanchez, who runs the National Human Rights and Reconciliation Commission, which is illegal but tolerated by the government.

Her work at the press association "is going to be very difficult, although all of us in the emerging civil society are going to support her," he said.

Sanchez noted that many Cubans had learned of the blogger's existence after an allusion to her in Fidel Castro's book "Fidel, Bolivia and Something Else," published in 2008.

"Many people know her from the Cuban government's attacks on her, and even those of commander Fidel Castro himself," Elizardo Sanchez said.

In his book, the father of the Cuban revolution does not mention Sanchez by name. But he criticizes the comments she made after the Cuban government denied her permission to go to Spain to receive an award bestowed by the country's top-selling newspaper, El Pais, in 2008.

Time magazine named Sanchez as one of the world's 100 most influential women in 2008.

Sanchez gained notoriety that year because there were many foreign journalists in Cuba to cover Raul Castro's election to succeed his brother Fidel, who had withdrawn from the scene in 2006 because of health problems.

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