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Cuban dissident praises Brazil for its freedoms

February 19, 2013

FEIRA DE SANTANA, Brazil (AP) — Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez expressed admiration Tuesday for the freedom of expression she has witnessed in Brazil — liberties that allowed Cuban government supporters to loudly protest and force the cancellation of the inaugural event of her 80-day international tour.

Sanchez is on her first trip outside Cuba in nearly a decade after repeatedly not being allowed out by the island’s communist government. She was permitted to leave under Cuba’s recent relaxation on travel restrictions for its citizens, seen by many as a key reform.

“I’ve found something here like what Cuba could be in 20 years in terms of diversity of opinion,” Sanchez said at a news conference Tuesday, a day after being besieged by the pro-Cuba protesters.

Asked what role she might have in Cuba’s future, Sanchez, 37, said she hopes to be in a Cuban newsroom where censorship no longer exists.

“I have a dream of founding a media outlet in my country because I believe in the power of journalism as a regenerative force,” said Sanchez, whose blogs and tweets are sharply critical of Cuba’s government and are followed by hundreds of thousands around the globe.

Cuba announced in October that it was eliminating a government-issued exit permit that had been required for the previous five decades for citizens wanting to travel abroad. The ability of Sanchez and other dissidents to actually leave was seen as a key test of that law. Still, some dissidents haven’t been allowed to travel.

Sanchez said that after spending about 10 days in Brazil, she is going to Europe. She’ll then head to Mexico for an Inter-American Press Association meeting that begins March 8. She’ll then be in Mexico City, where she is scheduled to lecture at universities and where she hopes to eat some “spicy” food.

Sanchez said she wanted to start her travel in Brazil because she has received so much support from Brazilians online.

“I’m immensely happy to be in Brazil, not just because I could finally leave Cuba after years of confinement, but because I’ve found a society whose plurality has struck me,” she said.

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