In the first real tests of Cubas new migration laws, blogger Yoani Sánchez got a passport Wednesday after 10 years of being denied permission to travel abroad, but a former political prisoner was rejected because he did not serve all of his 20-year sentence.
Incredible!! They called me at home to tell me that my passport was ready. They have just handed it to me, Sanchez said in a Twitter message. The government critic had been denied many permits to travel abroad since around 2003.
I am happy and sad, she said in another message after sending a photo of her brand new blue passport. On the one hand I have my document for travelling, but several of my friends like @angelmoya will not be permited.
Angel Moya, who spent eight years in prison and is married to Berta Soler, leader of the dissident Ladies in White, said a passport office worker told him she could not accept his application because he is regulated for the public interest.
Many dissidents who had been blocked from traveling abroad by the State Security apparatus saw their hopes to go rise after Cuba adopted reforms on Jan.14 that lifted the requirement for the widely hated exit permits known as white cards.
Under the new system, Cubans are supposed to be able to make personal trips abroad with just valid passports and visas from other countries. But the laws specifically note that passports can be denied for national security or national interests.
Sanchez and Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliaments Sakharov Prize for human rights in 2010, Yoani Sanchez had been told after Jan. 14 that they would indeed be able to obtain new passports and travel abroad.
State Security repeatedly denied her permission to leave the island to pick up the many international prizes she has won for her blog, Generación Y, and take part in seminars even though she had so many visas on her old passport that she had to ask for a new one.
Moya, 49, was sentenced to 20 years in prison during a 2003 crackdown on 75 dissidents known as Cubas Black Spring, and many of the others were sentenced to 28 years in one-day trials. Several were freed early over the years on extra-penal licenses usually related to ill health.
The last 52 were freed in 2010 and 2011 also under licenses as part of an agreement between Cuban ruler Raúl Castro and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Virtually all went directly from prison to exile in Spain but 12, including Moya, chose to stay on the island and continue their opposition work.
Moya said he went to the passport office closest to his Havana home Wednesday morning and asked about applying for a passport because I want to travel like any citizen in any country, maybe to Spain, maybe to the United States.
The woman at the counter took his national ID card number, looked at a computer and said he could not have a passport because I was regulated for public interest, he told El Nuevo Herald by telephone from Havana.
The word regulated appears to be government-speak for a control. The reason for the block, he was told, was that my sentence had not been fulfilled.
He explained to the woman that he had been freed as part of the deal between the government and the church, Moya noted, but she just pointed to the computer and indicated there was no information on how he could appeal that decision.
Moya said he was not surprised because dissidents have been repeatedly pointing out that the national security exception was a violation of the rights of Cubans to travel at will. This is a migration system that is totally politicized.
Havana human rights activists Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz had also pointed out repeatedly that the 16 former political prisoners free on extra penal licenses who are still living in Cuba can be returned to prison or subjected to other sanctions at any time.
Moya has been briefly detained dozens of times by uniformed police and plainclothes State Security agents since he left prison in 2011, mostly to prevent him from participating in dissident activities and to intimidate him.
Last summer, he complained that State Security agents had kept him and five other members of his Democratic Freedom for Cuba Movement locked up for two days in the Cienaga de Zapata, a mosquito-infested swamp and the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, that was 29 miles from the town where he was arrested.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International, meanwhile, named Calixto Martínez, an independent Cuban journalist jailed since Sept. 16, as a prisoner of conscience and demanded that he be freed.
Martínez, who worked for the Hablemos Press Information Center, was detained in Havana while investigating the possible theft of a shipment of medicines sent by the world Health Organization to combat an outbreak of cholera.
His detention without charges shows that authorities in Cuba are still far from accepting that journalists have a role to play in society, including the investigation of possible crimes, AI said in a statement.
Martínez became the second prisoner of conscience in Cuba after Marcos Máiquel Lima Cruz, a youth detained in late 2010 for loudly playing hip hop songs that were considered to be critical of the government.
Amnesty International considers prisoners of conscience to be those people jailed or under other physical restrictions because of their political, religious convictions or any other issue of conscience so long as the person has not used or advocated violence.