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Admirers, protesters greet Cuban dissident in Brazil

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez was greeted in Brazil on Monday by admirers and protesters at the start of a "bittersweet" foreign tour, after she finally won permission to leave Cuba.

Sanchez arrived in Recife, where she was welcomed by friends, supporters and journalists, and also by about 20 pro-Cuban protesters who waved signs accusing her of being "Yoani agent of the CIA."

Sanchez responded, "Long live democracy. I want this democracy in my country, too."

The 37-year-old philologist, who found an international audience on the Internet with her prize-winning blog "Generation Y," is known for her biting commentary, which has drawn the displeasure of Cuba's ruling communist party.

The government in Havana repeatedly denied permission for her to leave the country in response to invitations to speak in Brazil and elsewhere.

But it finally relented after easing travel restrictions for Cubans in mid-January, and eliminating the requirement of an exit visa.

Brazil is Sanchez's first stop on a three-month trip that will take here around the Americas and to Europe.

"I am very happy," she told Globo News on her arrival. "It was five years of struggle, of trying every path. I have that bittersweet feeling. I am happy for me, but I also have friends who didn't get a passport."

"The emigration reform brought some flexibility, simplified many things, but I have friends who were denied passports," she said.

She said she didn't think the Cuban government would prevent her return at the end of the tour.

"I want to stay in Cuba, to help the Cubans. I don't want to be a migrant Yoani Sanchez in another country," she said.

Besides Brazil, she is planning to visit Argentina, Mexico, Spain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and the United States. She plans to visit Google, Twitter and Facebook while in the United States.

"I am going to learn everything I can and I think that after this visit I will be better prepared," she said on leaving Havana.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130218/admirers-protesters-greet-cuban-dissident-brazil