The U.S. State Department issued a statement late Monday decrying attacks on three Cuban bloggers, including one who has gained international attention for her searing observations about life on the communist island.
"The U.S. government strongly deplores the assault on bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, and Claudia Cadelo," the department said.
Sanchez, who has won international awards for her blog "Generacion Y," said Friday that two Cuban state agents in civilian clothes stopped her and Pardo in Havana's Vedado neighborhood as they and other friends headed to a nonviolence march.
Sanchez said she and Pardo were ordered into a car where the agents pulled her hair and kicked her. Both she and Pardo were held briefly before being let out at their homes, she said. Cadelo was picked up by a car separately around the same time.
The Cuban government has not commented. There was no way to corroborate Sanchez's assertion state security was involved, but agents routinely follow members of Cuba's tiny political opposition.
The State Department said the three bloggers were "beaten" and called "on the Government of Cuba to ensure the full respect of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens."
Many Cubans who openly criticize the country's single-party system say they are harassed regularly by the state, particularly if they try to attend or plan street demonstrations. The government does not recognize the legitimacy of the opposition, claiming they are paid mercenaries of Washington.
Earlier this year, Time magazine named Sanchez one of the world's 100 most influential people. In October, the government denied her permission to travel to New York to receive a journalism prize.
While her blog gets about 1 million hits a month, Sanchez enjoys more of a following off the island than on it. Internet access to her blog is blocked in Cuba and Sanchez blames the government, which severely limits freedom of speech and assembly and controls all newspapers, radio and television stations.