The U.S. State Department has told Cuba it deplores last week’s “assault” on blogger Yoani Sánchez, one of the toughest of several expressions of support for the Havana writer. Sánchez and fellow blogger Orlando Luis Pardo said they were beaten Friday by presumed state security agents to keep them away from a “march against violence.” Blogger Claudia Cadelo and another woman were detained in the incident, but without violence. “The U.S. government strongly deplores the assault,” said a State Department statement issued late Monday. “We have expressed to the Cuban government our deep concern . . . and we are following up with inquiries to [the three bloggers] . . . regarding their personal well-being and access to medical care.”
Sánchez’ husband, Reynaldo Escobar, told El Nuevo Herald she’s walking with a crutch and taking medicines for a backache, the result of being thrown head-first into a car and punched in the back by the three men in plainclothes who detained her for 20 minutes. There was no word on Pardo’s health. Cuba’s government-controlled mass media has made no mention of the incident, which received wide coverage abroad because of Sanchez’s fame as the prize-winning author of the blog Generación Y, which regularly criticizes the ruling system. “The Cuban authorities are using brute force to try to silence Yoani Sanchez’s only weapon: her ideas,” said José Miguel Vivanco, head of the New York-based Americas section of Human Rights Watch. “The international community must send a firm message to Raúl Castro that such attacks on independent voices are completely unacceptable. “This brazen attack makes clear that no one in Cuba who voices dissent is safe from violent reprisals,” Vivanco added. The Human Rights Foundation, an independent group also based in New York, decried the “blatant attempt by the Cuban government to silence independent thought and speech” and added: “Does the Cuban government realize the preposterous irony of violently assaulting citizens who were on their way to protest violence?”
Seven U.S. senators from both parties, meanwhile, issued statements Tuesday condemning the incident, with New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez calling it “yet another indication that despite all the hoped-for change on the island, the regime continues to rule with an iron fist that crushes any seed of free speech or human rights.”
“This is yet another outrageous and unacceptable example that appeasing the Castro regime will not work,” said Florida Republican George Lemieux. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson called Sánchez “a symbol of courage.” Also condemning the incident were Democrats Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Ted Kaufman of Delaware and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Earlier, during an interview with Radio Martí, Florida Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart branded the violence against Sánchez and Pardo as “repugnant” and said it was “Cuba’s answer” to gestures by President Barack Obama to establish a new relationship.
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