Cuban dissidents cleared for travel under new law

Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:16pm EST
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's new, freer travel policy took effect on Monday and for some notable Cuban dissidents it turned out to offer greater freedom than they had expected.

Well-known government opponents Yoani Sanchez and Guillermo Farinas were told they would be granted passports and allowed to come and go after years of being denied that right.

Under laws put into effect to slow migration after the 1959 revolution, Cubans were required to get an exit visa from the government and a letter of invitation from someone in their destination country, but the new policy drops both.

Farinas, who from his home in Santa Clara has staged numerous hunger strikes against government policy, said, to his surprise, he was visited at home by officials who told him he would be able to travel freely.

"I was really skeptical because there was an article in the new law that said those Cubans who threaten the public interest won't be able to leave Cuba. I thought I was in that sphere, but it looks like not," said Farinas, a psychologist.

He said he would get his passport renewed soon and planned to go to Europe to pick up several prizes he had won but been unable to collect. They included the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010.

Sanchez, well known internationally for her blog "Generation Y," could not be reached, but posted her good news on Twitter.

She said went to a Havana passport office on Monday, where "the functionary who attended me has assured me that when I have the passport I will be able to travel. I still don't believe it!" she wrote. "When I am on the plane, I'll believe it!"   Continued...

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez listens to a question during an interview with Reuters at her home in Havana, in this February 9, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/Files