Cuba Expels The Wrong Marx
Media: Cuba's expulsion of three journalists was a minor story, but shouldn't be. Not only does it show Cuba's growing fear of the spotlight, it raises questions about why others are still there.
It's no coincidence the same Western journalists who tell us all's well in Cuba — nothing here but vintage cars and mojitos — were not among those asked to go. In fact, their reporting has little in common with that of the Chicago Tribune's Gary Marx, the BBC's Stephen Gibbs or Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of Mexico's El Universal.
Under intolerable conditions — spied on by secret police, sources harassed by government goons — these three managed to paint a credible picture of Cuba. That's important because big changes are coming with the demise of the Castro regime, and it might not be a Velvet Revolution.
Cuba's military is restless, Florida civil authorities are making contingency plans for a freedom flotilla, and Hugo Chavez's potential role will be unknown. But at least we could grasp underlying conditions from the journalists whose visas the regime refused to renew.
Marx (Gary, that is) wrote of the disillusionment of Cuba's youth with communism, fakery at Castro's military parades and how the Cuban black market works.
Gonzalez-Calero chronicled long lines, lousy train rides and savings devaluations. He also asked the key question of who was running Cuba and highlighted the fact that the Cuban government had no intention of telling.
Gibb reported on Cuba's social disintegration, including AIDS camps and strange traffic like husband-selling.
All of it was valuable. In the Internet Age it's not complicated to see why — it was verifiable. Marx's, Gonzalez-Calero's and Gibbs' accounts tended to match those of ordinary Cubans who escaped Castro's island prison to freedom and who can now speak freely — like the 23 Cubans who just made it to Key West on Tuesday after multiple attempts. Their reporting matched exile news services like CubaNet.com, as well as the exile photographs seen on Web sites like TheRealCuba.com. It also matched the scholarly research like that found at the University of Miami's Cuba Transition Project.
What it didn't match was the tripe put out by Cuba's state press, touting the "achievements" of communism. Cuban authorities told Marx his work was "negative." Gonzalez-Calero was thrown out for "reporting in a way that does not comport with the Cuban government."
If professional standards mean anything to the mainstream media, getting expelled for that reason is a badge of honor.
Which brings up why remaining correspondents inside Cuba aren't red-faced about not being thrown out.
As with the CNN correspondents who admitted they slanted prewar Iraq coverage to avoid getting their visas revoked by Saddam Hussein, one sees some of this very behavior in the Cuban correspondents and one wonders what the value of such cowardice is. It's a problem for anyone covering a totalitarian regime. But few reporters excused Hussein's regime the way some do Cuba's.
Earlier this week, unexpelled Reuters correspondent Marc Frank wrote about Cuba's latest failed sugar harvest, making no effort to look up why government price-setting creates the same disastrous result over and over. Like the Soviets of old, he blamed the weather.
Not everything Frank does is bad, but the ex-People's Daily World staffer states in many of his reports that Cuba's economic problems are a byproduct of the U.S. embargo rather than the failures of socialism.
Not to be outdone, Anita Snow of the Associated Press is the go-to person for every Western fringe leftist visiting Cuba and parroting Castro's priorities.
Journalists who fail to pass along the realities of a dictatorship are not only doing their readers a disservice. They're also being foolish. One day the Castro regime will fall, and when the Cuban secret police files are opened, there could be a reckoning of what the truth of this regime and their role in its enablement really was.