By Will Weissert
The husband of an internationally known dissident Cuban blogger is challenging the presumed state security agents who roughed up his wife to a verbal duel on a Havana street corner.
Reinaldo Escobar said Thursday he feels compelled both as a husband and open critic of the communist government to avenge an incident last week, when two men in plainclothes allegedly forced political blogger Yoani Sanchez into an unmarked sedan, pulled her hair and kicked her.
The confrontation was so violent, Sanchez said she thought the men might kill her, but instead they dropped her off near her apartment.
“I had many options, like throwing two molotov cocktails at the Interior Ministry or keeping quiet like a coward,” Escobar said in a phone interview.
He said challenging the assailants to a duel is the most decent way to respond, since he doesn’t have their names or addresses.
Escobar posted a photo on his blog Thursday of a security agent at another event who he thinks was involved.
The Nov. 6 conflict left Sanchez using crutches, though she has vowed on her blog, “Generacion Y,” to keep writing her caustic, often witty criticism of the struggles of daily life on an island where there is no freedom of speech or assembly—and shortages of everything from basic food to building materials and school supplies.
Sanchez had been on her way to a small peace demonstration when she was detained with another blogger and government critic, Orlando Luis Pardo. A third cyberspace personality, Claudia Cadelo, was picked up by a police car around the same time.
The U.S. State Department said it “strongly deplores the assault” on all three.
Word of the demonstration was spread by an anonymous text messenger, who is now disseminating word of Escobar’s duel to the cellular phones of foreign journalists and members of the political opposition.
To hold his duel, Escobar plans to return Nov. 20 to the spot where Sanchez was detained, the corner of 23rd and G Avenues, amid the decaying mansions, 1950s movie theaters and high-rise hotels of Havana’s Vedado district.
“I’ll wait for you at 6 p.m. and I’ll be unarmed,” he said, addressing the assailants on his own blog, “Desde Aqui.”
Like “Generacion Y” and all blogs critical of the single-party government, Escobar’s site is blocked in Cuba.
The government has not commented, and there is no way to corroborate Sanchez’s claim that state security was involved. But government agents routinely harass members of Cuba’s tiny political opposition—especially when they try to organize marches or street protests.
Cuba tolerates no official opposition and dismisses nearly everyone who criticizes its government publicly as paid mercenaries of Washington.
Earlier this year, Time magazine named Sanchez—whose blog gets about 1 million hits a month—one of the world’s 100 most influential people. In October, the government denied her permission to travel to New York to receive a top journalism prize, the second time this year she has been barred from leaving the island.