Cuba calls off meeting with dissident blogger

Cuba’s president has canceled a high-profile meeting with dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, a protest the dissident says he’ll go ahead with anyway.

Sanchez says the meeting was canceled because she was “punished for exhibiting the independence of her opinion.” She and Cuba’s President Raul Castro were supposed to meet Friday in a closed session of the National Assembly, but that will not happen.

“I’ve never been jailed,” she said. “I’m not afraid to use the question of censorship to our advantage.”

On Thursday, she posted a photo of Castro on her Instagram page, saying he will not be celebrating his 88th birthday by meeting with her.

In 2012, Sanchez’s blog, “Generation Y,” about censorship and repression in Cuba, was closed after the government cited what it called “serious” security concerns. She was interrogated for hours before her new blog, “Open Letter,” was launched with the goal of being more open. “Generation Y” was eventually re-opened by the Cuban government, in November 2015.

@rulguardian couldn’t let these hackers take up your cause! I think @rafaelcuba needs to apologize, and apologize to the Cuban people! #YoaniSanchez — (@antanas) November 2, 2018

“I’ve tried to analyze why, with all of Cuba’s stability, suddenly this censorship seems so serious that they pull me from a meeting with a government that they’ve attacked,” she said.

Sanchez also criticized the regime’s treatment of bloggers. She was told in July to tone down her opinions, and reportedly gave up using her own smartphone.

“Yes, I’m afraid,” she said. “There are many forms of fear. There are timeworn ways of staying inside a box, but also new ways, new habits.”

On Friday, she shared a photo of a lone car and driver in protest of those who dared criticize Castro, saying “a group of peaceful protesters once drove by, telling their elected representatives to leave or to stop building tunnels under the road. If Raul Castro wants to leave office, perhaps he should buy a ticket for his next visit to the driver, but I doubt it. He won’t like it.”

She said she does not regret telling authorities to “stop building tunnels” and asked: “Is that the worst thing that’s happened to you this week?”

“How soon we forget,” she said.

Sanchez was expected to offer her views to the National Assembly on the improvements made to Cuba’s economy since the embargo was lifted in 2011, what the government says is the opening of new industries, and the Cuban leader’s plans for the future.

Sanchez has also received threats from Cuban officials for talking about what they say is a U.S. campaign to undermine the government.

She has said she is not worried about being arrested. The government recently released four bloggers who had been jailed in what is described as retaliation for publishing stories attacking the Cuban regime. Cuba says these bloggers were arrested for publishing material that violates state security, and says they were detained because of what was on their computers.

The New York Times reported Monday that the U.S. government, via the State Department, had asked Cuba to release social media bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Guillermo Farinas, who had been detained after denouncing the 2013 hijacking of an airplane that was sent on an armed mission to kill Fidel Castro’s brother. Farinas received an official pardon in October.

President Trump has said Cuban travel restrictions, which have been in place since 2002, should be re-imposed and the trade embargo against Cuba should be re-implemented. He is also seeking the return of an American contractor captured in Cuba. The Havana government says the United States has many of its own problems to worry about.

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