Cuban 'fist' shut tight against political reform

Cuban President Raul Castro has enacted timid economic reforms to preserve power, but politically his regime is as suffocating as ever, a popular dissident blogger said Friday.

Yoani Sanchez, who is traveling around Latin America after the lifting of a much-loathed exit permit requirement, said some things have indeed changed since Castro replaced his ill brother Fidel in 2006.

Now, people can buy and sell homes, possess cell phones and be self-employed, she told a Lima radio station.

But "not a single step has been taken with regard to political reforms. There is no freedom of expression, no letting people speak out against the government," said Sanchez, who keeps a blog called Generacion Y.

"The fist is still closed tight," she said, adding that Castro has been good at marketing what she called the myth of sweeping reforms in the communist-run nation.

Even the limited reforms to open parts of the economy were a product of desperation, she said.

"They realized that if they kept the situation as it was, social pressure would force them from power," said Sanchez.

She also addressed critics who have asked how she is paying for her trip around the Americas, saying: "to those who question my financing, I must say I am a millionaire when it comes to friends."

She said her blog does not make money but that it has allowed her to gain enough notoriety to write in foreign media and get books published.

Sanchez was invited to Peru by friends, including Nobel prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.