U.S. Media vs. Cuba

It Embarrasses U. S. Democracy
       In this digital age, few Americans rely on the best source for news -- daily printed newspapers. The alternative, unfortunately, has been disastrous for the U. S. democracy. Study the above photo and I believe you will agree that televised cable news is a poor substitute for newspapers. Cable news outlets, even with low ratings and replays of newscasts to fill out 24-hour days, are commercial successes. Their staple, talking-head pundits, save cable operations the expense of having to actually go out and cover the news. Some of the talking-head pundits are paid big salaries because they are utilized about every hour, but others are perfectly willing to appear daily and/or nightly because the airtime provides them free advertisements for themselves, their latest book, or their promotional company. Take, for example, Ana Navarro. Since graduating from the University of Miami in 1993, the Miami-based Navarro has made a lucrative career out of promoting Republican politicians, especially Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. CNN, projecting Navarro as a political expert, provides her countless hours each week of free but very biased publicity. Her advocacy seems simple: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and George P. Bush {Jeb's son} should be the next three Presidents, with each serving two terms. Such rubbish with a litany of talking-head pundits is how CNN and other cable "news" outlets save tons of money instead of spending a little of their corporate stashes by sending out actual news reporters to gather the news that Americans really need.
               As CNN and all cable "news" outfits well know, talking-head propaganda saves money by replacing actual news gathering but it also, because of its ubiquitous repetitions, tries to leave the impression that this is the new standard for television news. Maybe so, but Americans and democracy deserve better.  
And speaking of the U. S. "news" media............
         .................a brilliant young Cuban broadcaster named Cristina Escobar has been on Cuban television as well as regional and international networks this year expressing her vivid opinions on both U.S.-Cuban relations and what she terms "the pathetic state of the U. S. news media." And her opinion counts, especially in Cuba, where she is the island's most influential journalist, but also regionally and internationally as her ubiquity ascends to new heights. At age 27, and exceedingly fluent in English and Spanish, she is both highly educated and extremely knowledgeable from historic and topical standpoints. She stunned veteran U. S. journalists when she was in Washington to cover the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session prior to the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana for the first time since 1961. First off, Cristina made history by being the first Cuban journalist to ask questions at a White House news conference, stunning the crowded forum with five searing questions that were answered over a 14-minute span by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Secondly, while in Washington, Cristina made several speeches at pro-Cuban events and gave a plethora of interviews in Spanish and English. Her primary theme in Washington was clear. She wanted to make this point: "The lies the U. S. media tells about Cuba and about U.S.-Cuban relationships hurts everyday Cubans. It hurts them a lot. Since the Cuban Revolution chased the Miami Mafia off the island in 1959, my island has suffered since the early 1960s from a military attack, many terrorist attacks, and what the United Nations calls the longest and cruelest economic blockade in history. Most of that has been engineered by two generations of Miami Mafia but other profiteers seeking regime change in Cuba remain ready allies. And just as hurtful as all that for everyday Cubans is the biased and incompetent U. S. media. In Cuba, I pride myself on being a broadcast journalist. I would be ashamed to be a broadcast journalist in the United States. It's easier and safer in the U. S., I guess, to tell lies about Cuba. But that's an American problem, too, because most people can see through such American charades."
           It is, of course, perfectly alright for Americans to disagree with Cristina Escobar about "lies in the U. S. media." But Americans who desire normal relations with Cuba, or Cuban-Americans who want to regain control of the island, should at least respect her views. She is not only Cuba's most influential journalist, she is a leader of a energetic and restless generation of young adults on the island who plan to shape post-Castro Cuba in their image, not Miami's or Washington's. With all the economic and military advantages Americans, the Mafia, and Cuban-Americans have enjoyed since 1952, they were not able to maintain the Batista dictatorship a generation ago and they may not be able to dismiss the sovereignty-fueled determination of Cristina Escobar's current generation. In 2015 the Batistiano influence in the U. S. Congress is a powerful force. But so is Cristina Escobar. A stronger, less biased, and less money-crazed U. S. media needs to acknowledge Cristina's side of the two-sided U.S.-Cuban conundrum. Hurting Cubans on the island and still not even recapturing the island is a losing proposition all the way around the world.
         This is one of ten photos used recently to illustrate a major article about Cuba in the Kansas City Star. It was written by Lewis Diuguid and is entitled "U. S. Could gain Immensely From Strong Ties To Cuba." Above is an ultra-modern hospital in Havana, the kind the World Bank praised when it lauded Cuba for spending an exceedingly high percentage of its wealth on education and health; and the kind the World Health Organization recently praised when it lauded Cuba for having better pre-natal care and a lower infant mortality rate than far richer nations, including the U. S. In the recent article in the Kansas City Star, Lewis Diuguid cogently explains that, among other advantages of having close ties to Cuba, the U. S. government could benefit from emulating Cuba's emphasis on education and health programs that are designed purely to help educate Cubans and improve their health, not to enrich drug companies and other Wall Street entities. The insightful and well-researched Kansas City Star article this week is in stark contrast to what the Miami Herald and other media outlets in the U. S. routinely tell Americans about Cuba, such as emphasizing the many decaying buildings and dissidents who are mostly funded and/or encouraged by America's regime-change programs. Through it all...the Bay of Pigs, the embargo, the downing of Cubana Flight 455, etc., Cuba has managed, since 1959, to stress education and health on the island. The Kansas City Star article this week minutely explains to you the results, which are positive. AND YES, AMERICA, IT IS PERMISSIBLE TO READ AND STUDY EVEN POSITIVE and fair ARTICLES ABOUT CUBA.
          This is one of those ten photos used in the aforementioned Kansas City Star article to illustrate, through hell and high water, how Cuba has maintained truly remarkable educational and health services on the island despite such vile impediments as the U. S. embargo, which has been designed to starve and deprive the island since the early 1960s. Fair-minded journalist Lewis Diuguid used this caption to explain this photo: "The Literary Campaign Museum in Havana helps people understand the enormous task Cuba launched in 1961 at the urging of leader Fidel Castro to eliminate illiteracy." Mr Diuguid provides statistics to document that literacy in Cuba easily exceeds literacy in most other nations, including the United States. 
       To understand the ten updated color photos in that Kansas City Star article this week, Americans need to understand black-and-white photos such as this one taken in the 1950s during the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba. From 1952 till the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, this was a typical peasant family on the island of Cuba, a family that constituted the island's majority. While the Batistianos, the Mafiosi, and U. S. businessmen were robbing the nation at will, peasants like these were not even an afterthought -- unless they objected too vocally and then, as historians well know, they were brutally assaulted by legendary Batista goons such as the Masferrer Tigers army. Aware that few Americans know or care about Cuban families like this one in Batista's Cuba, to this very day -- to combat President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba -- powerful propagandists saturate U. S. "news" programs with distortions such as, "In the 1950s Cuba had one of the best economies in all of Latin America!" Of course, that is like saying that, between them, Bill Gates and the penny-less man living under the bridge are worth $70 billion, and Americans are supposed to believe each of them is worth about $35 billion. Yet, since 1959 such distortions, such lies, have controlled the saturated Cuban narrative throughout the United States.
      U. S. and Cuban historians are abundantly aware that this photo from Batista's Cuba accurately reflects the plight of the majority Cuban peasants in the 1950s. This photo also illustrates how a female-powered popular revolution could evolve and eventually overthrow a strong dictator supported by the Mafia, the strongest criminal organization in the world, and by the United States, the strongest nation in the world.
         But this photo from Batista's Cuba illustrates best what crowned the downfall of Batista, the Mafia, and the United States in Cuba -- even more than the extreme poverty inflicted on the majority peasants. The unconscionable murders {"asesinatos"of Cuban children {"hijos"} -- apparently just to quell resistance -- turned out to be the biggest mistake Batista in Cuba and his supporters in Washington ever made. Cuban mothers like these very bravely took to the streets to denounce the wanton murders of their children. A young lawyer named Fidel Castro took note: He believed if he could utilize the feminine outrage on the island, he could overthrow Batista. It shocked the world but it was a presciently correct judgment.
         This is the front entrance of one of today's most important hospitals in Cuba. It's the William Soler Pediatrics Hospital. Its director made headlines in the Caribbean by complaining that the U. S. embargo prevented him from obtaining some badly needed supplies. For Americans to understand Cuba today, they need to know who William Soler was. He was 14 when he and three of his classmates were brutally murdered in a vacant warehouse, murders considered warnings for Cubans not to resist the brutal Batista dictatorship. But William Soler's mother led one of the bravest and most important street marches.
         This photo was taken on January 4th, 1957, and it shows William Soler's mother, in the center wearing the white jacket, leading a march of 500 women in the streets of Santiago de Cuba. They were protesting the gruesome murders two days earlier of William Soler and three of his schoolmates. Jerry A. Sierra, in his brilliant History of Cuba website, correctly lists this as one of the decisive moments of the Revolutionary War. It helped galvanize crucial support for the rebel cause and it also got the attention of Batista's supporters in Washington, embarrassing some and scaring others. Yes, in Cuba today one of the most important children's hospitals is named for William Soler, a key component of the Cuban Revolution.
          A 99-pound doctor's daughter named Celia Sanchez -- outraged by what she considered the legal murder of a 10-year-old peasant girl named Maria Ochoa who, Celia believed, had been kidnapped as part of a routine program to lure rich pedophiles to Mafia-run hotel/casinos -- became the eternal face of the Cuban Revolution. A do-or-die guerrilla fighter {above} as well as the revolution's prime recruiter of rebels and supplies and later the prime decision-maker in Revolutionary Cuba, Celia Sanchez and William Soler's mother to this day are remembered as two women Fulgencio Batista should not have angered. To understand Cuba requires at least a basic understanding of Celia Sanchez, William Soler, and Maria Ochoa.
         If everyday Americans were allowed to visit Cuba today, they would see billboards like the one above honoring Celia Sanchez...as well as beautiful statues and major edifices, such as hospitals, named for her. But, hey! Cuba is the one place in the world that everyday Americans are not allowed to visit. That's so because the U. S. democracy has, since 1959, allowed profiteers to dictate America's Cuban policy.
One of many Celia Sanchez statues in Cuba today.
May 9th, 1920 -- January 11, 1980
Cuban schoolgirls still celebrate Celia Sanchez's birthday, May 9th.
"Sweet Dreams"

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