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Toni Solo: Cuba And The Liberal Propaganda Media

Cuba And The Liberal Propaganda Media

by Toni Solo

Cuba was ranked at 51 in the 2007 UN Human Development Index. One place above Mexico. You will never read that fact in corporate mainstream reporting on Cuba. Nor will you read that around 90% of those eligible voted in Cuba's recent elections. Nor will you read a thorough comparison between Cuba and similar countries like, say, Jamaica or the Dominican Republic.

The Human Development Index is a comparative measure of standard of living among UN member countries. In last year's Human Development Index, Jamaica sits at 101 and Dominican Republic at 79. Among Caribbean countries only the Bahamas, at 49, and Barbados, at 31, do better than Cuba. Among Central American countries only Costa Rica, at 48, does better.

Reporting on Cuba in the corporate liberal press goes to incredible lengths to avoid any realistic account of Cuba. Writing of the calm around the vote
ratifying Raul Castro as President, Rory Carroll of the Guardian wrote on February 25th, "The dearth of suspense underscored the authorities' tight control over the island and its 11 million people, many of whom hanker for relief from poverty harsher than that experienced in eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin wall."

The comparison is hopelessly irrelevant. Living standards for the majority of people in all Caribbean countries except the Bahamas and Barbados are much worse than in Cuba and the same is true of other countries in the region like Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Guatemala. Among South American countries only Uruguay, Argentina and Chile rank above Cuba in the UN index. That means that Cuban society, despite 45 years of vicious terrorist attacks and genocidal economic blockade by the United States, is more successful in terms of human development than almost all its Caribbean neighbours and the great majority of Latin American countries, including economic giants like Mexico and Brazil or "free trade" beacons like Panama.

That very clearly means Cuba's socialist system has proven better at meeting people's needs than the corporate consumer capitalist system applied in most other countries in the Americas. The Guardian and the Independent are supposed to be the flagship newspapers of liberal opinion in British society. In fact most of their journalism on a range of issues, from Palestine to Haiti to Iran andAfghanistan to Venezuela and Cuba parrots standard NATO government propaganda. Their editors might splutter in response and point to trend-bucking journalists like Robert Fisk or Patrick Cockburn. But those exceptions serve as journalistic loss leaders pulling in the punters while routine editorial policy differs little from the downmarket tabloids.

If one compares the treatment of recent events in Cuba with political coverage of the US or Europe, the double standards are blatant. David Usborne wrote in the Independent, also on February 25th, "...there was little suspense in Havana yesterday anyway, as most people doubted the newly elected body would dare do anything but salute the legacy of Fidel by selecting his 76-year-old brother to take over. The only real alternative for the 614-member Assembly was to embrace a generational shift, choosing one of two younger loyal lieutenants of the regime, either the Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, who is 42, or the 56-year-old Vice-President, Carlos Lage."

So Usborne acknowledges that there was a real alternative but still manages to make it sound as though there was hardly any choice. Why does one never hear that logic applied to votes in the US Congress on Iraq or on support for Israel. For example "...there was hardly any tension in Congress around last night 's vote on the Middle East as most people knew the elected Senators would hardly dare challenge the pro-Israel lobby" or "almost no one expected any problems for the vote on military spending because few politicians would dare challenge the defence industry".

Usborne quotes a US State Department statement from Condoleezza Rice. ""We urge the Cuban government to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change by releasing all political prisoners, respecting human rights, and creating a clear pathway towards free and fair elections,"she said." But Usbourne might equally well have checked out the internet to find quotes from important regional politicians. Lula de Silva, President of Brazil, quoted in an Agence France Press wire of February 19th "The leader insisted that he was "happy that everything has been going on quite calmly....what we feared was that, in an adverse situation, a turbulent process might have ocurred and that the Cubans in Miami might have considered it the moment to return to Cuba and turn the island into a zone of conflict.""

The Mexican government stated its intention "to continue progress in a process of bilateral rapprochement begun some months ago" following a diplomatic row between Cuba and Mexico's former President, Vicente Fox. The Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza remarked "whatever change may come about should come about from peaceful and democratic dialogue by Cubans and in no case be moved by external efforts." The Jamaican government information service wrote that the country's right-wing President Bruce Golding "hailed President Castro for his steadfastness, courage, strength of his leadership and his unswerving commitment to the cause of the Cuban people."

The point of noting these responses is that by quoting the by now almost irrelevant Rice, Usborne prioritizes a completely skewed Americanist view of Cuba. Most other governments in the Americas, unlike the United States government , tend to be more ready to recognize the vulnerability of their own contradictions. If one looks at the United States one can quickly note the grotesque litany of human rights abuses prevalent there, from its racist criminal justice system, to the Guantanamo base torture cells, to "war on terror" denial of due process, to mass violation of privacy, the no-fly lists, CIA rendition-to-torture flights, denial of basic rights to tens of thousands of people from New Orleans, political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal...the list goes on and on.

The US authorities are notorious for having jailed 5 Cuban anti-terrorists who gave the FBI information about terrorists based in the US. The Cuban government reckons over 3000 Cubans have been killed by terror attacks originating from the United States. One wonders what would happen to US dissidents who were found to be taking money from a hostile foreign power responsible for terrorist attacks on the US people. In Cuba such individuals are tried and jailed. Cuba's internal security arrangements have always resembled those employed by the United States and European Union governments when faced with terrorist threats.

Such arrangements carry similar likelihood of abuse and human rights violations. One has only to think of the long war in Ireland, or the Spanish government's security measures against ETA to find ready comparisons, let alone the current wholesale violation of basic rights experienced in the United States. In the UK, the DA notice self-censorship system polices media compliance with the official government line. Currently, the UK government is censoring ex-soldier Ben Griffin's attempts to denounce UK collusion in torture in Afghanistan.

By prioritizing US views and failing to note other perspectives on Cuba, Usborne and his editors deliberately imply that Rice's view is somehow more important than those of other government's in the region. In reality, US prestige in Latin America and the Caribbean has never been lower. Condoleezza Rice and her Bush regime colleagues have presided over that. Quoting Rice's remarks and no one else's is lazy and presumptuous - pretty much what one expects from Western Bloc corporate media, liberal or otherwise.

Presumption and laziness similarly characterize Phil Davison's piece in the Independent by-lined February 24th. Davison writes, "a Democrat as US president, particularly if it is Barack Obama, might go a long way to hauling Cuba out of its time warp and turning it into what some predict could be the commercial and tourism hub of the Carib-bean." How about, "a Democrat as US president, particularly if they were suddenly develop a moral conscience, might go a long way to hauling Colombia out of its time warp, promoting a peaceful settlement of its 50 year old war, funding compensation to 3.7 million people internally displaced by conflict and encouraging the government to sever ties with narcotics dealing paramilitary terrorists who claim to control 35% of the country's legislators."

But you will never read that in the Independent or the Guardian because no US President is ever likely to cut off support to their narco-terror paramilitary proxies in Colombia. The UK liberal Press are little more than megaphones for smug, self-serving Western Bloc propaganda. Here's another one from Davison, on what Raul Castro might do as President, "If elected, the chances are strong that he will ease the stranglehold. That could sharply increase Cuba's annual GDP per head of $3,000 (£1,500) and average wage of $10 a month." In fact, an information centre like Michigan State University's International Business Centre reckons that in 2006 GDP per head in Cuba was US$4000 while in Honduras and Nicaragua it was US$3100, in Jamaica US$4,600, in El Salvador US$4,900.

Davison can point out that tourist-economy countries like Dominican Republic and Belize have far higher per capita GDPs. But how then does he explain their dreadful Human Development rankings compared to Cuba? Both Dominican Republic and Belize in 2006 had GDP per capita of US$8400. But in the HDI, Dominican Republic is ranked 79, 28 places below Cuba, while Belize is ranked 80. These contradictory figures point to the Latin American and Caribbean region's fundamental economic problem : overwhelming poverty resulting from gross inequality in income distribution.

The basic anti-Cuban moves in Western Bloc consumer capitalist media propaganda outlets like the Guardian and the Independent are these:

• shun comparing like with like - make out it's legitimate to measure Cuba's economy against first world standards
• be careful to mention the embargo but only in passing and omit mention of its genocidal intent and effects
• minimize Cuba's unprecedented international humanitarian contributions in health and education
• try never to note Cuba's world-beating scientific, sporting and cultural achievements
• avoid mentioning the US government's support for terrorism against Cuba, keep quiet about CIA terror bomber Luis Posada Carriles
• quote Cuba's enemies, play down its worldwide support from governments of all ideologies
• discount the Non-Aligned Movement and Cuba's prestigious place within it
• write out of Americanist assumptions - the only government whose opinions are worth anything on Cuba is the United States
• keep human rights issues out of context and omit comparison with other countries in Latin America, especially Colombia
• never mention that Cuba sits above US NAFTA partner Mexico in the Human Development Index
• play down and/or disparage Cuba's participatory democratic system
• never compare Cuba's disaster prevention systems with the United States' and never mention Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or its sequel

One doesn't have to write a praise piece about Fidel Castro or Cuban socialism to recognize Cuba's unprecedented achievements against the most vicious aggression possible short of outright military assault. One may have reservations, for example, about Cuban government willingness to promote its citrus sector with help from retired Israeli government gangsters or to welcome State visits by cruel, greedy dictators like President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. Or one might wonder why Cuba's housing shortage seems to be as intractable as the one in Spain. But to find out what kind of well informed criticism may be legitimate to make of the Cuban government or Cuban society, among the last places one should go looking is in Western Bloc liberal corporate media like the Guardian and the Independent.


toni solo ia based in Central America - articles archived at

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