by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

Warning to America: The NBC TODAY show knows what is going on behind the scene in Cuba but has decided not to tell the American people.

The reason is that in order to get a visa to report from Havana or to have a news bureau on the island, maybe even get the career-making interview with the tyrant himself, a news entity has to behave like a "good old boy" and deliver positive reports with plenty of references to the joys of touristing in Cuba " if not, it is expelled.

According to the article "Cuba Boots Foreign Reporters" by Humberto Fontova [http://www.amigospais-guaracabuya.org/oaghf077.php] at the beginning of this year, "Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune, Stephen Gibbs of the BBC, and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of the Mexican newspaper El Universal were all served with pink slips, announcing that their services were no longer needed." Cuba has done this many times and the U.S. media never make a big fuss about it. And so NBC went ahead with Matt Lauer’s trip to Cuba.

NBC executives know all about the system there. They know that "good behavior" in Cuba is a must, especially if they want the utmost grace of an interview with the Maximum Moribund or brother Raul Alcoholic Castro, or any other official of the tyranny. That’s is probably why they sent Andrea Mitchell (Castro fares best with female interviewers) " who, by the way, looks hideous without her usual lighting, makeup and hair.

So, reporting from Castroland requires hypocrisy because journalists must compromise their journalistic integrity and their credibility. As I always say, they are rendering a disservice to the American people as well as to Castro’s victims.

In spite of what a silly and overexcited Ann Curry said to Matt Lauer on the show, there was nothing to learn from the latest NBC TODAY sham from Havana on Tuesday, June 5, 2007. It was another exercise in futility and superficiality, a sorrowful spectacle that has been repeated many times before.

The charade was set in the same spots we have seen used in the past by NBC and other U.S. networks: with backdrops of the Morro Castle, the Paseo del Malecon, Havana’s sea shore boulevard, the Cathedral Square and usual tourist café, in the center of tourist-apartheid Cuba, where only foreigners and Castro’s elite are allowed. Cubans are permitted there only as servants, and they are not allowed to receive tips.

We were also treated to a musical number by Castro’s official group "Van Van", with a circle of "happy Cubans" dancing and other staged-by-the government displays of tourist attractions. It was Castroland at its best, the face of Castro’s Cuba that most resembles Cuba before the revolution. Even a ballet dancer singing the praises of the revolution.

Included In this spectacular parade was a tired Ricardo Alarcon " some official of the revolution, no one important since Fidel didn’t include his name in his "provisional" abdication of the throne for the toilet. Let’s face it, the main puppeteers are always the Castro brothers: Moribund and Alcoholic. And good old NBC’s TODAY sham gave Alarcon a platform from which to spit his usual vitriolic propaganda.

Required on the agenda are the repetitious famous fallacies of the revolution about the free education and health care. But absent were the visits by the NBC cameras (even their hidden cameras " that’s a thought " NBC has gotten very good with hidden cameras lately) to the real schools and hospitals designated for Cubans, which are very different from the ones foreigners use, which also happens to be the ones NBC was given access to. NBC didn’t show the empty pharmacies and stores designated for the average Cuban. Yes, the tyranny assigns you to a particular pharmacy and store where you are allowed to shop.

How many times did Matt Lauer mention that there is no homelessness in Cuba? How does Mr. Lauer know that to be true? How can that possibly be? For photos of homeless and real Cuban hospitals visit [www.TheRealCuba.com]. Does Mr. Lauer consider the incredible slums in which the vast majority of Cubans live to be "homes"? NBC didn’t show any of the slums of Havana or the living conditions that many families " especially blacks " have to endure in that country ruled by whites. Another use for NBC’s famous hidden cameras?

NBC didn’t mention the over 200 jails built by Castro. Didn’t show any political prisoner or even mention a single black or otherwise oppositionist living under horrible conditions in Castro’s dungeons. Lauer did mention the human rights issue a couple of times, but his guests chose to ignore the issue and, hard journalist or not, Lauer let it pass. And of course, left out were the infamous "Acts of Repudiation" against people who dislike the tyranny [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3251464116022175058].

The NBC TODAY sham was just the usual pitch for lifting the U.S. embargo and travel restrictions in order to flood the island with unscrupulous U.S. businessmen and ignorant, insensitive tourists unaware of the reality of the Cuban tragedy. Oh, and flood Castro with more money, to keep up his tyranny indefinitely.

How would the obviously anti-Bush liberal U.S. media like Bush as president indefinitely?

No mention of the infamous sexual tourism " including with minors " sanctioned by Cuba. Too tetric for early morning TV?

No foreign businessmen do business with the Cuban people. All business is done with the Cuban military, which is in charge of all businesses in Cuba. There is no such thing as a Cuban businessman. And no foreign businessmen can hire and pay the Cuban workers. All workers are selected and supplied by the Cuban government; therefore, what is earned by the workers goes directly to Castro and his henchmen. They of course keep 95% of the salaries and pay a miserable salary in worthless Cuban pesos to the workers. International labor laws, norms and morals are not respected by the foreign businessmen.

These immoral businessmen are not contributing to the betterment of the Cuban workers. Rather, they are contributing to and becoming accomplices in their exploitation. As if once is not enough, Cubans are being victimized twice!

In relation to the preposterous idea that the flow of tourists will improve living conditions for the average Cuban and expose them to the idea of democracy, you have to consider that Castro’s laws penalize Cubans who make contact with foreigners. I repeat, there are drastic penalties and consequences for the average Cuban who befriends a foreigner in Cuba.

Cuba has an apartheid society (for that alone there should be an international boycott like the one against South Africa). Cubans are less than second-class citizens in their own country " and have been for years!

Tourists from Europe, Canada, Japan, Latin America and, yes, the United States, as well as other areas of the world, have been visiting Cuba for decades and there hasn’t been any change! Hello?!

Americans who want to travel to Cuba with the false hope of fostering a change in Cuba’s political system were pathetically misinformed by the garbage on the NBC TODAY sham.

U.S. citizens have been traveling to and doing business with China for decades. Is China a democracy? Does China respect human rights? China is not our ally, it is our adversary. The same can be said about Vietnam, which was recently accused of giving the Cuban tyranny the highly contagious virus of aviary flu H5N1 that could be distributed to the U.S. via migratory birds (so don’t be surprised by a future outbreak in the U.S.). The same can be said about Russia, which in spite of everything appears to be slinking back to the dark ages of dictatorship. America is surrounded by so many "good friends."

Because of misinformation and disinformation by the U.S. media " reinforced by the NBC TODAY sham on June 5 " there is ever-growing support from the American people to lift the travel ban and the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The lack of food, clothing and household goods is a Communist technique to keep populations under control, distracted by concerns about how they are going to survive. That is the rule of thumb in all communist tyrannies. Hunger is a tool, nay, a weapon against the masses.

Conveniently, the U.S. liberal media in general do not emphasize enough that Cuba trades with the rest of the world and that some of the same products available in the U.S. are available in Cuba " but mainly for foreigners and the Castro elite. Cuban people with their meager salaries, equivalent to $4 to $20 a month, cannot afford to pay $8 for a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo! Fortunately, NBC’s TODAY did mention this fact" good work!

In spite of the (in reality, symbolic) U.S. embargo, America is the biggest supplier of food and other goods to Cuba! The U.S. is also the major provider of humanitarian help to Cuba! And the Cuban exiles have been providing millions every year in cash, medicines and other goods to their families in Cuba for almost half a century!

Yes, the most hated and vilified (by the U.S. liberal media and academia) Cuban American exiles have never forgotten their homeland and their relatives living under the boot of the cruelest, most criminal and longest-lasting tyranny in the history of the Americas! Over 100,000 documented deaths. Yet for fewer than 3,000 deaths Augusto Pinochet was despised all over the Americas. What an outrageous double standard!

No, NBC’s TODAY show definitely was not forthcoming with its recent reporting. I challenge network executives to come clean and explain to America under what conditions they were allowed to work in Cuba. They should demonstrate more honesty and journalistic integrity if they want to be respected.

If NBC doesn’t do it, as far as I am concerned, the kindest word I can say about its silence, omission and collaboration with the enemy is that its conduct in this sham and throughout these 48 years of tyranny in Cuba has been criminal.

© 2007 ABIP Agustin Blazquez, producer/director of the documentaries COVERING CUBA, premiered at the American Film Institute in 1995, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, premiered in 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in and at the 2001 Miami International Book Fair COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, premiered at the two Tower Theaters in Miami on January 2006 and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival and the 2006 Barcelona International Film Festival for Human Rights and Peace, Dan Rather "60 Minutes," an inside view , RUMBERAS CUBANAS, Vol. 1 MARIA ANTONIETA PONS, COVERING CUBA 5: Act Of Repudiation premiered at the two Tower Theaters in Miami, January 2007 and the 2007 Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 6.

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