Cuban activist blogger forced to stay on the island

Acclaimed Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez has repeatedly tried to travel internationally but local authorities refuse to let her leave--human rights organizations think it's because of the political views she writes about on her blog.

Yoani Sanchez's Twitter page Screenshot by CNET

Cuban blogger and activist Yoani Sanchez was told last week for the 19th time in four years that she was not allowed to leave Cuba, according to Amnesty International.

"My cell is not surrounded by concrete and metal, but rather water," Sanchez tweeted last week.

She was hoping to travel to a film premiere in Brazil where she had been invited to speak, but Cuba's migration authorities denied her an exit permit. As with all the other times she requested permission to leave, she wasn't given a reason why.

However, the reason why is clear to both her and her hundreds of thousands of followers: Sanchez is Cuba's best-known blogger and a forceful voice in opposition of the government, for this--they believe--she is being punished.

"The Cuban government's repeated denial of exit permits to critics like Yoani Sanchez can only be seen as retaliation for the expression of their legitimate political views and activism," said Javier Zuniga, special adviser to Amnesty International. "Those fighting for freedom of expression, association, and movement must be authorized to leave and re-enter the country without arbitrary restrictions."

The 36-year-old started her blog Generation Y in 2007. Weekly, Sanchez writes about life in Cuba, from observations about the growth of mobile food vendors to political essays about the unnecessary death of imprisoned hunger striker Wilman Villar Mendoza. Many of her blog entries discuss restrictions of political and civil rights placed on Cubans.

Foreign Policy magazine voted her one of the world's Top 100 Thinkers in 2011, writing that Sanchez, "shows that the Internet really does go everywhere, even Castro's Cuba."

The island nation is not known for being a bastion of technology. According to the Financial Times, only 2 percent of Cuba's residents have access to the Internet. Only in the past four years have Cubans been allowed to buy their first legal PCs and the countrywide cell phone ban was lifted.

According to Amnesty International, Cuban President Raul Castro promised in 2011 to start a series of reforms that would change migration policies for Cuban citizens, but he has not yet followed through on these amendments.

"I feel like a hostage kidnapped by someone who won't listen or give explanations," Sanchez tweeted last week. "If all this effort helps to shine a light on the migratory absurdity we Cubans are trapped in, then it was worth it."

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