HAVANA - A prominent neurosurgeon has received permission to leave Cuba, 15 years after breaking ranks with former leader Fidel Castro over the communist-ruled island's healthcare system, the doctor said on Friday.
Hilda Molina, 66, had complained publicly for years about being denied permission to travel outside Cuba and visit her 89-year-old mother, son and grandchildren in Argentina. She asked Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to intercede on her behalf last year.
"Today they gave me my permit and told me that I could come back to Cuba whenever I wanted," Molina told an Argentine radio station in a telephone interview from Havana, according to the website of Argentine newspaper Infobae. She said she would fly out of Cuba on Saturday and arrive in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Molina was given permission to stay abroad until September and said she would go to Argentina to look after her mother. Molina said she planned to return to Havana after her mother was better, "because I do not want to stay in Argentina."
Molina picked up her Argentine visa at the South American nation's embassy in Havana on Friday.
"She was very emotional and grateful to the government of President Raul Castro," said Argentine diplomat Pedro Von Eyken.
Molina, once a Communist Party member who was elected to Cuba's parliament in 1993, fell out with Fidel Castro a year later when she began asserting that the government's objective of free, quality medical care for all was eroding due to Cuba's pressing need for foreign currency.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, she maintained the government had begun catering to "medical tourists," turning Cuban healthcare into a profit-making business with disparities in quality of treatment for Cubans and foreigners.
Raul Castro took over as president on February 24, 2008, after his brother retired due to health problems.
Fidel Castro has said Molina was forced out of the government for seeking to take over the state-run International Center for Neurological Rehabilitation, which she once ran.
In the prologue to a book last year, he also said her case provided "excellent material for imperialist blackmail against Cuba."
Cuban authorities consider dissidents to be mercenaries working for the United States, which has openly supported opposition to Cuba's government. -Reuters