May 1, 2011

AP Report on Cuba’s May Day Reads Mostly Like Castro Propaganda Piece

The guess here is Associated Press writers Peter Orsi and Andrea Rodriguez believe their May Day dispatch from Cuba represents an example of objectivity and insightful analysis. Anyone with knowledge of how a country under the iron grip of a five-decade Communist dictatorship really operates would beg to differ.

The AP pair leaves readers with the impression that although Cubans are impatient to learn the details of the economic changes the government has passed but not revealed, they are generally supportive of whatever improvements might occur — as if anyone in the island nation is really free to speak their mind.

Readers might be able to determine for themselves that a decidedly unfree situation exists, but Orsi and Rodriguez ignored a Radio Marti report (translated here by Google’s translator, and probably more accurately here by Babalu Blog) that the government launched a wave of repression in advance of May Day to ensure that there would be no disruption of its planned events. The AP pair only needed to cite the report without endorsing it; that they wouldn’t even do this betrays either ignorance or a willingness to let readers believe completely unsupported assertions about potential improvement in a country that is the third most economically repressive regime on earth according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. Of the countries evaluated, only Zimbabwe and North Korea were worse.

Here are selected paragraphs from Orsi’s and Rodriguez’s report (numbered tags are mine):

Cubans mark May Day, await details of change

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans marched through Havana and other cities on Sunday to mark May Day in a demonstration touted as a vast show of support for economic changes recently approved by the Communist Party – even though the people holding placards and shouting slogans haven’t seen the details yet. [1]

Nearly two weeks after the party endorsed President Raul Castro’s bet to fix the island’s broken economy through limited free-market reforms, the government has not released specifics of the 311-point guidelines, or said when it will do so.

The parade, always a big event on the communist-run island, has nevertheless been touted by the official party newspaper, Granma, as “the best chance for Cuban workers to ratify … their backing for the accords.” [2]

… Still, many in Havana said they were impatient to see the actual details of the changes.

“I would like to know what the guidelines have that’s new, because so far it seems to be a lot of noise and nothing concrete,” said Manuel Pedrosi, 56, who was just a small boy when Fidel and Raul Castro’s revolution succeeded in 1959. “But if we’ve waited 50 years, we can wait a little longer.”

The economic measures approved unanimously and en bloc at a party summit April 19 include potential blockbusters that would open a door in the island’s tightly controlled economic system, such as legalizing the buying and selling of private property and providing bank credit to finance small businesses. [3]

… While Cubans have generally welcomed the economic overhaul, some expressed impatience with the lack of clarity. Some say they are anxious to go into business for themselves or buy a home big enough to accommodate their family, but are waiting to see the ground rules.

Others are nervous about plans – shelved for the time being – to lay off hundreds of thousands of state workers, and to gradually phase out the ration book, which provides Cubans with a basic basket of food at greatly subsidized prices. [4]

“This can’t wait. Everyone is going to benefit in one way or another because there will be a little more freedom to do as you like with what’s yours,” said Yordanka Rodriguez, a 45-year-old Havana resident. “We just have to see what the terms are like. Until that happens, it’s hard to judge accurately.” [5]


  • [1] — Omitted, as reported by Radio Marti: The government planned to “transport thousands of Cubans to the “Plaza of the Revoution” to celebrate the International Day of Workers.” It would appear that the people aren’t sufficiently fired up about the situation to come out and “celebrate” without “encouragement.”
  • [2] — So that’s how it works. The government buses in “celebrants,” and, voila (or, in Spanish, “como si por magia, or “as if by magic), their presence represents endorsement of laws they know nothing about.
  • [3] — Given that they haven’t seen it, it’s interesting that the AP reporters seem to be able to describe what’s in it. If they can’t, they should have written that “the economic measures … potentially include blockbusters” instead of claiming that they “include potential blockbusters.” As to private property, Orsi himself reported on April 27 that “(Raul Castro) drew a line in the Caribbean sand as to which reforms should remain, telling party luminaries that he had rejected dozens of suggested reforms that would have allowed the concentration of property in private hands.” I would welcome an explanation from Mr. Orsi as to how one can “buy and sell” private property without “accumulating” it.
  • [4] — Context, guys. An item posted by Bush administration Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez notes that, “Today, the average Cuban lives on $20 a month and relies on government ration cards” (calling this “living” is a stretch).
  • [5] — This strained quote is the final paragraph of the report. Unless he is a party insider, Mr. Yordanko Rodriguez can’t possibly know that “everyone is going to benefit” or “that there will be a little more freedom.” But despite the lack of any evidence, less experienced readers will come away from the AP report believing that this is the case.

Interesting. That last point echoes the reporting about Obamacare just over a year ago.

Cross-posted at


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