Cuba withdraws accreditation for journalists from Spanish news agency EFE

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A view of a street in downtown Havana, Cuba, November 9, 2019. Picture taken on November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini//File Photo

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MADRID, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The Cuban government withdrew press credentials from five journalists from the Spanish news agency EFE but later reinstated two of them, EFE said, ahead of a banned protest march by opposition groups planned for Monday.

An editor and a photographer were told by the Cuban government that their accreditations would be returned, EFE said on Sunday.

Hours earlier, the Cuban authorities summoned three editors, a photographer and a television cameraperson to inform them of the decision to withdraw their press credentials, EFE said in a statement. It noted that the action took place on the eve of Monday's banned march. read more

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Juan Fernandez Trigo, Spain's secretary of state for Latin America and the Caribbean, telephoned the head of the Cuban Embassy in Madrid on Sunday to demand that Havana return the press credentials to the three other EFE journalists.

"At the same time, he rejected the accusation that EFE works for foreign powers and defended the work of the Spanish agency as an international reference for information, as was demonstrated by the repercussions caused by the withdrawal of the journalists' accreditations," a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters.

The Cuban government's International Press Center did not reply to a request for comment.

Gabriela Cañas, president of EFE, said the Cuban government's decision to reinstate the accreditation of two journalists was "insufficient" and called on the government to also reinstate the credentials of the other three.

The Spanish secretary of state spoke to the head of the Cuban Embassy in Madrid by telephone on Sunday after the Cuban diplomat sent a medical certificate proving he had tested positive for COVID-19 and could not attend a meeting at the Spanish Foreign Ministry in person on Monday.

Cuba currently has no ambassador in Madrid.

A spokesperson for EFE said the Cuban government had not given a reason for the withdrawal of the accreditations.

The Cuban Embassy in Madrid did not respond to calls for comment when contacted by Reuters, although on a Sunday the embassy was closed.

The accreditation of another EFE journalist was withdrawn a month ago, EFE said.

Opposition groups called Monday's march to demand greater political freedoms and the release of jailed activists. The planned demonstration follows nationwide protests in July amid anger over economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic on the communist-ruled island.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel's government banned Monday's march saying it is part of a destabilization campaign by the United States.

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Reporting by Graham Keeley in Barcelona, David Sherwood in Havana Editing by Frances Kerry and Barbara Lewis

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