[HCCN] of interest: the media war against Cuba

Judith Robbins judy at robbinsandrobbins.com
Mon Apr 5 20:03:48 EDT 2010

[Friends, for those who want to know more about the latest Cuba media  
frenzy and its source, this piece by Canadian journalist Arnold  
August answers some questions. -- J.R.]

Lies and Facts in the Media War Against Cuba

By Arnold August

Global Research, April 1, 2010

The current media war against Cuba, which seems to be heading for yet  
another episode these days, is based on four fundamental lies:

a)      The prisoners in Cuba who are the object of controversy are  
in jail for their political views.

b)      Cuban prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo who recently died  
following a self-imposed hunger strike was in prison for political  

c)      Tamayo died resulting from a lack of concern or even  
deliberate actions by Cuban medical prison and political authorities.

d)      The Damas de Blanco were physically harassed by citizens and  
then violently detained by Cuban authorities during their  
demonstration in Havana on March 18.

Much of the corporate-controlled mass media in North America and  
Europe and the European Union itself give themselves the right to lie  
about Cuba or other countries which do not fit into the northern  
paradigm of “acceptable states”. Even worse, the monopoly media do  
not even feel that they have to answer to this most important  
accusation. Striving to tell the truth as opposed to deliberately  
spreading lies in the media is no minor issue and should therefore  
receive the maximum attention.

What follows is the partial transcript of the TV interview held on  
March 8, 2010 by Bill Maher on HBO with Hollywood actor and producer  
Sean Penn. This portion of the transcript deals with the topic of the  
lies being spread by media. The subject matter in this case, Hugo  
Chávez, applies to all other themes victimized by lies:

“MAHER: His [Chávez] image in the media is just a buffoon. You have  
been there. You know him. You’ve talked to him. That’s all I  
really know about Hugo Chávez, is what I read in the media. A  
dictator, took over a lot of the branches of government, wants to be  
president for life. What do you know that I don’t know that I should  
not have such a harsh feeling about this guy?

PENN: I think that if you’re happier with 20 percent of a population  
having the access to dreams, access to the feeling they have an  
identity and a voice. If it’s okay with the 20 percent, versus the  
80 percent he gave it to, then you can criticize Hugo Chávez. You  
know, there are a lot of complicated issues that comes simply out of  
perspective. We in the United States have a difficult time putting  
ourselves in the shoes of what has been the history of Venezuela, the  
history of Latin America, and many other places. We’re very mono- 
cultural. And then we are hypnotized by the media. For example, Hugo  
Chávez. Who do you know here who’s gone through fourteen of the  
most transparent elections on the globe, and has been elected  
democratically, as Hugo Chávez?....The collaborative opportunity in  
Haiti [with Cuba and Venezuela], when you talk about Hugo Chávez, and  
some of the other people who are demonized....Because every day, this  
elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it! And  
accept it. And this is mainstream media, who should – truly, there  
should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.

MAHER: I got to move – to the panel.

PENN: Sorry,

MAHER: No, someday we will have you back on whether Chávez is a  
dictator or not.”

Watching this TV program, it was obvious by the body language that  
Maher was quite disturbed by Penn’s remark. Sometimes an image is  
worth a thousand words. In this case the words are just as important  
as the image. Maher changed the subject by saying that he has to move  
on to a panel participant. However, this was not true. Maher just  
changed the topic and made some jokes with Penn. Maher said that he  
will have Penn back on TV “on whether Chávez is a dictator or  
not.”  However, that was not the issue raised by Penn, who  
repudiated the accusation against Chávez by simply stating the facts  
according to the very criteria applied by the US ruling circles  
themselves, that is electoral victories. The issue was and is: how  
come there is no accountability in the monopoly media? Why is it that  
the latter can just repeat lies and get away with it while there are  
no measures to be brought to bear against those who carry out what is  
commonly known as yellow journalism? Media deliberately collaborating  
with government circles and telling lies is a very serious business  
which can even contribute towards wars of aggression. The peoples of  
the word have learned this bitter experience from the time of the  
Nazis to the Bush-lead involvement in the Iraqi war.oavermH

In this context of the self-proclaimed de facto right to lie, let us  
examine the four points outlined above.

Firstly, the Cuban prisoners who are the object of attention were not  
tried and later convicted for holding political views contrary to the  
political system in Cuba. This country, like most countries in the  
north, has legislation which makes it illegal for individuals to  
collaborate with a foreign power against their own people. Let us  
take the US as an example. One illustration is the following: The  
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is an agency of the United  
States Department of Treasury and derives its authority from (amongst  
other sources) the Trading with the Enemy Act. Every year the US  
president signs a memorandum in favor of continuing for one  
additional year the Trading with the Enemy Act as it applies to the  
US blockade against Cuba. For example Obama did so on September 11,  
2009. Not only technically but for all intents and purposes the US is  
waging an undeclared war against Cuba in order to change its  
political system. Now according to the U.S. Penal Code, under Chapter  
115 entitled Treason, Sedition, and Subversion, Section 2381  
stipulates that any US citizen that “adheres to their [U.S] enemies,  
giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is  
guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not  
less than five years and fined under this title but not less than  
$10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the  
United States.” In other words, a US citizen who collaborates with a  
country with which the US considers to be at war in order to assist  
this foreign power can be condemned to death.

Cuba, like so many other countries has similar legislation. In 2003,  
a few Cuban citizens were tried, found guilty and jailed for working  
hand in glove with the US Interest Section in Havana which provided  
them with funds or materials in order to subvert the constitutional  
order on the island. These facts have been published and thus can be  
verified by anyone.

Secondly, Zapata was not at all tried and convicted for anything  
approaching political issues. The mass media just repeat what they  
want to be swallowed by public opinion. In fact Zapata since 1988 has  
been involved in all kinds of criminal activities, but nothing at all  
political. He has been arrested and convicted on several occasions  
for disturbing the peace, two counts of fraud, public exhibitionism,  
injury and possession of non-firearm weapons. In 2000 he fractured  
the skull of a Cuban citizen and while in jail he had shown a long  
history of violence against prison authorities. He was granted parole  
in March 2003, eleven days before the arrest and trials of the so- 
called political dissidents had been initiated. He committed another  
crime on March 20th 2003 and he was returned to prison. Even though  
this latest event in March 2003 coincided with the same month when  
the trials of the so-called dissidents took place, his return behind  
bars had nothing to do with it, but was rather a coincidence which  
was used by the “dissidents” and the US in order to present Zapata  
after the fact as a political prisoner. The very few times the mass  
media make even a vague reference to Cuba’s claim regarding  
Zapata’s real judicial record, it is invariably couched in terms  
that ridicule the credibility of the Cuban position, while not  
providing the public with the facts mentioned above, all of which are  
available in the Cuban press.

Thirdly, Tamayo did not die resulting from a lack of concern nor  
deliberate actions by Cuban medical, prison and other authorities. A  
special March 1 portion of the Cuban daily TV news explained the  
details leading up to his eventual death, a video which is still  
available on internet for those foreign journalists interested in the  
truth. In the video we can see and hear Cuban doctors, nutritionists  
and other specialists testifying as to how they had tried everything  
to save his life. It was explained with a great deal of scientific  
rigor how he was kept alive through  intravenous serum and other  
techniques, but when an individual  refuses to digest food the  
body’s organs begin to deteriorate in an irreversible process which  
invariably leads to the person’s death despite all the efforts to  
save his life. One psychologist even testified to how she tried to  
convince him to give up the hunger strike and rather to adopt other  
means in order to make his grievances felt. The video also shows his  
mother saying that her son had the best Cuban doctors at his bed side  
and she thanked them for their assistance. And a very important  
detail to take into account: The mother’s statements were recorded  
and filmed in the context of a spontaneous discussion, without her  
knowing about the filming; this eliminated any suspicion that what  
she was saying was carried out under pressure of the authorities. The  
fact that his mother later blamed the Cubans for his death is more of  
a testimony as to how Zapata and his mother are manipulated by those  
forces who have a political goal, rather consisting of a condemnation  
of the prisoner’s treatment.

Who to believe? Why not show the video and allow the public to reach  
its own conclusions rather than repeating the lie in best style of  
Goebbels? Watching the original TV news and later the video on  
internet on several occasions, the words, it is clear that the  
explanations and style of the Cuban specialists simply constitute an  
extension of one of the most outstanding feature of Cuban society and  
political culture. Any non-Cuban researcher or journalist who spends  
time on the island and is seriously interested in Cuba knows that  
Cuba is a profoundly humanitarian society in which the human being  
and life itself is placed on a pedestal. Humanity is untouchable, and  
its values are applicable to all human beings on the island,  
irrespective of any other considerations. The comments and the  
sincerity exhibited by the Cuban specialists is part of everyday life  
in Cuba; for those of us who are familiar with it, the testimony seen  
on TV is perfectly normal and to be expected of Cuba — in all  

However, it is important that the corporate mass media keep this  
feature of Cuban society away from public opinion in order to  
manipulate the situation in their favour when the circumstances so  
require. While the entire planet was focused on Haiti after the  
January 12 earthquake, the US media who was on the spot twenty-four  
hours a day for a period of many weeks, still found a way to hide  
from the public that Cuban health workers and other specialists had  
been in Haiti working selflessly for eleven years; on January 12 they  
not only continued but increased their assistance. Sean Penn had the  
courage to mention it in the interview. However, it is difficult to  
imagine that despite the high technology state-of-the-art tools  
available to US journalists who spent all that time in Haiti that  
these reporters never came across a Cuban doctor or other health  
worker or bumped into any of the thousands upon thousands of Haitians  
who had been treated by the Cuban medical missions over the last  
eleven years and in the weeks following the quake. This black-out is  
very deliberate because when the occasion arises such as the current  
issue of the Zapata death and the events emerging out of this, it is  
deemed easier for public opinion to buy the lie that Cuban health  
officials and Cuban health system can be heartless. Of course there  
is no denying that the situation such as Zapata is not the same as  
examples given above regarding Haiti. However, when an entire society  
and a profession such as the medical one are based on humanity and  
the preservation of life of human beings, this principle applies to  
all cases. There is no distinction based on any consideration.

Cuba is a society which is trained for more than five decades in  
patience and education in order to strive to right wrongs of any  
sort, or solve problems. Whether it is at the level of the  
neighbourhood CDRs (Comités de Defensa de la Revolución), in the  
municipal assembly and people’s council deliberations, in the  
governmental organs most directly and closely linked to citizens in  
the neighbourhoods and the centers of production and services, or  
accountability sessions between the elected and the electors, or the  
discussions and consultations in the parliamentary commissions, or  
its permanent working commissions, at the work places, all problems  
in society are dealt with on the basis of patience, understanding and  
education. This is a fundamental part of the very self-criticism  
carried out by the system itself. Whether the problem is solving day- 
to-day problems, or even the breach of law on a low level or a  
relatively serious manner such as felony involving individuals or  
small groups, it is very remarkable to directly witness the patience  
with which Cubans apply themselves, always using education as the  
main instrument to change behaviour which affects society. And so it  
was very plausible and normal to watch the Cuban video in which the  
health professionals testified as to how they tried everything to  
save Zapata’s life. This is the way it is in Cuba.

It is not an accident that at one point the Bush Administration  
abruptly ended most educational visits by US citizens to Cuba; the  
youth and their professors in their overwhelming majority invariably  
saw through the mass media lies about Cuba and were able to  
appreciate at least this one point: Cuba is a peaceful society based  
on the value of human beings and that this value transcends every  
other consideration; it is applicable in all circumstances. Students  
came back to the US with a vision of Cuban society that is the very  
opposite as to what is spread by the mass media.

The fourth lie being circulated is regards to the Damas de Blanco,  
the claim being that they were physically harassed by citizens and  
then violently aggressed by Cuban authorities during their March 18  
demonstration in Havana. Who are the Damas de Blanco and what is  
their importance? Since 1960, the US government has been officially  
supporting the implantation of “opposition groups” in Cuba with  
close links to the US. More recently in the July 2006 US Document  
entitled Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, it is once again  
specifically stated that these groups need “well-funded programs  
designed to empower them” and points out the need to “build an  
international consensus in support of these groups” (page16).  There  
are several groups and individuals who are mentioned in the US  
Report: one is the Damas de Blanco. An individual who also explicitly  
gets the stamp of approval close to four years ago is Guillermo  
Fariñas who according to the US document at the time was “engaged  
in a sustained hunger strike (page 19). Today as these lines are  
being written, he is once again on a hunger strike and is being  
manipulated in the same manner which Zapata was and is today.

The mass media includes YouTube videos and reports on the recent  
Damas de Blanco incidents. This YouTube is reflective of the biased  
reporting based on lies, consisting of a montage of some film  
footage, still photographs which may or may not have anything to do  
with that day’s events,  verbal description of confrontation, all  
this being edited together to give the impression of violence.  
However, one can look at the original unedited full video that was  
shown world-wide on television while ignoring the audio portion which  
states on several occasions that violence was used by pro-Cuban  
supporters against the Damas and that the police violently took them  
into custody. The facts as seen in the video show that while the  
opponents of the Damas were extremely upset and shouting their  
support for the Revolution, at no time did they use violence. In the  
same manner, the female police officers who took the Damas into city  
buses and then to their home did not use violence against the Damas  
who were not arrested. Even though the Damas are officially  
recognized and promoted by the US as a bona fide “opposition  
group” and their ties to the US are evident for everyone to see,  
violence was not used against them. To claim the contrary is a lie,  
and the goal is obviously to repeat it with the hope that people will  
eventually accept it as a fact. It is the type of lie which Sean Penn  
objected to when applied to the mass media repeatedly describing Hugo  
Chávez as a dictator.

Those arrested, tried and imprisoned in March 2003 and their  
defenders such as the Damas de Blanco are not in conflict with the  
Cuban government or the people in the streets who invariably come out  
to oppose these tiny groups and defend the Revolution because of the  
“dissidents’” political views and political opinions. Their  
problem is that they are collaborating with a foreign power (the US)  
against their own people and country. In Cuba, more than ever before,  
there is wide-scale and profound discussion and debate going on in  
the media, families, neighbourhoods, mass organizations and different  
levels of people’s power. There are conflicting opinions which are  
openly debated on what measures to take in order to improve the socio- 
economic system in Cuba, for example to provide more strength and  
authority to the elected representatives as well as political  
officials in the state and government instances in order to deal with  
problems of corruption (which in no way can be compared, either in  
terms of the extent or the type of acts which have to be confronted  
in any capitalist country), production and distribution of food and  
materials necessary for the population. But these deliberations do  
not have as a goal to change the current socialist system for the  
capitalist system nor to convert Cuba once again into a satellite of  
the US, a situation which existed before the Revolution. The  
“opposition groups” have voluntarily disqualified themselves from  
this important debate which is not directed against the current  
system or the constitutionally-established order. On the contrary,  
these discussions are even encouraged by the historical revolutionary  
leadership because of its sincere desire to get the people  
increasingly involved in perfecting their own system. Therefore the  
fact that the “opposition” or so-called “dissidents” are  
completely on the margins of mainstream Cuban society is not the  
fault of the Cuban system or an indication of one of its flaws which  
has to be corrected. The “opposition groups” have only themselves  
to blame for their own complete isolation. If it was not for the  
media campaigns and US funds and other means of support, any time  
spent on writing about the “dissidents” would be a complete waste  
of time because of their total irrelevance in day-to- day Cuban  
political life at all levels.

The so-called dissidents in Cuba, completely isolated, irrelevant and  
marginal in Cuba society and political life, are traitors to the  
nation just as their counter-parts in Miami. Traitors are like wild  
cards. They follow self-serving, opportunistic methods of thinking  
and acting. They can be on anyone’s payroll as this is how they earn  
their living. Traitors by their very nature can sell their souls. The  
peoples of Europe and the USA, who only have an interest in improving  
relations with Cuba, have to think as to whether Washington and  
Brussels and the corporate media in their service, have created a  
monster that is out of control. These “opposition” figures  earn  
their living based on the sole and unique goal which consists of  
creating tensions between Cuba on the one hand and on the other hand  
Europe and the USA, conflicts which by their very nature inhibit  
normal state-to-state relations. President Obama for his part should  
use his intelligence to see through these intentions of the extreme  
right to sabotage his program to improve relations between the two  
countries. Given this situation, should not serious professional  
journalists, sincere and open-minded parliamentarians, political  
figures, trade union leaders and intellectuals be aware of the trap?

Why is Cuba the victim today of yet another media campaign and  
pressures from Washington and Brussels? There are several reasons.  
Perhaps one is the fact that the February 22-23, 2010 meeting of all  
states in the hemisphere except the USA and Canada agreed to  
establish a regional organisation to promote economic, political, and  
cultural integration. This is an historical event. It is no secret to  
anyone that Cuba led the charge way back in 1959 and persisted all  
this time in the most difficult conditions as a political and moral  
base for regional cooperation. The US and the old Europe never  
forgave Cuba for taking this first step over fifty years ago. They  
never accepted the Cuban refusal to follow the steps of capitulation  
to the west as happened in the former USSR and Eastern Europe. To  
defend Cuba today and its Revolution is to defend all of the Latin  
America and the Caribbean and its noble project of integration. The  
death of Zapata came at a most opportune moment, and its manipulation  
by the European Union and the mass media there and in North America  
serves most conveniently to try and upset the new tendency in the  
region by hitting at its initial and most prestigious inspiration:  
Cuba. In the same 2006 US document quoted above, the US at that time  
was worried about the Cuba-Venezuela “axis” in this way:  
“Together, these countries are advancing an alternative retrograde  
and anti-American agenda for the hemisphere’s future and they are  
finding some resonance...in the region....” (page 24). In this  
context the US spells out its program of organizing, sustaining and  
promoting its own opposition groups and individuals in Cuba.

But Cuba is not alone. On the contrary, despite all the attempts at  
isolation for more than fifty years, never before has Cuba been at  
the center stage of regional and world politics to the extent that it  
is now. The latest media campaign based on lies and distortions is  
only serving to raise the political consciousness of the peoples of  
the world about how the corporate mass media operate through lies and  

[ Source:   http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php? 
context=va&aid=18434 ]

Author/journalist/lecturer Cuba specialist. First book Democracy in  
Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections (English, 1999). Chapter entitled  
“Socialism and Elections”, in Cuban Socialism in a New Century:  
Adversity, Survival and Renewal, edited by professors Max Azicri and  
Elsie Deal (University Press of Florida, 2004). Upcoming (English,  
Spanish, French, fall 2010) Cuba: Participatory Democracy and  
Elections in the 21st Century. Member of LASA (Latin American Studies  

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