May 12, 2010 / 7:56 PM / 8 years ago

Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez receives U.S. visa

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez, considered the voice of the Cuban revolution, has received a U.S. visa and is to perform a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall on June 4, his American attorney said on Wednesday.

Lawyer Bill Martinez told Reuters in a telephone interview from San Franciso, California the visa was approved by U.S. officials on Tuesday and is long enough to permit Rodriguez to play concerts in other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

Rodriguez, 63, is the latest Cuban performer to be allowed into United States, which had routinely denied such visas under former President George W. Bush.

Many of Rodriguez’s songs extol the Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro in power in 1959, but others also lightly criticize the communist-led society.

Rodriguez recently told reporters in Havana that Cuba is “crying out for a revision of many things ... from concepts to institutions.”

U.S.-Cuba relations have improved slightly under President Barack Obama, who eased the 48-year-old U.S. embargo against the island by lifting restrictions on visits by Cuban Americans to their homeland and permitting more cultural exchanges.

Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, 89, is scheduled to be honored next month at the American Ballet Theater in New York where she performed early in her career. U.S. group Kool and the Gang put on a concert in Havana in December.

Rodriguez, who has not performed in the United States for three decades, sought a visa a year ago to join in a New York concert for the 90th birthday of folk singer Pete Seeger.

But the visa was not approved in time for him to make the trip, which prompted an angry letter from Rodriguez published in Cuba’s state-run media.

“I continue feeling so blocked and discriminated against, just like by other (U.S.) governments,” he said. “I hope this really changes some day.”

Martinez said U.S. officials in Havana had extended a helping hand to Rodriguez this time around.

While cultural exchanges are only a small step forward in relations between the United States and Cuba, “it will have to do for now,” Martinez said.

Editing by Chris Wilson

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