RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez embarked on her first trip abroad in five years, arriving in Brazil a month after the communist government eased travel restrictions.
Sanchez, who was last arrested in October, Monday flew into the coastal city of Recife for the first stop in an international tour. Sanchez writes the “Generation Y” blog that documents government measures and life in Cuba, including laws regulating travel, and has repeatedly tried and failed to leave the island.
Last year she was denied permission to visit Brazil.
“Lots of friends welcoming me on arrival and other people shouting insults at me,” Sanchez wrote on her Twitter account, which has more than 400,000 followers. “I wish in Cuba you could do the same. Long live freedom!”
Sao Paulo-based magazine Veja reported on Feb. 16 that Sanchez may be under scrutiny while abroad. Cuba’s ambassador to Brazil held a meeting with members of the ruling Workers’ Party in Brasilia on Feb. 6 to discuss 24-hour-a-day surveillance of the dissident and implementation of a smear campaign, the magazine said.
The Cuban Embassy denied the report, Veja said.
The office of Brazil’s secretary general said in a statement that Ricardo Poppi, coordinator of new media, was at the Cuban embassy on Feb. 6 to obtain his entry visa for the country, not to discuss Sanchez’s visit to Brazil.
Sanchez, who lived in Switzerland from 2002 to 2004 before returning to Cuba, applied for a passport after President Raul Castro’s new rules on travel went into effect Jan. 14.
Under the regulations, Cuba no longer requires residents to apply for exit visas to go abroad, a rule that has prevented many citizens from leaving the island for decades.
Sanchez plans to visit 10 countries including the United States, Mexico, Italy, and Spain, according to Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York who is helping organize her trip.
“It is significant that Cuba’s leading cyber activist doesn’t come running to Miami or Washington, but begins her tour in South America, and I think that’s not an accident,” said Henken in a telephone interview. “To me she’s trying to make a point that her support comes from all over the world and doesn’t come, as is often claimed or assumed, just from Miami exiles or from the U.S. government.”
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