Covering and Not Covering Cuba. (on the Edge)

By Hughes, Lesley | Canadian Dimension, July-August 2003 | Go to article overview

Covering and Not Covering Cuba. (on the Edge)


Hughes, Lesley, Canadian Dimension


A fine May morning and junior media czar David Asper is talking about the history of human rights in front of the Canadian Club, Winnipeg Chapter.

He is eloquent and utterly convincing until he mentions Cuba. Here he filters, delivering the orthodox media version of the persecution of political dissent in that country, which emerges from his speech as an evil tropical gulag, almost a cartoon. Here he is a man who believes his own press clippings.

So the Asper headline Castro Makes Powerful Foes (National Post, June 14) suggesting Cuba has lost all of its friends in the West came as no surprise. The story detailed "the brutal crackdown on (75) dissidents and independent journalists" in April, and the decision of the European Union to introduce political sanctions in response. Thousands of Cubans, the aging Fidel Castro among them, protested that move in front of appropriate embassies in Havana, but not because the sanctions were substantive. Diplomatic sanctions boil down to the temporary suspension of polite behaviour, i.e. no high level governmental visits or cultural exchanges, no invites to state cocktail parties.

Cuba's objection, according to Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, was that the EU'S move was "hypocritical and opportunist," meant to further smooth the ruffled feathers of the American hawks in Washington and in Iraq. The same assessment could be made of External Affairs Minister Bill Graham's introduction of a similar motion at a recent meeting of the Organization of States.

Roque held an open press conference in Havana shortly after the much condemned trial of the "dissidents and independent journalists" in early April. A respectable number of the 157 foreign correspondents operating freely in Cuba were there, but few found the testimony of one Nestor Sanchez Galarraga Baguer of any interest.

Sr. Baguer was. Chairman of the Cuban Independent Press Association, an organization home to several dissident journalists revered by Canadian media.

It turns out that Sr. Baguer was recruited by the US Interests Section of Havana (the compound that houses American foreign service personnel) to create and/or distort information to feed to American sponsored counter-revolutionary Radio Marti, and to several other journalistic fronts as necessary.

A special open pass gave him 24 hour access to the US facilities including an Internet room where a couple of dozen other phoney "independents" worked. …

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