Free speech advocate returns to Cuba after world tour

Blogger, free speech advocate and all-around interesting person Yoani Sanchez returned to Cuba after a three-month world tour.

She had invitations from numerous free expression/press freedom organizations around the world. She also was given a number of awards for her advocacy. But the Cuban government kept denying her a passport and an exit visa. (And please note, that Cuba — like other dictatorships — required its people to get a visa to leave the country. The U.S. and other democracies only require visas for people to enter their countries.)Sanchez runs a blog — Generation Y — that has looked at the problems in Cuba and the repressive measures taken by that government to restrict freedom of expression.

 After the Cuban government changed its rules about issuing exit visas, Sanchez applied for one. The Castro government got put in the  uncomfortable position of either giving her a passport and granting the exit visa or rejecting her application. In the latter situation, the Cuban government would have shown it did not mean what it was saying and, therefore, could not be trusted on other issues. So, the issued Sanchez a passport and allowed her to leave the country.

Sanchez traveled throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. At many of her appearances, pro-Castro people (some at the urging of the local Cuban embassy or consulate) demonstrated and disrupted her appearances.

Some highlights from previous Generation Y postings:

  • Whose Brain Is It? According to Legislative Decree 302 which also regulates the foreign travel of professionals, my own brain — like those of the rest of university graduates — does not belong to me. The folds and grooves of this organ are the property — according to the new law — of an educational system that boasts of being free but later charges us through ownership over our intellect. The authorities who regulate the possibility of leaving this Island believe that a qualified citizen is a simple conglomeration of brain matter “formed” by the State. But claiming the rights to use a human mind is like trying to put gates on the sea… shackles on every neuron.
  • The Ballot Box, The Stretcher This was the cubicle where I voted this morning to elect a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power. Located inside a doctor’s office that was turned into a polling place this Sunday for the residents of the area. “Prescient” I thought of nothing but being alone with my ballot next to the large sink where they wash hospital implements. “Prescient” because my country is in a “coma” of indifference and apathy, and is going to need a profound revival – almost a defibrillation – for citizens to have real decision making power. Thirty-six years since its creation the current electoral system has not convinced us, not even once, that it represents the people against the power, rather we have become accustomed to the exact opposite.
  • Travel and Immigration Reform: Happy or Satisfied After five years of demanding my right to travel outside the country, today I woke up to the news of travel and immigration reform. My first impression was to shout “Hurrah!” mid-morning, but as the day advanced I considered the shortcomings of the new law. Finally the objectionable Permit to Leave has been eradicated, as well as the annoying Letter of Invitation that we needed to leave our own country. However, now in the issuance and validation of passports they will define those who can cross the national frontiers and those who cannot. Although the costs of the paperwork will be less and I imagine the time required shortened, this is not the new travel and immigration law we were waiting for. Too limited, too narrow. But at least it has put in writing a legality as a starting point from which we can now demand, protest, denounce.

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Filed under Censorship, Cuba, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

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