Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez set off on a three-month, dozen-nation world tour on Sunday, after a new law eliminated the exit permit that had been required of islanders for five decades and was denied to her about 20 times in recent years.
Pulling a blue rolling suitcase emblazoned with the logo of her “Generation Y” blog at Havana’s international airport, Sanchez showed reporters her brand new passport with a fresh US double-entry visa, valid for six months. She paid the US$25 airport tax, disappeared beyond the passport control checkpoint and said via Twitter that the only thing left was to get on the plane.
“My name has not been called over the loudspeakers, they have not taken me to a room to strip me or give me a warning,” she tweeted from the waiting lounge. “Everything is going well.”
Sanchez is one of Cuba’s most prominent dissidents, though her blog is not widely followed on the island.
Whether authorities would allow her to go abroad was seen as a key test of the travel law, one of the most significant reforms of Cuban President Raul Castro’s ongoing plan to refashion some elements of the economy, government and society.
Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at New York’s Baruch College who studies social media and civil society in Cuba, said letting prominent dissidents travel is a “calculated risk” in which the government could figure good public relations outweigh the downside of people such as Sanchez using their bully pulpit to bash the Communist system abroad.
Henken has been closely involved in arranging Sanchez’s US meetings and appearances.