HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, received a passport on Wednesday under the island’s new, freer travel law and said she would go abroad soon, after years of being denied that right.
Sanchez’ case was viewed as a test of the Cuban government’s commitment to free travel, but the news was not as good for Angel Moya, another dissident who, Sanchez said, was denied a passport.
“Incredible! They called to my house to tell me that my passport was ready. They just delivered it to me,” Sanchez wrote on Twitter. “Now the only thing left is to be able to board that plane.”
Hated by Cuba’s communist government for constantly criticizing the system in her “Generation Y” blog, Sanchez, a 37-year-old Havana resident, has said she was denied the right to travel 20 times under Cuba’s old travel law and doubted she would get a passport under the new ones.
Cuba’s leaders consider dissidents traitorous “mercenaries” in the employ of the United States and other enemies.
But on January 14, when the reforms took effect, Sanchez went to an immigration office, was told she would get a passport and would be able to come and go as she pleased.
Other well-known dissidents also have been told they will get passports.
The old travel law was put in place in 1961 to slow the flight of Cubans after the island’s 1959 revolution.
The new law got rid of the much-hated need to obtain an exit visa and loosened other restrictions that had discouraged Cubans from leaving.
It was one of the wide-ranging reforms President Raul Castro has enacted since he succeeded his older brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008.
There are still travel restrictions for certain professions, reasons of national security and for those with pending legal cases, which may affect a number of dissidents like Moya.
He was one of 75 people arrested and imprisoned in a 2003 crackdown that provoked international condemnation of the Cuban government.
Moya was released in 2011, but remains on parole for the remainder of the 20-year sentence he received 10 years ago.
Sanchez tweeted that Moya had been denied a passport.
“I am happy and sad. On one side, I have my document for travel, but they will not permit it for several friends like Angel Moya,” she wrote.
Neither Sanchez nor Moya could be reached for comment.
Sanchez, who has won a number of international prizes for her blog but has never been able to leave to collect them, said on January 14 she would travel as soon as she got the passport.
She told friends she might be gone for three months because she had so many pending commitments.
She did not say what her plans were, but she was clearly thinking about how much she would miss Havana.
“Havana of the lights and the shadows, of the dusk that smells of sweat and burned oil. I miss it and I‘m not yet away,” she tweeted.
Reporting By Jeff Franks and Nelson Acosta; editing by Christopher Wilson