It was Werlau who helped organize one of the highlights of Sánchez’s tour — her visit to the United Nations, where a protest by the Cuban delegation forced the blogger to meet the U.N. press corps in a cramped hallway. Werlau said she set it up by cold-calling the U.N. news correspondents’ group, which eagerly took up the offer to have Sánchez speak.
“She is a celebrity in some circles,’’ Werlau said.
Sánchez, who has often fielded skeptical questions during public appearances about how she managed to finance and organize the tour, has been emphatic in saying she hasn’t taken any government money.
In fact, says Ted Henken, who coordinated her New York and Washington visits, he advised another Cuban blogger , Orlando Luis Pardo, who accompanied Sánchez on part of her itinerary, to say no to a Washington tech conference co-sponsored by the State Department because it would have covered his expenses.
But because some of the institutions and organizations that hosted Sánchez may receive government funding, Henken, a professor of Latin American Studies at Baruch College in New York, said it’s impossible to say categorically that absolutely no public funds have gone into underwriting her tour.
But, he added, “To the extent that she can prevent it, she doesn’t take any government money.
“We care about image and we care about reality,’’ said Henken, who is also president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.
Lost in the mail
Henken turned to the Cuba Study Group, which supports a peaceful transition in Cuba and has previously aided the association in funding U.S. visits by Cuban scholars, for financial help. Study Group co-chairman and Miami businessman Carlos Saladrigas said some of his members came up with $6,000 to $7,000 for a car and driver in New York and Washington and some lodging and air fare. The Cuba Study Group, he said, receives no U.S. government funds.
So careful has Sánchez been about the source of trip financing that she demurred upon learning that a Miami event to which she was invited was being billed as a fundraiser for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, the group that employs her brother-in-law and receives U.S. government funds. She agreed to attend only after the event, at the Coral Gables Country Club, was scaled down and attendees, including Bay of Pigs veterans and CANF members, were asked to pay only the cost of putting it on, organizers confirm.
Mary Jo Porter, a Seattle transportation planner who has been translating Sánchez’s popular and award-winning Generacion Y blog into English for five years, laughs at claims that the U.S. government is paying for her translation work or the tour.
The job of translating the blog into more than a dozen languages, she said, is done by volunteers such as a couple in Japan who own a furniture shop, a Dutch lawyer and a Polish woman living in California. A couple living outside Montreal, former Cuban journalist Aurora Moreira and her husband, Chilean-born Camilo Fuentes, run and maintain Sánchez’s blog site, Henken said.
“We’re all waiting for our check from the CIA,’’ joked Porter, who flew to New York last month at her own expense to meet Sánchez for the first time. “It’s been lost in the mail for five years.’’