A correspondent for the French daily Le Monde was beaten in Havana on Saturday by men he described as Cuban security agents who had followed him in Interior Ministry cars.
Bertrand De La Grange, 41, the Costa Rica-based correspondent for Le Monde, said the incident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. as he arrived at the house of Cuban dissident Vladimiro Roca in Havana's Nuevo Vedado section.
Two other foreign reporters, who were at a small news conference inside the house, took him to a nearby hospital. He received six stitches in the chin, and was treated for bruises on his chest, back and shoulders.
The attack came at a time when growing numbers of foreign reporters, defying the Cuban government's restrictions on the foreign press, are entering the country with tourist visas. De La Grange and several other correspondents arrived in Cuba on May 17 on tourist visas for a fishing tournament.
Cuba's government demands that foreign reporters wanting to visit the island to work apply for journalists' visas at Cuban embassies abroad. Reporters whom the government considers hostile to the revolution are not allowed entry.
De La Grange said shortly after his arrival in Miami on Monday that several men riding in Interior Ministry Soviet-made Lada cars had been following him on and off for two days before the attack took place.
He said he was suddenly struck as he got out of a taxi about 10 yards from Roca's house.
"I was getting off the car and hadn't even raised my head when a huge man hit me with something in the chin," he said. "Then, he and others threw me against a fence, and knocked me to the ground. It was one blow after another. "At that point, a white car stopped on the street and a woman started yelling, 'Murderers! Murderers!' It was Roca's wife," De La Grange said. "The shouts alerted Roca and the other journalists who were inside the house, who immediately came out."
The attackers rushed back to their cars and left, taking the reporter's camera and notebooks, he said. A British reporter said the reporters in the house had seen a beige Lada seconds earlier from Roca's kitchen.
"I saw the getaway car getting off with screeching tires," said David Adams, a correspondent for the British daily The Independent. "Then, I went out, and saw Bertrand with his face covered with blood."
Officials at Cuba's Interest Section in Washington were not available for comment Monday night.
De La Grange, who has often written about Cuba's human rights conditions, had held separate interviews hours earlier with Cuban human rights leader Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, and with dissident Oswaldo Paya. He said that on leaving their homes, he noticed he was being followed by two -- sometimes three -- cars.
Last November, De La Grange was detained for two days at a Havana Immigration Police jail after he arrived on a tourist visa. He was released and allowed to keep his working materials after the French Embassy intervened.
"There is a double message in this: One is aimed at me, to let me know I'm not welcome in Cuba," De La Grange said. "The other is for all other journalists, to let them know that this is what will happen to them if the come to Cuba on tourist visas and interview dissidents."
© 1996 The Miami Herald.