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News Media Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Ten anti-Castro "journalists" in South Florida on US government payroll
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 15, 2006, 00:48

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During the Mercosur summit in Argentina, WJAN-TV South Florida reporter, Manuel Cao, asked Cuban President Fidel Castro why his government didn't allow a prominent doctor and dissident to leave the country. Quick as lightning, Castro shot back, "Who pays you?"

Now we find that Cao's paymaster was the US government: he received $10,400 in payments so far this year. Cao is one among 10 South Florida journalists to have been found accepting money in exchange for touting propaganda intended to undermine the Cuban government via Radio and TV Marti (both bankrolled by the US government to the tune of $37 million to broadcast anti-Cuban propaganda from the States onto Cuban soil).

The news mercenaries' covert employer was exposed by documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Three were fired from El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister paper of the Miami Herald: columnist Pablo Alfonso, staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio and freelancer Olga Connor.

Pablo Alfonso, who wrote an opinion column, received $175,000 since 2001.

Perusing Alfonso's columns in Spanish, I found them to be concerned with trivial and titillating gossip of possible interest only to resentful exiles. The columns whispered about an alleged dairy farm, maintained solely for private catering to Castro's taste for the freshest strawberry yogurt and camembert cheeses.

Other fluff items included speculations on the "secrecy" -- perhaps nepotism -- surrounding the professional activities of Castro's tribe of grandchildren (all apparently respectably employed in Cuba or abroad in various non-subversive scientific fields).

Another provocation to outrage included Castro's alleged failure to effect a promised "energy revolution" because a power outage of four hours had crippled three provinces in June. My hunch is that Castro's "energy revolution" might have been referring to the one promised by ongoing off-shore, deep-sea explorations for oil and gas effected through an agreement with an Indian oil exploration company.

The most ironic of Alfonso's silly charges was the one stating that the newspaper, Granma, acted as a stenographer for Raul Castro's recent "declarations" and "interviews," upon assuming leadership of the Cuban nation, absent the convalescing Fidel Castro.

Of the bribed journalists mentioned by the US national media this morning (11 September 2006) -- the names of all 10 were reported by the Miami Herald. El Nuevo Herald's Olga Connor, a freelance journalist, received $71,000 from the US Office of Cuba Broadcasting since 2001; Nuevo Herald staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla received $15,000 for the same period. Additional US news mercenaries were opinion page editor for Diario Las Americas Helen Aguirre Ferre and reporter/columnist Ariel Remos.

What struck me about this news coverage, however, was the absence of detailed coverage for Carlos Alberto Montaner, surely one of the most world-prominent of the Miami 10. A militant anti-Castroist, sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment by the Cuban revolutionary government in 1960 for "conspiring against the power of the state," Montaner has lived two-thirds of his life in exile. Now residing in Spain, he's founder and president of the Unin Liberal Cubana (Cuban Liberal Union). In Spain, he writes for ABC (the former mouthpiece for Francisco Franco, the Falangist Spanish dictator). An admiring website claimed that "his syndicated column is read by six million readers. His opinions make politician[s] in Spain and Latin America tremble. . . . He maintains his position as one of the regions most respected journalists."

Perhaps, but now he'll have to maintain it in the face of this recent exposure of his being in the pay of the US government. When he claims that Fidel Castro's "cancer will deliver justice," as he does in his columns, the alleged cancer's war on Fidel might suggest that it is diagnosed by a close collaborator of the US government. If Caracas indeed "will shiver with Castro's death," as Montaner predicts, readers might wonder with whom this drivel of wishful thinking is intended to curry favor. "The [Cuban]army's loyalty ends with Fidel's life" makes you wonder if another Bay of Pigs US debacle fueled by anti-revolutionary, out-of-touch, diehards in exile is in the offing -- or if the myth of a military coup is the result of too many years of mojito drinking, coupled with frustrated hopes among US-supported Cuban exiles' intriguers and illusionists.

"Democracy can arrive on the island via a pact with reformists," Montaner opines. Which "reformists"? The former Cuban estate landlords and clients of US multi-national exploiters in Miami? Or the "reformists" generated and proliferated by the $10 million initiative to foment "dissidence" in Cuba by the US Special Interests Office in Havana?

Actually, Cuban government officials have been arguing for decades that Montaner is far from a liberal paladin of human rights and democracy. They say that he's very close to known international terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. He's an agent of the CIA, the Cubans insist. He has ties to the NGO, Reporters without Borders, which, last year, admitted it is financed by the CIA.

Reporters without Borders mounted a campaign in 2002 characterizing the trial and imprisonment in Cuba of more than two dozen journalists, among 75 "dissidents," as a violation of human rights. The Cuban government insisted that the accused were mercenary agitators paid by the US to pose as "independent journalists." As Granma reported, "none of them even passed through a journalism faculty or school of journalism and never wrote a single line of journalism."

Now whom are we to believe, in this matter of human-rights violations by Cuba? The Cuban officials or the purveyors of democracy in the "free press" paid for by the US government -- not exactly distinguished by its regard for truth?

Further Reading

"Cuba after Fide1," Le Monde Diplomatique, 1 Sept. 2006

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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