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Cuban blogger's news site blocked after going live

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm •  Published: May 21, 2014

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's first major independent general-interest news outlet in five decades was blocked on Wednesday shortly after being launched by the country's best-known dissident blogger.

More than an hour after its launch, the site was directing readers inside Cuba to a page dedicated to scathing criticism of blogger Yoani Sanchez by well-known pro-government writers. Access outside Cuba appeared to be unimpeded.

Sanchez accused the Cuban government of using its control of the country's Internet to divert readers to the critical site.

"Bad strategy by the Cuban government to redirect our site from Cuba," she wrote on Twitter. "There's nothing more attractive than the forbidden."

The government has made no official comment on Sanchez's site, though it considers all dissidents to be mercenaries paid by Washington to stir up trouble.

An independent Internet analyst said it was likely that Cuba's state telecommunications company, Etecsa, had altered the so-called domain name system, which translates the Web-page names typed by users into the numerical Internet addresses that direct a browser to a site.

A check of 130 cities around the world found the problem was only occurring inside Cuba, said Doug Madory, a senior analyst for the New Hampshire-based Internet analysis firm Renesys. While a hacker may have altered the domain name process for Sanchez's site, the fact that the problem was still occurring hours after it began indicated that Etecsa was complicit, he said.

"They would have the ability to make changes to DNS. They edit that then it will redirect where you go when your browser tries to open the website," Madory said. "This would be probably a pretty quick fix. Just as it would be easy to add in, it would be easy to remove."

M.H. Lagarde, a Cuban blogger who has frequently written critically of Sanchez and in favor of government policy, said the critical site, , had existed for some time but he didn't know who ran it. He said an article of his on the site was used without asking his permission. Other writers whose articles appeared on the site did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Before being hacked, offered feature and news reporting, opinion, sports and even hair and beauty tips that Yoani Sanchez hoped would challenge the monopoly on information by the government. The site was seen as testing both government tolerance for dissent and Sanchez's ability to parlay her international blogging success into a wider domestic audience.

It went live just after 8 a.m. Havana time with offerings including reporting with a critical slant toward the government. One feature looked at petty violence through the lens of a night in one of Havana's main hospitals. Other offerings included an interview with a detained dissident writer and a sports feature on the alleged official neglect of soccer in favor of baseball. The site also had more quotidian elements including a weather report, an index of the price of staple foods such as pork and tomatoes, and five tips for fixing dry and damaged hair.

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