For years, Cuban dissidents say, authorities’ message to them has been the same: Sure, you can leave the country. Just don’t expect us to let you come back.
Now, two prominent and outspoken government opponents - Yoani Sanchez and Guillermo Farinas - say they’ve been told they can come and go freely under a new law that eliminated decades-old travel restrictions on nearly all islanders.
It’s a calculated risk that potentially enables the dissidents to become high-profile ambassadors for change in the communist-run country, traveling abroad to accept awards and slamming the government back home in speeches to foreign parliaments. At the same time, it blunts one of their main criticisms of Cuba’s human rights record, that it effectively held them and others hostage by restricting their movement.
“Previously the policy was just to get them out of the country, which really, really did work for the maintenance of the Castro government,” said Ann Louise Bardach, a longtime Cuba analyst and author of “Cuba Confidential.”
“But if they are allowing them to come back, we are looking at a game-changer of sorts because that could usher in the first embryonic state of some democratic process,” Bardach said. “If people can go abroad, criticize the government and return, that’s a new day in Cuba.”
Sanchez, a dissident blogger who has garnered fame overseas for her writings about the frustrations of daily life, says she has been turned down 20 times when she asked for permission to travel abroad to accept awards or attend conferences. Authorities told her she would be allowed out only if she were leaving for good.
Sanchez said that to her surprise, an official told her Monday she will be able to leave and return once she has her new passport, a process that should take around two weeks.
Farinas, a noted hunger striker and 2010 Sakharov winner, said state security agents took the trouble of driving out to his home in the central city of Santa Clara to let him know he’ll be allowed to travel and return.
——————————Havana Journal Comments——————————
I’m sure they are waiting for their passports to actually arrive but this is BIG news and I congratulate the Cuban government for allowing this most basic human right.
Now, if the US government would give ALL its citizens (not just Cuban Americans) the freedom to travel to Cuba and back without a license or making it a federal crime, that would be a positive step towards lifting the stupid failed “Plan A” Embargo.