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Cuban regime like a crumbling house: dissident blogger


Cuba's communist regime is like an ageing house on the verge of collapse, leading dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said Thursday, insisting Havana's timid reforms were a smokescreen.

"The so-called Raulista changes are superficial," Sanchez told reporters, referring to President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother and 1959 revolutionary leader Fidel seven years ago.

"The Cuban model is like a house in Old Havana. You look at the house and ask how it's possible that it's still standing," she said in Geneva, where she was attending a UN human rights meeting.

"Then the owner comes along and wants to change the door. He unscrews one screw, and with that screw, the whole house comes down. The question is, which screw is it going to be?"

She said Cuba's ageing leadership faced a stark "biological reality", growing public criticism, and political change in Venezuela whose oil wealth has kept Havana afloat.

Named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, Sanchez is largely unknown in her homeland, where the media and Internet are controlled tightly.

"It's unacceptable that in the 21st century, Cuba should be the country in the Western Hemisphere with the least access to modern means of communication. There's no excuse beyond the violent fear the government has of the people's access to information," she said.

Sanchez, 37, has been travelling widely since a reform in October that allows Cuban citizens to go abroad for the first time without a reviled and costly exit visa.

She said the world should not be taken in by changes to Cuba's communist command economy.

"The reforms lack depth," she said, adding that the same goes for politics.

"There's no such thing as freedom of association, as freedom of expression, there's no political freedom and no freedom of opposition," she underlined.

Cuban dissidents say the number of political prisoners in the country has fallen from 300 in 2003 to around 50 -- though the government denies there are any at all.

"There's been a transformation of the strategy of repression in Cuba. Under Fidel Castro it was like a 'reality show', with people taken to court, sentenced to 10 years," Sanchez said.

"The Raulista methods are methods that don't leave any legal traces, so they can say there's no repression in Cuba," she added, pointing to repeated harassment and threats.