FRONTLINE’S CULTURAL WAR
by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
The tax payer’s "educational" television gave us a wonderful night of distortion, misinformation, and apparently "politically correct" trashing of Cuban Americans in the PBS FRONTLINE documentary "Saving Elian," broadcast in many areas on February 6, 2001. Certainly, the American public became more uneducated about the subject as a result of this program. But for people who are educated and have firsthand experience of Cuba under Castro, this documentary was nothing less than one more insult from public television against the Cuban American community in the U.S.
Although not known to the general American public, Cuban Americans are constantly censored, ostracized, maligned and dismissed by the cultural forces in charge in the academic and information media. In a communist regime, the ruling class is constantly at war against its people. Paradoxically in the American democracy, there exists a cultural war from the far left against people who dare to tell the truth about the obsolete utopian dream of a welfare state. That bogus dream unfortunately is still very much alive, supported by those supposedly "intellectual" minds. They refuse to give it up.
While pro-Castro projects receive generous grants and support from many organizations in the U.S., like ARCA Foundation for example, and the doors of PBS are wide open to them, Cuban Americans are left out. This is because we expose the other side of the coin normally made taboo by the far left cultural elite in key positions effecting the "educating" of America. This lack of support or "anti-support" increases my struggle as a writer and filmmaker, and that of all Cuban American artists. The documentary I am struggling with now, which gives the new generation of Cuban Americans born in the U.S. the voice they lack in the media to express their views and opinions, surely will NOT qualify to be shown on PBS.
The documentary leaves me little time to write, but after a disgusting evening - courtesy of PBS - I posed a question to some of the readers of my columns, "Should I write about it?" I received a resounding YES! So, with the help of my respondents, I will engage again in a battle that is not deprived of historical precedence. On March 25, 1889, the XIX century Cuban patriot José Martí, exiled in the U.S., had to write to the editor of the New York Evening Post to complain of the degrading treatment that the Cuban exiles were receiving in their pages. Resentment and prejudice against the industrious and prone-to-prosper Cubans has existed in the U.S. for a long time.
I do not want to express just my individual opinion. As I like to do in my documentaries, I want to voice some of the many responses I got from other Cuban Americans throughout the U.S. and one Salvadoran about the PBS FRONTLINE documentary "Saving Elian," written, produced and directed by Ofra Bikel. And these voices represent the overwhelming majority of the Cuban exile community in the U.S., not the carefully selected, edited and misconstrued presented in that documentary disguised as "balanced."
We begin with "A very detailed analysis of why the program was totally biased is necessary. I would consider a case against PBS for defamation of Cuban Americans."
"The program was well calculated propaganda. While giving those unfamiliar with the issues surrounding Cuba the sense that it was fair and impartial, it was not. Those interviewed read like a who's who of the enemies of the Cuban exiles: Bernardo Benes, Max Castro, Alfredo Duran, Elena Freyre and even [Francisco] Aruca who was portrayed as a moderate! In reality, the program was not about Elian, it was just one more opportunity to knock the Cuban exiles; Elian was just the hook. The program quickly degraded to an attack on the Cuban exiles."
"With the constant use of words like ‘right-wing’ and the constant reliance on the testimony of Aruca (without any background information), it became nothing more than a hate-feast. How typical of PBS to produce programs like this (with our tax dollars, no less). Ultimately, we Cuban exiles are to blame for not having an anti-defamation league in place (like the Jews, the Black Americans and the Gays have) that could take out ads in newspapers or sue PBS for the right to rebut this disgusting program."
"I always say that PBS is the ‘Politburo Broadcast Service.’ They showed Aruca, Benes, Max Castro, Lisandro Perez, Elena Freyre, etc., as if they were innocent victims of the Cubans in Miami! It is sad because Freyre has a brother-in-law who is a veteran survivor of the Bay of Pigs and another died asphyxiated inside a trailer with other prisoners of the invasion under the orders of Castro’s commander Osmani Cienfuegos. I have heard that Aruca is in the travel-to-Cuba business and that Benes was Castro’s banker. If that is true, it would expose the motive behind their stupid statements."
"My wife and I saw the program over channel 13 (here around New York). They are a bunch of leftists, in my opinion. This is why I do not send them donations, despite the fact that quite frequently they contact me for money. Their program criticized us for being hard headed, stubborn, fanatics, etc."
"My daughter who is a Ph.D. grad student at Georgia Tech University, called me tonight, only minutes after she watched ‘Saving Elian.’ She was raving and mad and sad, for this manipulation of the truth, as she was able to corroborate that this garbage is accepted by the American public as the truth."
"I am sorry I decided to watch it. I found it to be a one sided documentary. It does not portray the feelings of Cuban Americans. It badmouths the Cuban American community. It made me sick. All those Peter Pan kids agreeing to send the Elian back . . .. How come they stayed here and didn’t go back themselves after they grew up? They all said they were afraid to express their feelings in Little Havana because they were afraid of the ‘Cuban Mafia’ . . .. I wonder why the people that were so afraid to express their feelings, like Elena Freyre, who was able to speak then and again now, are still so afraid . . .. The ‘Cuban Mafia’ has not hurt them, nor bombed them (yet) like they stated in the documentary."
"I resent the insensitivity of some (most) Americans, blacks and Latin Americans. They will never understand the Cuban American community. Every country should fight for their freedom, should be free. But Cubans do not have that right. It only gave the other side's point of view. It defended Janet Reno, and President Clinton. It was OK to take the kid by force and send him back to Fidel."
"I watched with sorrow and disgust because they do not understand our tragedy. It was just a maneuver to attack the Cuban exiled community and justify people like Aruca, Janet Reno and Bill Clinton."
"Unfortunately, I did catch it. It's the same frustrating coverage we received when Elian was here. Now, not only are we a bunch of hothead fanatics, but we are also prone to terrorist acts as well! It sounded more like a documentary on organized crime."
"It was disgraceful. I don't understand why the press demonizes us in such a manner."
"In this post modernist era where we're told constantly that every individual's reality is just as valid as anybody else's of course, despotism is OK since that's what Cubans in Cuba want anyway. What insanity we are seeing these days."
"I tried to post something on their [PBS] forum, and surprise, surprise, they, just like the forums in Cuba, filter the content so that what one writes does not automatically appear. They pick and choose what opinions to post. Typical."
"I didn't see the whole thing but after I was told about the Pedro Pans that ‘wanted Elian to go back but we can't express that in Miami or we will be killed’ I turned it on. I was sick. They interviewed [Carlos] Saladrigas, who was negotiating for Elian and he is a Pedro Pan but it was conveniently never mentioned. Yet, these productions get funding."
[FRONTLINE] "They would rather believe Max Castro or Aruca than Elian's family. PBS is nothing but a hotbed of ancestors of Marxists who ask for your money every season because they hide behind the facade of ‘public educational’ TV. Up in NYC it is no mystery to the little Cuban American community remaining here that channel 13 has always favored the Castro regime. I can't tell you how many times during the 1980's they would put on Castro propaganda on PBS 13 and my parents and I would watch disgusted because we knew firsthand it was not true."
"I did not see it. I did see commercials for it a couple of weeks ago, but since the commercials gave a hint to the distortion within, I opted not to watch. I might go for it on the next run . . . sort of as a ‘know your enemy’ exercise."
"Did you see the PBS documentary titled ‘Saving Elian’? My goodness, I did not know that so many people hate us!"
"Did you see the shameful PBS FRONTLINE ‘Saving Elian’? Since the producers are in Boston its content did not surprise me. It was pure ‘babosadas’ (b . . . s . . .) as we say in El Salvador. They are always trying to divide the Cuban Community. It was the same as usual."
"I felt more indignant than ever after this compilation of distortions, half-truths and outright lies. To present Aruca as an ‘independent journalist’ is an outrage. To ignore the atrocity committed after it was publicly exposed the violations of the U.S. laws by Janet Reno, is incredible. I felt sorry for Sylvia Iriondo and other Cubans that were used in this farce pretending to be impartial. I know that I am wasting my time, but I would like to vent my frustration protesting to somebody, but I don’t know who. I have already protested to WETA TV of which I am a member."
And one of the people featured in this documentary came forward and said, "You can write about how they misconstrued my interview. Never placed it on their website. In short, FRONTLINE truncated the interviews of Cuban Americans that believed Elian should stay. Also, FRONTLINE failed to explain the feelings of Cuban Americans during the bigoted, racial protests [when the Cuban Americans in Miami were taunted by the use of the confederate flag]."
If "education" is what PBS has in mind, they should have presented excerpts and an analysis of the Constitution imposed upon the Cuban people by Castro after he discarded the legitimate Cuban Constitution of 1940. In Castro’s Constitution it is very clear that parents do not have rights over their children, the state (Castro) does. Cuban Americans know it very well. That is why, before loosing their rights over their children, between December 26, 1960 and October 22, 1962, Cuban parents sent to the U.S. 14,048 unaccompanied children between 6 and 18 years old. Known as "Operation Peter Pan" it was the biggest exodus of children ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere but remains largely unknown to Americans.
That is why Elisabet Broton risked her life and took her only son, Elian, in a perilous escape from Cuba, as well as many mothers before and after. Elisabet and other Cuban mothers’ wishes are to get their children to safety to be raised in a free country, saved from state oppression. Cuban Americans are very much aware of that feeling. Culturally, Cubans have very close family ties and do not want to pull families apart. Castro does. Cubans did not want to separate Elian from his father. They wanted to unite them on free soil. And in Miami they opened their doors to Elian’s grandmothers to receive them with flowers. But Castro refused to allow that meeting.
The Miami relatives and the Cuban American community wanted to have a private family reunion between Elian’s father and his son. But when Juan Miguel was finally allowed to come to the U.S. - very much under the control of Castro and his agents, and the National Council of Churches’ handlers - Castro refused to that meeting too. Who is the intolerant? That was not even mentioned in this "educational" PBS production. However, they showed twice the footage of Cubans jumping a barricade. Something that it is known to have been staged as a drill for the TV cameras. However, later it was used to report as if it was a real incident to purposely discredit once more the Cuban Americans.
This PBS FRONTLINE documentary, far from educating, fosters more hatred and division against the hard-working, law-abiding Cuban American community in Miami and as a whole in the U.S. And because of the past record misinforming the American public about the realities of Castro’s Cuba by censoring and rejecting documentaries and films made by Cuban Americans, PBS should be called to account. They must give airtime for rebuttals to their misguided documentary disguised as "educational."
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/Director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES & COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation
This and other excellent articles of the same Author
appear in REVISTA GUARACABUYA with electronic address of: