Friday, January 6, 2012

Cuban blogger appeals to Brazil's president for help to leave Cuba

Cuban blogger appeals to Brazil's president for help to leave Cuba

Dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez has issued a video plea after being
denied permission to leave the country since 2004

The dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez – famed for her outspoken
online critiques of the country's communist regime – has issued an
appeal to Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, to help her leave the
Caribbean island.

Sánchez, a Havana-based writer who has been accused by Cuban authorities
of conducting a "cyberwar" against the government, has not been able to
leave the country since 2004 because of migration rules that require
Cubans to receive government permission to travel.

She has now been invited to the Brazilian state of Bahia in February for
the screening of a documentary about press freedom in Cuba and Honduras
in which she features.

But speaking to the Brazilian television channel Record this week,
Sánchez said she expected her latest request for an exit permit would
again be declined without "high-level intervention".

Sánchez told Record she had "exhausted all of the options inside my
country to get them to allow me to travel".

In the video appeal to Rousseff, posted on YouTube, Sánchez called on
Brazil's first female president to intervene.

"Please help me," said the blogger, who says it is her 19th attempt to
get travel permission from Cuban authorities. "Through this small video
I want to send a very respectful [and] very humble message … to the
president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff."

"Unfortunately I am forbidden from leaving my own country – I have not
committed any crime."

Referring to the time Rousseff spent in jail during Brazil's military
dictatorship, Sánchez said: "I know very well that she has felt first
hand … what excessive control and repression is."

"I have done everything that is within my reach but the wall of control,
the wall of censorship, the wall which stops me travelling freely and
returning to my island seems not to move," said Sánchez, whose
supporters have also created an online petition calling on Rousseff to

Before Christmas, activists had hoped that Cuba's president, Raúl
Castro, would announce major changes to the country's migration laws,
particularly the rule that means Cubans require exit permits to travel

But while Castro, who officially took over from his brother as president
in 2008, announced pardons for nearly 3,000 prisoners, those hoping for
a loosening of travel rules were disappointed.

"The migration reforms … were not announced again," Sánchez says in her
video appeal to Rousseff. "In the 21st century … we are forbidden from
leaving and entering freely our country."

Sánchez has earned international plaudits for her blog, Generación Y, on
which she publishes regular critiques of the Cuban authorities, often
secretively posted from internet cafes.

In 2008, Time magazine named her one of the world's 100 most influential
people. The magazine's profile, written by the American novelist Oscar
Hijuelos, described her "feisty dedication to the truth".

"Under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez
has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot:
freedom of speech," Hijuelos wrote.

But while the blogger's supporters view her as a standard-bearer for
press freedom, Cuban authorities have accused her of conducting a
Washington-backed "cyberwar" against the island's communist regime.

In a recent piece for Foreign Policy magazine, the Cuban blogger said
that while many foreign correspondents in Havana feared expulsion if
they offended authorities, social networks were helping independent
journalists get the message out.

"Opening the world's eyes to the real Cuba … no longer requires a wire
service dispatch; it can be done with a cell phone," she wrote.

Meanwhile, Cuban authorities have vented their anger at a Twitter user
whom they accused of starting a wave of online rumours this week
claiming that the former president, Fidel Castro, had died.

An article posted on the state-run Cubadebate website pointed the finger
of blame at a tweeter called @Naroh.

In the story, entitled: "New lie against #FidelCastro fails on Twitter",
the website claimed that after the rumours began "necrophiliac
counterrevolutionaries, aided by some media, immediately started to
party." Responding to the allegations that he had started the hoax,
Naroh tweeted: "Cuba is blaming me for killing Fidel Castro on Twitter.
Can I now consider myself a Twit-star?"

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