Cuban dissident vows to launch free media outlet

Award-winning dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, on her first international trip in years, challenged Havana on Sunday to let her launch an independent media outlet.

"I have told a lot of people. And I am telling this to my country's government: I am coming back to Cuba to set up a media outlet," Sanchez, 37, said at a briefing on the sidelines of an Inter American Press Association meeting.

The announcement would come as news to the government of Cuban President Raul Castro, 81. Cuba is the Americas' only Communist-ruled state and the government controls the media.

Sanchez said she hopes her venture, which she declined to detail, throws light on "the Cuba that is censored, silenced and hidden from the rest of the world -- and especially from my own fellow Cubans."

"I know it is impossible, that it is illegal. But I am not going to be the one to stop me," said Sanchez, a staunch critic and chronicler of the hardships of everyday life under the current regime.

"And I know a lot of people with a lot of energy who are going to join me in carrying out this project."

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

She 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.

The blogger said last week in Spain that the Cuban government's reforms since Castro assumed the presidency are "desperate measures" by a system that is "in a terminal phase, which can't fend for itself economically and whose historic leaders are in their last years of life."