(Adds dropped word "launched" from first paragraph)
By Daniel Trotta
HAVANA May 21 Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez
launched Cuba's first independent online newspaper on Wednesday
with reports questioning the quality of Cuba's healthcare system
but access to its maiden edition was soon redirected to another
site mocking the journalist.
The new site 14ymedio.com seeks to draw attention away from
the communist-ruled country's state-controlled media and
challenge the government's heavy media restrictions. Cuba has
been tolerating a greater criticism in recent years but not yet
from such a professional-looking website produced on the island.
Within its first 90 minutes on line, links to 14ymedio.com
instead led to a site called yoani$landia.com, a reference the
official Cuban critique that she is motivated by greed. The lead
headline on the site was about her former Italian translator who
split with Sanchez, saying she was rude and only wanted to
become rich and famous.
The website called the interference a redirection, not a
hack, and it seemed to mostly affect users with Cuban servers.
From her Twitter account, Sanchez called it a "bad strategy
by the Cuban government to redirect our web 14ymedio.com from
Cuba. Nothing more attractive than what is forbidden."
As launched, the site had stories of a type rarely seen in
official Cuban media, for example doubting the quality of Cuba's
free healthcare system, officially seen as a triumph of the 1959
A headline asks "Does our health suffer from international
missions?," questioning Cuba's program of exporting doctors in
exchange for Venezuelan oil and to Brazil, which has helped make
professional services the country's top export.
One color piece paints a picture of some lackadaisical staff
during an overnight shift at a major hospital's waiting room,
with a number of nurses asleep.
It says police brought in a handcuffed suspect with cuts on
his arm and that similar cases of the wounded came in all night
because "there is a war in the streets." Official media shy away
from stories on violent crime.
A third cover story further tweaks authorities by reporting
that soccer is gaining on baseball in popularity, suggesting
they see the rise of football as a threat "as if sports
preferences were a matter of national security."
Sanchez's blog on daily life and politics in Cuba, Generation
Y, has rattled the Cuban establishment, and she has won
prestigious media awards in the United States and Europe.
Some 28 renowned journalists and intellectuals, including
Peruvian author and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, signed a
manifesto in support of 14ymedio for its debut.
The Cuban government in turn has tried to discredit her as
well-paid propagandist doing the bidding of the U.S. government,
and six of the site's nine reporters have been called in for
questioning by state security officials, Sanchez said.
Most Cubans will not be able to read the new publication.
Only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million have access
to the Internet, and most of those who do have only been able to
explore a limited, state-controlled basket of approved websites.
(Editing by David Adams and W Simon)