By Isaac Risco
HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez traveled to Brazil Sunday, at the start of a long tour that is to take her to a dozen countries in the coming weeks.
Sanchez, 37, an outspoken critic of the government of Cuban President Raul Castro, had for years been denied the so-called “white card,” the exit permit to leave Cuba, even though as an award-winning blogger she had invitations from around the world.
Cuban authorities did away with the exit permit last month and soon afterwards they issued the previously skeptical Sanchez with a passport, the only document that Cubans now need to leave the communist island.
“I have lived such intense days that it all seems like a dream,” Sanchez said at Havana airport early Sunday.
Shortly afterwards she boarded a plane headed for South America, via Panama.
“I have achieved a small victory as a person, as a journalist, as a citizen, legally, after trying 20 times in five years,” Sanchez said at the airport.
She became renowned from 2007 with her criticism of Cuban authorities in the blog, Generation Y, and she is a contributor to several international media.
The blogger arrived at the airport very early with her husband, dissident Reinaldo Escobar, relatives and supporters. She was happy to leave the country and had no fear that Cuban authorities might not allow her back into the country.
“I am not afraid,” she told reporters. “I don’t think (the authorities will do that), because it would be a major breach of legality.”
“I meet all the legal requirements for a return,” she said.
Sanchez has made it clear that she plans to remain a permanent resident of Cuba.
“I don’t want to be abroad more than three months, because I don’t like to be apart from my family too long,” she stressed Sunday.
Sanchez travelled to Brazil and was scheduled to head to Europe, the United States and other countries in the Americas.
“From Brazil I’m off to the Czech Republic, then Spain, Mexico, the United States, the Netherlands. Form the Netherlands I’m going to Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Spain sgain. On this side of the Atlantic, I’m going to Peru,” she said.
Trips to Chile and Argentina were yet to be confirmed.
The migration reform that was announced in October and went into force on January 14 has paved the way for Cubans to travel. Now all they need is a passport and a visa for their destination.
Several dissidents have received passports in recent weeks, although the new legislation reserves the right not to issue them for “national security reasons” or for highly qualified people such as doctors.
Other dissidents including Berta Soler, leader of the group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), were also planning to travel in the coming weeks. A few dissidents who have served jail sentences have been denied passports.
Castro has put in place several significant changes since he succeeded his brother Fidel Castro in the Cuban leadership in 2006.
Among other things, more room has been made for private initiative and Cubans have been allowed to buy and sell cars and homes, after decades of restrictions.
“Yoani Sanchez’s trip shows that reform in Cuba is serious,” pro-government blogger Yohandry Fontana, very critical of Sanchez, said Sunday in the social network Twitter.