For the first time in 50 years a U.S. reporter actually asked Fidel Castro a pertinent question. This journalistic landmark took place last week while Castro visited Argentina. Castro (naturally) freaked. Why the NERVE!! "You’re a mercenary paid by the Bush!" he shrieked. "Who pays you? You’ll probably try to assassinate me with a bomb!" As Castro yelled and sputtered, his bodyguards sprang into kung-fu mode and pounced on the offending reporter choke holding him and threatening much worse if he persisted in his impertinence.
Did you see this reported anywhere in the mainstream media? But that was some obscure Latin American meeting, you say. That stuff is rarely reported anyway.
Actually it was a major international summit for MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South) and Castro’s visit was reported extensively by the international media, from the AP to Reuters, from the BBC to the Boston Globe to the Washington Post. A Google News search hits 500 stories on the event. But you will find no mention of this incident in any of this exhaustive reportage.
Now, can you just imagine (!!!) the worldwide media reaction had President Bush (or Tony Blair or Ehud Olmert) reacted that way to a question from the press in a foreign country and sicked his secret service men to kung-fu the reporter? Imagine the glee with which the mainstream media would have pounced — the headlines, the pictures, the run after run after run after run after run of the film clip on CNN, ABC, MSNBC, the BBC, etc.? Imagine the interview after interview after interview with the assaulted reporter, wearing a neck brace and grimacing piteously as he whispers hoarsely to Keith Olberman, Larry King and Christiane Amanpour. We’d never hear the end of it.
"Notice how Castro responds to a free press while visiting a foreign country in front of cameras?" said the assaulted reporter. "Can you imagine what he does at home? Imagine what he does to Cuba’s dissidents and political prisoners? "
It says a lot about that "hard-nosed" Western media about those "gallant crusaders for the truth" as Columbia School of Journalism hails its graduates, that they react identically to Castro’s criminality abroad as his permanently shackled and chokeholded press responds at home.
Actually, you can’t blame Castro for his shock and awe, for his shrieking and sputtering response to such reportorial disrespect. Any Cuban reporter who tried any monkey business has been long exiled, jailed or shot. And for going on half a century now he’s had the international media eating out of his hand like trained pigeons. From Ed Murrow (“that’s a cute puppy, Fidelito!") To Herbert Matthews of the New York Times (Castro is a strong anti-Communist. He has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the Constitution, to hold elections.")
More recently such journalistic Torquemadas as Dan Rather, Barbara Walters and Andrea Mitchell have confronted him in lengthy and no-holds barred interviews. From Dan we discovered that, "there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba, the affection for him seems real. He’s Cuba’s Elvis."
When in a 2002 interview he informed Barbara Walters that Cuba is "to be not only the most just society in the world but the most cultivated." Barbara Walters (whose ABC profile tells us "tackles the tough issues") responded with such punchy rebuttals as, "Cuba has very high literacy and you have brought great health to your country." Her ABC audience then learned that "His personal magnetism is still powerful, his presence is still commanding." When Walters first interviewed him in 1977, the "power of Castro’s personal magnetism," many say, manifested itself in other than a strictly professional setting.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell described Castro as "old-fashioned, courtly — even paternal." When she visited Elian Gonzalez shortly after her Castro soft-soaping she assured her U.S. viewers that "Elian’s only apparent concern was winning at games like musical chairs."
The U.S. reporter who provoked Castro’s sputtering wrath in Argentina is Cuban-born Juan Manuel Cao and works for a Spanish-language TV station in Miami. He simply asked why Castro refused to let one of his subjects, Mrs. Hilda Molina, leave Cuba to visit her son and grandchildren in Argentina. Well, the same U.S. networks who worked themselves into a froth about those fiendish Miami Cubans’ "kidnapping" of Elian Gonzalez show no interest in Castro’s kidnapping of 11 million people.
Mrs. Molina, by the way, is an accomplished neurosurgeon who once headed Cuba’s International Center for Neurological Restoration. In 1994 Castro’s "nationalist" regime (as the MSM constantly parrots) told Molina her center would only treat foreigners who paid in dollars — and to hurry up and boot out any and all Cubans then convalescing in the center to make way for the rich foreigners.
She balked and promptly got in trouble with Castro. So here’s a strong, accomplished woman whose rights are trampled by a domineering chauvinistic brutal man. Just the type of thing, you might think, to work up such as Andrea Mitchell, Barbara Walters and Christiane Amanpour. Can you just imagine (!!!) the reaction from same along with the international media if, say, President Bush refused to allow Cindy Sheehan to leave the U.S. to visit — not her children and grandchildren — but her friend Hugo Chavez?
Imagine the international uproar! "Cindy Sheehan Under House Arrest by FBI — Fears for Life!" "Hugo Chavez Plans Parachute Commando Raid to Free Girlfriend from Yankee-Fascist Clutch!"
And speaking of Hugo Chavez, he was down in Argentina last week himself. In a Yankee-bashing harangue he and mentor Castro, worked up a crowd of Argentine pinks and reds to a fist-raising, foot- stomping frenzy. "Ole! Ole! Fidel!" roared the crowd according to the AP story. Best of all was the setting: Che Guevara’s childhood home-town of Cordoba, which allowed for much sightseeing and some touching photo-ops.
"In an emotional journey," starts the AP story, "Cuban President (italics mine) Fidel Castro and Venezuelan ally Hugo Chavez toured the Argentine boyhood home of Castro’s fallen comrade and legendary guerrilla, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The photos show Castro with the appropriate look on his face too. And why not? You’ll recall that Don Barzini managed a similar look of bereavement at Don Corleone’s funeral. Yet his hit had initially failed. Castro’s went off without a hitch, perhaps accounting for the sardonic glitter some noticed in his eyes while touring Che’s childhood home.
Today Hugo is certainly useful to Castro, much as Che was once useful to his Cuban kemosabe, much as Sal Tessio and Moe Green where once useful to the Corleone family. These things are subject to change. For heavens sake, Hugo, don’t push Uncle Fidel too far from the Latin American limelight. Some say you’ve been upstaging him lately, a serious no-no as Che learned.