Dissident free at last: Sanchez leaves Cuba

Dissident free at last: Sanchez leaves Cuba
A Cuban dissident who has been denied foreign travel for years left the island on Sunday for a three-month trip to Latin America, US and Europe.

­Blogger Yoani Sanchez, who frequently criticizes the communist government in her "Generation Y" blog, has told the AFP that she will begin her tour in Brazil and travel through 12 countries.

"With this tour, I am starting a new phase in my life and what will also be a wonderful experience journalistically," Sanchez commented before boarding a flight to South America.

The 37-year-old had been issued a visa to enter Brazil last year but was unable to travel as the government has refused to issue her passport.

At the end of January, the blogger was granted the travel document as part of a migratory reform that Cuba introduced on January 14, allowing Cubans to travel abroad without an exit visa or a letter of invitation. Now Cubans can spend up to 24 months overseas with the possibility of an extension.

Sanchez, the regional vice president for Cuba for the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, plans a two-day stay in Sao Paulo where she is expected to launch  her book, her publisher reported. The dissident is also due at the opening of Brazilian filmmaker Dado Galvao's 2009 documentary "Connection Cuba-Honduras," in which she is interviewed.

Sanchez plans to take-in twelve countries including Peru, the Czech Republic and Mexico, where she is to attend a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association on March 8.

The blogger will be in New York March 15-17 for a forum entitled “The Revolution Recodified”. She is also due to speak at New York University. She then plans to travel to Florida to meet her sister.

In 2008, Sanchez won Spain's El Pais newspaper Ortega y Gasset prize for best online journalism. 

The same year, she made the Time magazine's 100 most influential people.