Date: Tue, 27 Feb 1996 03:25:07 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
Subject: Cuba Shootdown: Rush to Judgment
Written 10:36 AM Feb 26, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines
From: IGC News Desk <>

Rush to Judgment

By Jamie York, 26 February, 1996

Initial press reports on Feb. 24 regarding the downing of two small planes near Cuba reek of media bias. In fact, before anyone knew what exactly what happened or where the planes went down, the mass media were helping to fuel the U.S. government's anti-Cuba agenda.

Nicole Winfield, in her Feb. 24 Associated Press story, quoted Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mark Woodring, Navy Captain Craig Quigley, White House press secretary Mike McCurry, Rep. Robert Torricelli, and Roberto Guiterrez, who "answered the phone at the Cuban Interest Section in Washington" and hadn't heard the news. Apparently, Winfield did not bother to interview anyone from the Cuba Policy Project, the Cuba Information Project, the Cuban American Committee, or from a number of groups whose members could have provided thoughtful analysis from another point of view.

Winfield did report that "pilots from Bothers to the Rescue dropped leaflets over Havana last July and again in January urging a peaceful protest to the communist regime of Fidel Castro," but she did not mention that U.S. terrorists in speedboats last year fired automatic weapons toward hotels and beaches along the Cuban coast. Nor did Winfield mention a recent California case involving three Cuban American immigrants who were charged with conspiracy to overthrow the Cuban government. The FBI seized two truckloads of weapons, armor, radio equipment, a videotape of the Cuban shoreline, information about fomenting uprisings in three Cuban towns, and documents on establishing a provisional government and converting freed political prisoners into soldiers. On Jan. 18, the U.S. Attorney's Office dropped the charges without explanation.

The inclusion of such information in her story would have provided the reader with another point of view. There have been hundreds of deocumented cases of terrorism against Cuba over the last 38 years. Could it be that Cuba was simply protecting its airspace -- as any sovereign nation would -- when the planes were shot down? After all, the Cuban government had warned Brothers to the Rescue not to violate Cuban airspace. Winfield neglected to mention this, thereby leaving the reader with the impression that, as Torricelli said, "this is a barbarous act" by Cuba and that Brothers to the Rescue are simply "volunteer pilots who are only trying to save lives."

CNN's coverage was no better that Winfield's and, given the immediacy and emotional impact of televison news in general, it was scandalous and unethical journalism. CNN did not have any more facts than Winfield did, yet it dutifully reported the flurry of anti-Castro, anti-Cuba reaction without bothering to seek other views. CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien, while interviewing Torricelli, asked this interesting question: "You have been firmly against lifting the economic embargo against Cuba. I assume you might believe that at this point that would squelch that debate for now?" At this point, of course, CNN had not presented any evidence about what happened to the planes, yet here was O'Brien framing the news and helping Torricelli with his political agenda.

Here is Torricelli's answer in full: "Well I don't think there really was within the Congress or the administration a serious debate about lifting the embargo, but there are some circles in the United States who from time to time convince themselves that Castro has changed or reformed or somehow now we can deal with him. I trust based on this evening, if all previous evidence wasn't sufficient, they will understand there is simply no dealing with Fidel Castro. This is a brutal dictator for whom life is remarkably cheap, howver this time he took American lives, shot down an American plane, and I think he's going to be surprised at the ferocity of the reaction."

The downing on the two planes was CNN's top story of the evening, and the last part of Torricelli's statement was used as a soundbyte in later reports, as was Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's comment that the U.S. should pursue action against Cuba in the U.N. Security Council. At no time during the evening did CNN interview pro-Castro or pro-Cuba sources who might have been able to challenge Torricelli's sweeping statement and offer a different perspective. CNN was a full partner, a co-conspirator, in the right-wing's political agenda against Cuba.

It is quite possible that Brothers to the Rescue, with the blessing of the U.S. government, was trying to provoke Cuba into an attack just as the vote on the Helms/Burton bill nears. In our view, the flurry of right-wing reaction as reported by the mass media was a shameful rush to judgment with the sole purpose of attempting to sway public opinion.

Jamie York
The Cuba Advocate
1750 30th St. #152
Boulder CO 80301