UPDATE 1-Cuban dissident blogger met by small protests in Brazil

Reuters Middle East

* Police called after pro-Cuba protesters interrupt debate

* Brazil is first stop of foreign tour for dissident Sanchez

* Sanchez granted passport under Cuban immigration reform

RECIFE, Brazil, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Cuba's best-known

dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, was greeted on Monday by small

groups of protesters who called her a CIA agent upon arriving in

Brazil, the first stop on a whirlwind tour that will take her to

a dozen countries.

A smiling Sanchez brushed off the student demonstrators who

sympathize with Cuba's communist government, saying she wished

Cubans had the same freedom to protest back home. Sanchez's

arrival in Brazil kicked off her first trip abroad since the

Cuban government finally granted her a passport after more than

20 refusals in the past five years.

About eight students from a local university shouted "sell

out" and "CIA agent" as Sanchez arrived in the northeastern

Brazilian city of Recife, according to a Reuters photographer

who was at the airport.

"Viva la democracia! I want that democracy for my country

too," she responded.

Another group of protesters met her at the Salvador airport

in Bahia state and police were called in to escort her when

demonstrators interrupted a debate in the nearby municipality of

Feira de Santana.

The Cuban government labels dissidents as mercenaries on the

payroll of the United States, its decades-old ideological foe.

Sanchez, a 37-year-old Havana resident, has incurred the wrath

of Cuba's government for constantly criticizing its communist

system in her "Generation Y" blog,

www.desdecuba.com/generaciony, and using Twitter to denounce


Sanchez, who was starting an 80-day tour, was granted a

passport two weeks ago under Cuba's sweeping immigration reform

that went into effect this year. She has won several

international prizes for blogging about life in Cuba but has

been unable to collect them until now.

"I am so happy. It has been five years of struggle," Sanchez

told local media.

"Unfortunately, in Cuba you are punished for thinking

differently. Opinions against the government have terrible

consequences, arbitrary arrests, surveillance," she said in an

interview with GloboNews television.

Sanchez's visit touched a political nerve in Brazil, where

the left-leaning government of President Dilma Rousseff is often

criticized for not taking a more critical stance with Cuba's

one-party system and the repression of political dissent there.


According to local news magazine Veja, Cuban diplomats

recently met with militants from Brazil's ruling Workers' Party

in Brasilia and asked them to organize protests against Sanchez

during her stay in the South American country. One junior

official in the Rousseff administration was present at the

meeting, Veja said.

The report prompted some opposition legislators in Congress

to accuse the Rousseff government of tacitly endorsing a

Cuban-led smear campaign against Sanchez. One senator, Alvaro

Dias, said he would demand that the government formally explain

its role in what he called the "unacceptable monitoring" of


Rousseff's office later said in a statement that the

official had participated in a routine meeting about Cuban

migration policy and preparations for Sanchez's visit at the

embassy and did not stay the whole time.

In the interview with GloboNews, Sanchez said recent reforms

undertaken by President Raul Castro have been positive but

minimal, such as the lifting of bans that prevented Cubans from

buying new cars and other goods.

"There is a difference between the reforms we dream of and

the reforms that are being carried out," she said. "We dream of

freedom of association, freedom of expression, but it does not

look like we will get this too soon."

Sanchez, considered Cuba's pioneer in social networking,

told Reuters earlier this week in Havana that, in addition to

Brazil, she planned to travel to Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Spain,

Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, and visit the headquarters of

Google, Twitter and Facebook in the United


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