White House hosts Cuban dissident blogger

The White House hosted award-winning dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, on her first international trip in years, Wednesday after she met lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"The United States looks forward to the day when all Cubans will have the opportunity to express themselves in public without fear and we will continue to support policies that encourage the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Sanchez met with White House staff, including Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ricardo Zuniga.

Throughout the day, Sanchez stayed true to form and tweeted about her meetings in Congress, where she also picked up the State Department's International Women of Courage award, which she received in 2011.

She met with Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democrat Robert Menendez, both Cuban Americans.

"Through her Generacion Y blog, Yoani has given the rest of the world valuable insights into daily life in Cuba and, more importantly, given us a glimpse of what brave, Cuban democracy advocates like her can do with a little bit of Internet access," Rubio said.

Sanchez, named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, is largely unknown in her own country.

The 37-year-old is on a global tour after Cuba issued a reform in October that allows its citizens to travel abroad for the first time without a reviled and costly exit visa, and which also gave Sanchez her long sought-for permission to travel.

Each tweet sent by bloggers' supporters outside the communist island "is a virtual protective shield for this activist," Sanchez told students at Georgetown University.

"The challenge is for this virtual Cuba to converge with the real Cuba."