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Alcee H.
Democrat FL 20

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  • Introducing a Resolution in Honor of Yoani Sanchez, a Courageous Blogger and Activist for Freedom in Cuba

    by Representative Alcee L. Hastings

    Posted on 2013-03-15

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    HASTINGS of florida in the house of representatives Friday, March 15, 2013 Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a resolution honoring Yoani Sanchez, a courageous blogger and activist for freedom in Cuba, for her ongoing efforts to challenge political, economic, and social oppression. She has become a prominent voice through social media for millions of Cubans who reject the oppression of the Castro regime, having said, ``We Cubans don't deserve what we are living through. I think Cubans deserve to be citizens of the 21st century, in all senses, to test the challenges of modernity.'' Yoani Maria Sanchez Cordero was born in Havana, Cuba on September 4, 1975, and went on to major in Spanish Literature at the Pedagogical Institute before completing a degree in Hispanic Philology at the University of Havana in 2000. While working at Editorial Gente Nueva, Sanchez came to the realization that, like many Cubans, the wages she earned legally were not enough to support her family and highly qualified individuals were unable to find sufficient work. Disenchanted and seeking greater economic opportunities, she moved to Switzerland in 2002 but returned to Cuba in the summer of 2004, discovering her passion for computer science.

    In 2004, Sanchez and a group of like-minded compatriots founded Consenso, a magazine of reflection and debate, and three years later she worked as a web master, columnist, and editor for the website Desde Cuba. In April 2007, Sanchez created the blog known as ``Generation Y,'' which started as an outlet for self-expression but has since found an audience with half a million people around the world. Through her weekly blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates, made possible thanks to the donations of online supporters and Sanchez's unwavering persistence, she has provided an unfiltered glimpse into the realities of day-to-day life in Cuba.

    The Castro regime branded Sanchez as a dissident and, since March 2008, blocked access to her blog from within Cuba, where mobile phones, flash drives, and used laptop computers have become lifelines of communication given economic and government barriers to the internet. Sanchez refused to be silenced and continued to write with the help of friends and volunteer collaborators abroad, who post her entries in solidarity and have translated Generation Y into 20 languages.

    Sanchez attempted to travel outside of Cuba on 20 occasions, but was repeatedly denied the required exit visa. In January 2013, the Cuban government lifted travel restrictions for citizens and issued Sanchez a passport, allowing her to embark on an 80-day international tour, including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, to share her experiences living under the Castro regime firsthand. On her first U.S. visit, she will meet with Members of Congress in Washington, D.C. Following her tour, Sanchez intends to return to Havana, where she lives with her husband Reinaldo and their 20-year-old son Teo, and dreams of starting an independent news outlet, saying, ``Life has taught me that the wall comes tumbling down only when you push it.'' Sanchez is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her activism. In 2009, she became the first blogger to ever interview U.S. President Barack Obama, who applauded her efforts to ``empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology.'' She has also received the Ortega y Gasset Award for Digital Journalism in 2008, was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in the ``Heroes and Pioneers'' category for 2008, been awarded the Maria Moore Cabot Prize from Columbia University in 2009 for coverage of Latin America, and received the International Woman of Courage Award from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011.

    Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution, which honors Yoani Sanchez and commends individuals like her who have dedicated their lives to protecting and strengthening civil rights in the face of adversity. Despite violent attacks and protests from Castro supporters and leftists, she has vowed to never stop writing until the people of Cuba are able to express their views freely. I join Yoani Sanchez and her fellow activists in looking forward to the day when all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear of reprisal.


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