Dissident blogger allowed to leave Cuba on tour

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has been denied permission to travel abroad for many years, was allowed on Sunday to embark on a three-month trip to Latin America and Europe.

"My trip will begin in Brazil and could take me to as many as 12 countries," Sanchez told AFP.

"With this tour, I am starting a new phase in my life and what will also be a wonderful experience journalistically," she said, shortly before boarding a flight that was to take her to Brazil via Panama.

Sanchez, 37, who often criticizes the Cuban government in her "Generation Y" blog, had a visa to visit Brazil last year but was unable to make the trip because the government refused to issue her a passport.

But Cuba recently made an about-face, issuing a reform allowing its citizens to travel abroad for the first time without a reviled and costly exit visa, and also giving Sanchez her long sought-for permission to travel.

During Sanchez's planned two-day stay in Sao Paulo, she will attend the launch of her book and give interviews to local media, according to Contexto, the publisher.

The blogger also is to attend the opening of Brazilian filmmaker Dado Galvao's 2009 documentary "Connection Cuba-Honduras," in which she is interviewed.

Galvao had launched a campaign to secure Sanchez's visit to Brazil.

After departing Brazil, Sanchez plans to visit Peru, the Czech Republic and Mexico, where she is to attend a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association on March 8.

Sanchez won the Ortega y Gasset prize for best online journalism, granted by Spain's El Pais newspaper, in 2008.

She also was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2008, and CNN has called her blog among the world's 25 best.