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Cuba Police Accuse Prominent Blogger Of Illegal Activity

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HAVANA — Police have prohibited Cuba's most prominent blogger from attending an independent cyber-workshop and warned that her activities ran afoul of the law, her husband said Friday.

Yoani Sanchez and husband and fellow blogger Reynaldo Escobar were summoned separately Wednesday to a police station near their apartment in Havana's Vedado district and reprimanded, Escobar said in a telephone interview.

Authorities told the couple they could not travel to the western province of Pinar del Rio for a two-day blogger's workshop scheduled to begin Friday night.

"We aren't attending the inauguration of the workshop, which has not been suspended. We've just changed the dynamic of how we are meeting," said Escobar, without elaborating.

An account of the reprimand appears on Sanchez's blog, "Generacion Y." The site was blocked to Internet users on the island Friday.

Sanchez wrote that police told her, "We want to warn you that you have transgressed all the limits of tolerance with your closeness and contact with elements of the counterrevolution."

Sanchez could not be reached Friday, and Cuba's government had no comment.

Another Havana blogger, Claudia Cadelo, was also called into a meeting with police, but failed to appear because she is in the hospital, Escobar said.

The gathering was supposed to involve about 20 bloggers and is being organized by Dagoberto Valdes, a Roman Catholic layman in Pinar del Rio. Valdes was the volunteer director of the church magazine Vitral, which gently called for more plurality and democratic participation, until he was removed from the post by the island's bishop in April 2007.

Valdes was traveling Friday, but his associate, Virgilio Toledo, said authorities in Pinar del Rio also advised two local activists against attending the workshop.

"They think it's an activity about human rights, which it's not," Toledo said.

The Communications Ministry put into effect a law this week that instructs the island's Internet providers to "prevent access to sites where the content is contrary to social interests, morals or good custom, as well as the use of applications that affect the integrity or security of the State."

Escobar said the police suggested Cuba was especially sensitive to criticism as it struggles to recover from the effects of three storms that hit in less than two months this hurricane season, causing more than $10 billion in damage.

Asked if Cuba could be in the midst of a cyber-crackdown, he said, "I don't know how far they will go."

"For dissidents who traditionally have been surrounded, things have gotten stricter," Escobar said, referring to a small group of activists who dare criticize the island's single-party system.

Cuba tolerates no organized political opposition and dismisses dissidents and activists as "mercenaries" who take money from the United States to undermine the communist system.

Sanchez's posts about the struggles of daily life on the island have made her a sensation overseas and she won Spain's Ortega y Gasset Prize for digital journalism.

According to her blog, police said that her activities had "totally nullified your ability to dialogue with Cuban authorities."

Access to the Internet is strictly controlled in Cuba and the government routinely blocks sites it considers too critical.