01/31/13 - THE NEW YORK TIMES - Yoani Sánchez, Cuban Dissident Blogger, Gets Passport
By Damien Cave
MEXICO CITY - When Cuba eliminated the permit that had been used to keep Cubans from
leaving the country for decades, skeptics asked: Would dissidents and critics
previously denied be allowed to travel as well?
No one expressed more public skepticism than the well-known blogger Yoani Sánchez.
She chronicled every detail of her struggle to get a passport, the last hurdle to
travel under the new law that went into effect on Jan. 14. As recently as Wednesday
afternoon, she was using her Twitter account, @yoanisanchez, to criticize the
"lethargy of the bureaucracy in Cuba," as yet another official told her "your
passport still isn't ready."
Then suddenly, four hours later, it was. Thrilled and apparently surprised, she
wrote: "They called me at home to say my passport was ready! They just delivered
it." She attached a photo of the document in another post, and wrote that after
talking to her sister, whom she had not seen in six months, the passport made a
reunion outside of Cuba suddenly possible.
The Cuban government's decision seemed to suggest that officials are in fact
determined to make sure that the new travel law is seen as more open and liberating
than the system that preceded it. Experts have noted that encouraging Cubans to come
and go could benefit the island's sclerotic economy as more Cubans work abroad and
send money home.
Ms. Sánchez is also well known worldwide, having won a number of awards for her
efforts to create more room for public discourse in Cuba, so by approving her request
to travel, Cuba has avoided stirring up a storm of criticism internationally.
At the same time, however, Cuba - wedded to its old ways even as it tries to change -
signaled that it would open its doors only selectively. On the same day Ms. Sánchez
received her passport, Angel Moya, one of 75 dissidents and writers imprisoned in
2003 for their political activities, reported that his passport application had been
He told The Associated Press that a clerk had informed him it could not be processed
"for reasons of public interest" - an apparent reference to a clause in the new law
that lets the government restrict some citizens' rights to travel, based on factors
including past activities or threats to national security.
Mr. Moya noted that his release from prison was conditional - he is technically still
serving a 20-year sentence on a charge of treason - and he said that was probably the
official reason for rejecting his passport request.
Ms. Sánchez, whose passport was celebrated online by many of her 383,000 followers on
Twitter, said that the combination of receiving her passport and discovering that Mr.
Moya did not made her both happy and sad. "On one hand I have my document to
travel," she wrote, "but for many of my friends like @JAngelMoya, they will not allow
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