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Cuba: Government Officials Tell Bloggers to Cancel Planned Meeting

A Cuban blogger meet-up scheduled for December 6 is in danger of being cancelled by the authorities. The event, which has been in the planning stage for months and had 25 confirmed attendees, is being deemed “counterrevolutionary.” This is according to a recent conversation between officials from the Interior Ministry and one of the island's most well-known bloggers and Best of Blog winner Yoaní Sánchez of Generación Y [es].

Sánchez received a summons notice, which she photographed and published on her blog, for her to appear at a local police station. Her appointment with government officials took place last Wednesday, and immediately following the event, she posted about the details:

El encuentro es breve y el tono enérgico. Somos tres en la oficina y el que lleva la voz cantante se ha presentado como el agente Roque. A mi lado, otro más joven, me observa y dice que se llama Camilo. Ambos me anuncian que pertenecen al Ministerio del Interior. No están interesados en escuchar, hay un guión escrito sobre la mesa y nada que yo haga los distraerá. Son profesionales de la intimidación.

El tema me lo esperaba: estamos cerca de la fecha para el encuentro de blogger que, sin secretismo ni publicidad, hemos estado organizando desde medio año y ellos me anuncian que tenemos que suspenderlo. Media hora después, cuando ya estábamos lejos de los uniformes y de las fotos de líderes en las paredes, reconstruimos aproximadamente sus palabras:

“Queremos advertirle que usted ha transgredido todos los límites de tolerancia con su acercamiento y contacto con elementos de la contrarrevolución.Eso la descalifica totalmente para dialogar con las autoridades cubanas.

La actividad prevista para los próximos días no puede ser realizada.

Nosotros, por nuestra parte, tomaremos todas las medidas y haremos las denuncias pertinentes y las acciones necesarias. Esta actividad, en los momentos que vive la Nación, de recuperación de dos huracanes, no será permitida.”

The encounter is brief, the tone energized. There are three of us in the office, and the one with the singer’s voice introduces himself as Agent Roque. At my side, the younger one watches and says his name is Camilo. They announce that they are with the Interior Ministry. They are not interested in listening. There is a script on the table and nothing will distract them. They are professionals of intimidation.

The subject I expected: we are approaching the date of the blogger meetup we have been organizing, with neither secrecy nor publicity, for the past six months and which they proclaim must be cancelled. About a half hour later, when we were away from uniforms and photos of leaders on the walls, we tried to reconstruct what was said.

“We want to advise you that you have transgressed the limits of tolerance in your closeness and contact with elements of the counterrevolution. This disqualifies you totally to conduct dialogue with Cuban authorities.

The activity scheduled for the next few days cannot take place.

We, for our part, will take all measures and will lodge the pertinent charges and take the necessary actions. This event- in these moments which the nation is living, recuperating from two hurricanes- will not be permitted.”

(translation of Sánchez’ post by Babalú blog)

Sánchez was not the only blogger to be summoned by government officials. Claudia Cadelo of Octavo Cerco [es] also received an unexpected visit by the police. She writes about the surprise in her post titled “Me too!,” where she also posts a photo of the summons:

Con Reinaldo Escobar en el teléfono, aún sin conexión, y enterándome por él de todo lo ocurrido, no tuve tiempo a expresar mi frustración ante la anulación de nuestro primer encuentro de bloggers, pues en ese mismo momento un policía tocó a mi puerta para entregarme mi respectiva citación:

Presentarse mañana en la estación de policía de Zapata y C a las 2 pm.

With Reinaldo Escobar (Yoaní Sánchez’ husband) on the telephone, and still without connection and learning about everything that happened, I did not have time to express my frustration for the cancellation of our first blogger meet-up, and in that very moment a police officer knocked on my door to hand me my own citation:

Present yourself at the police station at Zapata and C at 2 pm.

Cadelo posted a photo of herself holding the summons, smiling, flashing a peace sign and a sign in the background ironically saying “I Love Minint” (Ministry of the Interior). The image drew the attention of Enrisco del Risco, who sees the photo as a sign that “times are changing” and writes [es]:

La sonrisa y el orgullo con que enarbola un papel que cada vez da menos miedo. El desafío y la complicidad. Y ese cartel al fondo que lo dice todo diciendo lo contrario con una gracia reservada para cosas menos serias. Los tiempos cambian porque ella sabe que no está sola, que ahora mismo mirando esa foto –con un punto de angustia, es cierto- estamos todos nosotros.

The smile and the pride that lifts her role and provides less and less fear. The challenge and the complicity. The sign in the background tells all and the opposite with a humor reserved for less serious things. The times are changing because she knows that she is not alone, that right now looking at that photo – certainly with a bit of distress – are all of us.

In spite of the warnings from government officials, Sánchez says that the meet-up will go on as planned. In a recent AFP news article [es], Sánchez writes that these types of intimidation tactics by the government only draws more attention to her blog and an increase in traffic. She also thinks that the summons was excessive since the meet-up was not political in nature, and that the bloggers was an informational gathering to learn about techniques and share experiences.

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