Monday, January 19th, 2015
Cuba and the U. S. Media
Democracy Deserves Better
Monday, January 19th, 2015
Monday, January 19th, 2015
This AP photo shows U. S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont arriving in Havana Saturday. He led a U. S. delegation that met with Cuban officials last weekend to discuss President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba. Senator Leahy told the BBC, "We have all been to Cuba before and we all support the President's new directions for our policy toward Cuba." Such support for President Obama is crucial.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, on behalf of his state's businesses and farmers, told his staff Friday to prepare for him to lead a trade delegation to Cuba in the very near future. Powerful Democrats, such as Senator Leahy and Governor Cuomo, are eager to take advantage of the momentum generated back on December 17th when President Obama announced his plans to break a long cycle of enmity towards the island by normalizing, as best he can, relations between the two neighboring countries. However, this weekend's encouraging efforts by Senator Leahy, Governor Cuomo and others will be met by continuing hostility from a second generation of Cuban exiles and their right-wing Republican associates who have benefited -- politically, economically, revengefully, etc. -- from antagonistic relations between the United States and Cuba.
This photo courtesy of the White House shows President Barack Obama making a brave and historic phone call to Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17th, 2014. Since 1959, when the Cuban Revolution overturned the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship, there have been eleven American Presidents, seven of whom served more than one 4-year term. But except for now, in the second half of President Obama's second term in the White House, no U. S. president has had the courage and the will to seriously begin the sane and decent process of normalizing relations with Cuba. Other democratic Presidents -- Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton -- tried but were easily quashed by a few Cuban exiles and their easily acquired sycophants. Republican Presidents since 1959 -- Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush-#1, and Bush-#2 -- have been totally aligned with the most extremist Cuban exiles and their acolytes in the U. S. Congress to fashion a Cuban policy designed solely to benefit them at the expense of hurting everyone else, especially totally innocent Cubans on the island. A prime reason this has been allowed to happen is the increasingly incompetent, intimidated, biased, and commercialized U. S. media, which the Founding Fathers in their wisdom envisioned as their democracy's prime protector. On Friday, January 15th, 2015, many of President Obama's plans to begin the normalization process with Cuba were implemented, including making it much easier for Americans to have the freedom to travel to Cuba and even to engage in limited commerce with Cubans. That alone is light years removed from the five-plus decades of Cuban dictates devised by zealots in Miami and Washington to keep Americans from judging for themselves issues related to the nearby island. Freedom to judge would have mitigated against being told what to think when it came to Cuba. Complicit in this denial of freedom has been that intimidated, incompetent, biased, and commercialized media that has found it safer and more rewarding to bend to the dictates of a self-serving few.
............as far as the mainstream media in the U. S. is concerned, Americans are supposed to get their Cuban information from the likes of Alan Gomez. He is the Miami-based "Cuban expert" for USA Today, America's largest newspaper and one that I have subscribed to since 1982, the year the visionary Allen Neuharth founded it. On January 15th, the day after the world was informed of President Obama's vast new and specific plans to normalize relations with Cuba, Mr. Gomez used a vast amount of USA Today's ink and space to impart such sensational news as: "When Castro dies, Cuba natives who have been waiting so long for the day will rejoice. Some will uncork decades-old bottles of champagne they've been saving for the occasion. Governments in South Florida have plans in place for dealing with the spontaneous street parades expected throughout the region." Wow! On a day when less biased, real journalists were discussing the first major changes in U.S.-Cuban relations in over five decades, Mr. Gomez was reminding Americans of these "facts": Every Cuban on the island longs for the day when the 88-year-old Fidel Castro dies; and every Cuban-American longs for the day when the descendants of Fulgencio Batista, Rafael Diaz-Balart, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Santo Traficantte Jr., etc., will regain control of Cuba so the people on the island can once again be treated like sweet Mother Teresa would have treated them! For over five decades, as the U. S. media spiraled downward, that is the type vitriol and distortions Americans have been repeatedly spoon-fed by an industry the Founding Fathers long ago believed was crucial to the defense of the American democracy. And nothing has exploited that American weakness more than the island just 90 miles south of Key West, Florida. As anointed by USA Today, America's largest newspaper, Alan Gomez is a "Cuban expert," so you, like a lapdog, are supposed to believe everything he writes.
When it comes to Cuba, the electronic media in the U. S. is even worse than the printed media, starting with such well-known right-wing propaganda machines as Fox News. As the above promo illustrates, Jose Diaz-Balart has had his own one-hour "news" program on MSNBC since July 14th, 2014. Prior to that he was a fixture on NBC, the celebrated anchor on Telemundo, and a ubiquitous anti-Castro speaker across the United States. The 54-year-old Jose Diaz-Balart got his journalistic start at WTVJ-TV in Miami and his statue escalated as the mainstream U. S. media gradually turned over its Cuban narrative to anti-Castro zealots. Jose Diaz-Balart's father Rafael was a key Minister in the Batista dictatorship in Cuba before emerging as one of the richest and most powerful Cuban exiles. Two of Jose's brothers -- Lincoln and Mario -- have been elected to the U. S. Congress from Miami; another brother, Rafael Jr., is a wealthy banker. Jose's Aunt Mirta was Fidel Castro's first wife; Jose's uncle is the 88-year-old Fidel Castro himself. But the Diaz-Balarts -- in Miami, in the U. S. Congress, and in the U. S. media -- remain virtually unchallenged in their vapid anti-Castro zealotry.
Anti-Castro zealots, including blood relatives such as Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart from Miami, are ubiquitous on America's T-V screens whenever a Cuban issue arises. In the image on the left, Mario Diaz-Balart is telling the world what an awful "appeaser-in-chief" President Obama is for daring to attempt to bring a measure of sanity and decency to America's Cuban policy. The Castro obsession by one-trick ponies voted into the U. S. Congress from Miami obscure the fact that there are many other non-Cuban issues in this nation's corral. And the flagrancy of the problem lies in the fact that, as far as the mainstream U. S. media is concerned, only the minority views such as those espoused by the Diaz-Balarts deserve to see the light of day while the U. S. media generally dodges anything resembling a balanced approach to the Cuban equation, which creates even more negative connotations.
Marco Rubio, the U. S. Senator from Miami, repeatedly shows disrespect for President Obama and for the office of President as he tries to ride his one-trick pony named "Cuba" all the way to the White House after a brief stint in the Senate. Rubio is so infatuated with television cameras that he holds the record for appearing on all six network Sunday morning news programs in one morning! His unending vitriol-saturation regarding President Obama's "Cuba policy shift" included braggadocios about his becoming the new Chairman of the Senate's Western Hemisphere Committee, from which he promised to block President Obama's "Cuba policy shifts." Incredibly, Rubio has long been labeled one of the Republican Party's "most serious" presidential candidates in 2016. After the obvious disrespect he displayed towards President Obama and the office, it is apparent calmer, more mature people advised him to back off on Cuba...at least a bit. Then Rubio actually relented...well, uh, as Chairman I, uh, will listen to, uh, both sides. Rubio rode his pony "Cuba" all the way to the Senate from Miami with his bio claiming his parents escaped the tyranny of Castro's Cuba for the freedom of Miami. It was later pointed out that his parents had, uh, escaped the Batista tyranny in Cuba. No, Rubio will not carry through with his plans to run for President in 2016 because it would jeopardize his entrenched seat in the Senate. But, guess what? He's being advised to put his pony "Cuba" out to pasture and learn to ride some bigger horses -- such as "Economy," "Jobs," "Health Care," etc. In the meanwhile, the U. S. media will continue to make sure that, with few exceptions, only self-serving zealots such as Rubio and the Diaz-Balarts get to express their opinions regarding Cuban issues.
Sarah Stephens is the Founder and Executive Director of the Washington-based Center For Democracy in the Americas. A great proponent of decency and democracy, she is also the greatest, most unbiased, and most tireless American expert on U.S.-Cuban relations. That's why you seldom see her opinions expressed on television or in newspapers, not even to balance out the ubiquitous, self-serving views of Alan Gomez, the Diaz-Balarts, Marco Rubio, etc. Each Friday Ms. Stephens writes the "Cuba Central - The Blog" segment. On Friday, January 16th, she wrote: "What Obama has done -- while his predecessors didn't and somehow couldn't -- is to open a considerable amount of political space for actors other than government officials and public servants to do the hard but necessary work of bringing Cuba and the United States closer together. Many Cuban Americans have labored bravely for decades in a hostile environment in which the expression of moderate views was met with disapproval -- and in some cases with force -- from bullies and extremists. The hands are now stronger in the effort to change the conversation in their community because they now have the President leading the charge as well as lots and lots of allies. By changing the policy and setting a new tone at the top, the President has encouraged a more diverse, democratic, and decent debate." For six decades, America's Cuban policy has been indecent and undemocratic. Ms. Stephens wants to change that.
This photo shows U. S. Senators Marco Rubio of Miami and Bob Menendez of Union City meeting with famed Cuban dissidents, including the most famous of all, Yoani Sanchez, who can now fly to Miami, Washington, and back to Havana. Some people believe that sessions such as this should dictate America's Cuban policy. But some people -- including, I believe, President Obama and Sarah Stephens -- believe it is time that the majority of Americans, Cubans, and Cuban-Americans are also included in the multi-dimensional Cuban conundrum. It is also time the U. S. media had the gumption to present a balanced Cuban narrative.
In the aforementioned quotation, Sarah Stephens lamented the fact that, "Many Cuban-Americans have labored bravely for decades in a hostile environment in which the expressions of moderate views was met with disapproval -- and in some cases with force -- from bullies and extremists." Ms. Stephens could have been referencing Emilio Milian. Emilio, a Cuban-American, was the News Director at WQBA Radio in Miami. He bravely maintained that Cubans in Miami should cease their terrorist acts against innocent Cubans or Americans. He was car-bombed. The democracy-loving Sarah Stephens obviously believes that such "bullies and extremists" who silenced Emilio Milian should not forever dictate America's Cuban policy. At last, the United States has a President who apparently agrees with her.
Against imposing opposition, he at least is trying to help both Cubans and Americans.
May his legacy be sure to register that salient fact.
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