Among the invitees to President Bush's State of the Union address Monday
night was the mother of an imprisoned Cuban opposition journalist — the
latest in a series of dissidents invited to visit with Bush in Washington.
In the back row of First Lady Laura Bush's guest box, nestled between an
Indiana housewife and the president's national security advisor, was
Blanca González of Hialeah. Her son is Normando Hernández, serving 25
years in a Cuban prison for illegally writing negative news stories for
the opposition press.
''Imagine, I feel very happy that they invited me to be with the
president,'' González said. “It's good for all the Castristas in Cuba
to know that the president of a nation as big as this one is so
interested in political prisoners.''
Bush made only a fleeting reference to supporting Cuba in his 53-minute
speech, but earlier urged Congress to approve free trade agreements with
Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
''The first agreement that will come before you is with Colombia, a
friend of America that is confronting violence and terror and fighting
drug traffickers,'' Bush said before adding a thinly veiled reference to
President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
González, who lives in Miami, said it wasn't the first time she got to
see Bush in person. She met him at the White House in 2003.
González was joined in the gallery by University of Miami President
Donna Shalala, who helped lead the president's task force on veterans'