CUBAN AMERICANS AND THE "LIBERAL" MEDIA
By Hugo J. Byrne
Seldom has an immigrant group been so successful in achieving the "American dream" in such a short time, as the Cuban American community has. Cuban's successes were deeply rooted in their previous traumatic experiences with totalitarianism. Those awful experiences acted as a great stimulant for the ability of that group of expatriates to readily accept the "American way" with hard work and dedication.
Forced to abandon their native soil while fleeing persecution from political terror, the first waves of refugees from Cuba arrived in Southern Florida in the early sixties. At the time, their only material possessions were little else but the humble garments they wore. Forty years later or so, Cubans are the most important element -perhaps the dominant force- behind the economic and political life of that area, and they exert vast influence in other parts of the country such as New Jersey and Southern California. No walk of life in contemporary U.S. is lacking Cubans or their descendents in positions of leadership. Cuban American average household income is the highest among Hispanic groups and fast approaching the national average of the Anglo-Saxon community.
Cuban American contribution to U.S. society covers the total spectrum of American endeavors, from banking, manufacturing and retail, to sciences, arts, show business, sports and politics. Cuban positive impact in this society compared with that of other immigrant groups, berates their number. For that reason Cuban Americans have been dubbed "the Jews of Latin America", a label which Cuban American National Foundation leader and founder, the late Jorge Mas Canosa, once rightly called flattering.
One would think that that superb human contribution should endear free Cubans to the so-called "main stream" American media. Hardly. Ever since their arrival, that ambitious, entrepreneurial and liberty seeking people were openly shun by that media. Ranging from aloofness to down right hostility, the American big press has been openly antagonistic to Cuban Americans in general, and specially hostile to their active opposition to Castro's regime. It made no difference whether those actions were legitimate under American laws, like congressional lobbying for stronger measures against the anti American regime in Havana, or if they were of the more belligerent kind. The arrogant message from that press to the new comers followed this general line: Accept American hospitality at the price of forgetting and forsaking Cuba. Castro, even though a dictator, is also a permanent fixture (as if the tyrant and his regime were eternal), and you better get used to it.
As an example of that attitude, let's consider the editorial line of the biggest newspaper of Southern California, Los Angeles Times. L.A. Times support of a thaw with Castro by the U. S. government, and its visceral attacks against the Cuban American community are a matter of public record. That is the case even when that paper purportedly editorialized against Castro. One Times editorial on Feb. 1999 claimed: "…Defenders of Castro say he was pushed into this corner by the actions of small group of fanatics in Miami's Cuban exiled community, that is in fact responsible for botched assassination plots and small terrorists acts in Havana. But though noisy, these provocateurs are few in number and clumsy in their tasks. They are a poor reason for such drastic repression."
The Times editorial was deploring the enforcement of a new "Cuban law", punishing with sentences up to 30 years in prison whoever tries to contact the foreign press. Castro never required "laws" in the past to throw any opponents of his regime in his dungeons or to murder them, and that hard fact is well known by L.A. Times. The execution of his former henchmen Ochoa, De La Guardia and two others in 1989, proved that point beyond the shadow of a doubt: Not one of the charges those four were "convicted" of, prescribed capital punishment in Castro's military penal code. Castro, through his rubber stamp "State Council", ordered them shot anyway. In 1959 Castro ordered a new trial for the pilots of the old Cuban Air Force after they were acquitted of all charges by a previous "revolutionary" tribunal. The pilots were all convicted of "war crimes" at the second trial and sentenced to long prison terms, while one of the members of the first tribunal committed suicide in shame. Castro's dictate can overrule his so-called "laws" at any given time, and L.A. Times cannot claim ignorance of this fact. L.A. Times knows only too well that in Cuba, Castro's whim is the law. The crocodile tears shed by the Times on the new "Cuban law" were just an example of impudence in journalism.
Who were those mysterious "defenders of Castro" L.A. Times wrote about? "Devil's advocate" is a technique often used to disguise our opinions by ascribing them to others.
When that paper mused about "blotched assassination plots" conveniently omitted the known fact that Castro has always been the only intended target. Terrorism is, by definition, what happens when violent actions claim innocent victims. The execution of a mass murderer with tens of thousands of deaths to his credit, and having the power and the will to increase that number, far from an assassination is an act of self-defense and elemental justice. The worst thing that editorial said about Castro was that he was "his own worst enemy", lamenting that his crack down on dissidence could give his foes in Florida and the U.S. Congress new arguments to worsen his plight. Later the same year, L.A. Times demanded "a certain punishment" for Castro. On 3/19/99 in another editorial entitled "Make Castro Pay for Abuses", that daily paper was critical of the governments who "openly complained" about Castro's all out suppression of dissent, while doing nothing to alleviate that Cuban calamity. The admirable perception of the Times was that Castro's ability to abuse the people was directly related to the impunity with which he always acted.
Aha! Los Angeles Times is capable to see the light as well as anybody else after all. Ironically this new -and welcomed- acceptance of reality, came only in the wake of the highly publicized monkey trial of four mellow Cuban government critics, one of which back in the late seventies piloted a Mig fighter plane for the Cuban Air Force in northwestern Cuba. The main mission of Castro's Air Force at that place and time was the interception and capture (or destruction) of anybody trying to leave the Island "illegally" by sea. Curiously, that "dissident", the son of a late known Party hack, is the only one of that group remaining in prison, while the other three were released before the end of their sentences.
Too bad more than six hundred thousand political prisoners during forty years and over one and a half million expatriates, thousands of murderers and total suppression of minimal conditions for civilized living during the same period, did not move L.A. Times to that very conclusion long ago. That editorial by the Times did not specify what kind of punishment Castro should suffer. No surprise here. After opposing the economic embargo, and having consistently blasted every initiative by the free Cuban opposition to Castro, it would be extremely difficult for that paper to suggest anything. The pro-Castro L. A. Times bias mostly takes subtle routs. Undeserving relevance is given to insignificant news items that could be perceived as positive to the Cuban regime, while important negative ones are often lost in middle pages, and at times, downright suppressed. The single party tyrant ruling Cuba by totalitarian means for over forty years is consistently refer to in L.A. Times as "President Fidel Castro", while his peers like Pinochet and Franco are always -rightly-called dictators.
It would be unfair to single out L.A. Times with a pro-Castro and anti-Cuban bias. That paper just follows the pattern established long ago by all major "liberal" papers and broadcasting businesses, including ABC, NBC and CBS and its affiliates, daily publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, weekly magazines such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report, and to a lesser and more subtle degree, even the Florida based Miami Herald. The media is of course not following a systematic and universal premeditated Castroite conspiracy. Yet, under certain conditions their anti-Cuban feelings can take grotesque proportions, like their virulent and one-sided coverage of the Elián González affaire. The question that needs to be addressed is what is behind this softness toward that brutal dictator and the obvious animosity against his opponents by the media for so long?
One answer: MISGUIDED LOVE. Like and old flame that refuses to die, Castro and his "revolution" still remains, after more than forty years, the darlings of many ideologues in the American "liberal" press. In papers, radio and television, some "liberals", to their credit finally admitted their mistake. Many others still stick to their old Castro fable, while frantically searching in vain for something positive among the bloody ruins of the so-called "Cuban" revolution. To that unconditional love, Castro has always responded with rude, if deserving disdain. That is why L.A. Times called Castro "his own worst enemy." It takes both intellectual honesty and intestinal fortitude to admit to a life long error. Those virtues may be lacking in some quarters and among them may be L.A. Times Editorial Staff. There may be another more subtle reason. Free Cubans do not easily fit into that broad entity "liberals" called "Latinos" or "Hispanics", with barely hidden contempt. Exiles from Cuba, by virtue of their burning experiences, ten to be too individualistic and logical to the "liberal" taste, not conforming to their stereotype of a minority group. Cuban traditional work ethic and the exiles refusal to endorse populist agendas or to get registered in droves in the Democratic Party, exacerbates the left wing media establishment. It is not easy for some in that media to understand how any obscure refugee entrepreneur from the Caribbean Basin, "handicapped" by Spanish accent, can become a top executive of a conglomerate in just a few years. Closet bigotry? Perhaps not, but the fact is that Cuban American successes make the media uncomfortable, and the Cuban community's stubborn independence is hard to bear for the "liberal" establishment.
Yet, soon enough those ideologues will have to face reality, correcting the terms of their equation: Castro's regime could be coming to an end in a not so distant future, a victim of its own paranoia and senility. While paradoxically, Cuban American influence in the U.S. political debate, like it or not, is here to stay.