Fri, Feb 01, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Prominent Cuban dissident receives passport, at last

AFP, HAVANA

Leading Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has repeatedly been refused permission to leave Cuba, said on Wednesday she had received a passport and can travel abroad.

“Incredible! They called me at home (from the Migration Office) to tell me my passport was ready! They just gave it to me!” Sanchez, 37, wrote on her Twitter account.

“I am both happy and sad; on the one hand, I have my documents to be able to travel, but many of my friends like [dissident] Angel Moya, are not going to be allowed,” said Sanchez, who applied for her passport on Jan. 14.

The award-winning activist did not immediately announce specific travel plans.

Moya, husband of Ladies in White group leader Berta Soler, was denied his passport because he is out of prison on parole. The ladies’ group is made up of relatives of political prisoners.

generation Y

Sanchez, who is critical of the government in her blog “Generation Y,” had a visa to visit Brazil last year, but was unable to travel there because she had no passport and was refused one.

She won the Ortega y Gasset prize for best online journalism, granted by Spain’s El Pais newspaper, in 2008 and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2008. CNN has called her blog among the world’s 25 best.

However, Sanchez, is not well known in Havana and even less so elsewhere in Cuba, where all opposition is outlawed. Most Cubans do not have Internet access.

Just this month, the Americas’ only one-party Communist regime dropped a decades-old vestige of the Cold War and enabled most of the country’s people to travel freely.

Previously, Cubans needed government permission, invitation letters and costly passport and visas to leave, in a country where the average salary is under US$20 a month.

sports stars

The government has said sports stars and Communist Party leaders still will not have access to passports without special permission.

However, the travel reform also eliminates messy red tape for the 2 million or so Cubans living abroad who want to visit the island, including athletes and others who defected while overseas.

Rights groups slammed the previous system for impeding Cubans’ basic freedom of movement.

The US has said it planned no change in its policy toward Cuban migrants.

Under a policy dating to the Cold War, the US still grants any Cuban who reaches US soil legal residency on request. No such US policy exists for nationals of any other country.

The population of the island stands at 11.2 million.

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