Humberto Fontova

This week the media was flush with stories on the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. “embargo” of Cuba. From the New York Times to USA Today, most are running AP and Reuters stories (from Havana) which begin and end with quotes from “academic experts” deploring the “embargo” as “failed,” “archaic,” “cruel,” “political pandering to Republican Cuban-Americans,” blah, blah.

First off, a totalitarian regime bestowed both Reuters and the AP with press bureaus. There was a day when Americans understood what this implied. For those who’ve forgotten here’s Vicente Botin, who reported for Madrid’s El Pais from Cuba for years. “The Castro regime assigns 20 security agents to follow and monitor every foreign journalist. You practice self–censorship or you’re gone.”

And lucky for those foreign journalists. Because local Cuban journalists don’t get off so easily. They don’t get a discreet little note saying, “Dear foreign journalist, We need to talk. It appears that you have forgotten the code of conduct we so clearly stipulated upon your arrival in Cuba and the agreed-upon subject matters for your reporting. So let us remind you of these two:

1.) The diabolical Yankee blockade of our innocent little nation which makes us the world’s poster child for victims of wanton bullying. 2.) Our munificent and magnificent Health Care and Education, which makes us the world’s beacon of social-consciousness and charity.”

Cuban journalists who side-step the above in order to expose human-rights violation (by a regime that surpassed Stalin’s rate of political torture and jailings) can’t then tuck their tail between their legs, scamper onto a plane and zoom off. They can’t courageously grimace and shake their fists behind them-- after they’re 2000 feet aloft and 500 miles distant from Castro’s KGB-trained police.

Instead, a Cuban journalist who forsakes self-censorship gets grabbed by this KGB-trained police and thrown in a torture-chamber. In fact, according to “Reporters Without Borders” (headquartered in Paris, not Miami) Cuba jails journalists at the highest rate of any nation on earth. Stunningly, the total number of journalists jailed in Cuba (a nation of 11 million) is only slightly behind that of China (a nation of 1.4 billion!)

With this datum in mind let’s revisit what some of America’s swankiest journalist and Media Moguls have to say regarding the world’s top jailer and torturer of journalists:

“Fidel Castro could have been Cuba’s Elvis!” That’s multiple-Peabody and Emmy award- winning Dan Rather. (And yes, CBS has a Havana News Bureau.)

“Fidel Castro is one hell of a guy!" Ted Turner gushed to a capacity crowd at Harvard Law School during a speech in 1997. "You people would like him! Most people in Cuba like him." Within weeks of Turner’s eulogy, CNN was granted its coveted Havana Bureau, the first ever granted by Castro to a foreign network.

“Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly -- even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!” That’s Andrea Mitchell, who won the Goldsmith Career Award for “Excellence in Journalism.” (And yes, NBC somehow earned a Havana Bureau.)

“Castro has brought very high literacy and great health-care to his country. His personal magnetism is powerful, his presence is commanding.” That’s multiple-Emmy-winning journalist Barbara Walters. (And yes, ABC was somehow bestowed a Havana Bureau)

Back in 1996 Fidel Castro was hosted by media mogul Mort Zuckerman at his Fifth Avenue pad. The starting line-up of America’s reporters and pundits had also received the coveted invitations. This list of journalistic luminaries included Mike Wallace, Peter Jennings, Tina Brown, Bernard Shaw, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, who all stood in line for Castro’s autograph and jostled for a photo-op with the mass-murderer who had craved to nuke them.

But Diane Sawyer was so overcome in Castro’s presence that she lost control, rushing up, breaking into that toothy smile of hers, wrapping her arms around the Stalinist-mass murderer and smooching him warmly on his bearded cheek.

“You people are the cream of the crop!” beamed the mass-murderer to the beaming throng he’d come within a hair of nuking in 1962.

“Hear, hear!” chirped the beaming guests, while tinkling their wine glasses in honor of the smirking agent of their near vaporization and world leader in jailing and torturing their Cuban counterparts.

In fact, few U.S. foreign policy measures in recent history have been as phenomenally successful as our limited sanctions against the Stalinist Robber-Barons who run Cuba. First off, for three decades the Soviet Union was forced to pump the equivalent of almost ten Marshall Plans into Cuba. This cannot have helped the Soviet Union’s precarious solvency or lengthened her life span. Secondly, the U.S. taxpayer has been spared the fleecing visited upon many others who reside in nations who eschew “embargoing” Cuba. To wit:

The U.S. has transacted almost $4 BILLION in trade with Cuba over the past decade. Up until two years ago the U.S. served as Stalinist Cuba’s biggest food supplier and fifth biggest import partner. We’ve fallen a few notches recently but we’re still in the top half. Nowadays the so- called U.S. embargo mostly stipulates that the Castro regime pay cash up front through a third– party bank for all U.S. medical and agricultural products; no Ex-Im (U.S. taxpayer) financing of such sales. Enacted by the Bush team in 2001 this cash-up-front policy has kept the U.S. taxpayer among the few spared fleecing by Castro. Here’s a few items regarding the so- called embargo studiously “side-stepped” by much of the MSM (especially those with Havana Bureaus):

Per-capita-wise, Cuba qualifies as the world’s biggest debtor nation with a foreign debt of close to $50 billion, a credit–rating nudging Somalia’s, and an uninterrupted record of defaults.

In 1986 Cuba defaulted on most of her foreign debt to Europe. Five years ago France’s version of the U.S. government’s Export-Import Bank (named COFACE) cut off Cuba’s credit line. Mexico’s Bancomex quickly followed suit. The Castro regime had stuck it to French taxpayers for $175 million and to Mexican taxpayers for $365 million. Bancomex was forced to impound Cuban assets in three different countries in an attempt to recoup its losses.

Just this week we heard from one of Castro’s latest suckers: “The Cuban regime has a long track record of failing to pay back our loans,” lamented South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry, Geordin Hill-Lewis. “In 2010, South Africa had to write off R1.1 billion in bad Cuban debt, and on Friday we wrote off another R250 million in bad debt. The time has come for South Africa to invest in strategic partnerships that deliver prosperity for our people.”

So U.S. taxpayers, if it’s true that “political pressure” by a “powerful” and sinister cabal of Cuban-American Republican string-pullers maintain the so-called embargo—then, well…you are quite welcome! Glad we could help...y’all come back now!


Humberto Fontova

Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.