Cuban blogger meets with Florida congressmen

Yoani Sanchez discusses plight of Cubans, US embargo in Washington

WASHINGTON – Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez met with Florida lawmakers Tuesday on Capitol Hill to discuss the U.S. embargo and how to help make technology more readily available to all Cubans on the communist island.

Her stop in Washington was a first for Sanchez, who is currently on an 80-day world tour after being granted permission to travel.

Sanchez met with U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bill Nelson. Missing from the meeting was Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio whose office says plans to meet with Sanchez later this week.

Sanchez spoke about the plight of Cubans and their lack of access to information and the internet. Sanchez has her own blog, "Generation Y," and sends daily tweets about the life on the island and news regarding dissidents. 

She acknowledges that not everyone can do this, but it's something she wants to change.

"For 10 years, they've been trying to shut me up, but today we are stronger than ever," Sanchez said.

Sanchez has all intentions of returning to Cuba.  When asked in a press conference following her meeting with lawmakers if she feared repercussions for being so open on this trip, she said it would be worth it.

"If that's the price I'll have to pay for this trip and the possibility to speak of that Cuba that is so censored, then I think it's worth whatever the punishment," Sanchez said.

Other topics of conversation included the U.S. embargo, which Sanchez opposes but many of South Florida's congressional delegation strongly supports.

Senator Nelson discussed the death of dissident Oswaldo Paya, who was killed in a car crash in Cuba last July. The driver, Angel Carromero, who was convicted in Paya's death and is currently serving his sentence in Spain, said in an interview with The Washington Post that the group was being followed by a car with government plates that he says struck them from behind. The Cuban government has said the crash near the eastern city of Bayamo was caused when Carromero lost control and hit a tree.

So what's been the most fascinating part of her trip so far?  Sanchez said it's not the amazing sites or the food, but of meeting other Cubans around the world.

"I've found Cubans who know the historical stories of 50 years ago that we Cubans on the island have already forgotten about.  I've found Cubans rescuing popular images and popular songs of times of old.  I've found Cubans who, one way or another, are taking the island of Cuba on their shoulders or in their minds or in their hearts."

Sanchez is expected to speak at the Freedom Tower on April 1 before her return to Cuba.