Economist Bias

In an Economist magazine article designed for making a case for increased contact [dollars] between the US & Cuba without requiring the Cuban regime to actually improve their human rights performance, the article notes the following:

the vast majority of newcomers [to the U.S. from Cuba] are seeking the economic freedom Fidel Castro has denied them, not political asylum

… They see Cuba as a prison. How does it make prisoners happy when you cut them off from the world?

I find it telling, but not logical, that the Economist didn’t see the political ramifications of having a country described as a prison by those who experienced it and then fled.

But they were just warming up at that point. They later quoted two Miami talk-radio hosts in the story. One of them they quoted as an example of what ‘hardliners’ believe, Ninoska Pérez, which was fair enough. The other described as a ‘moderate,’ Francisco Aruca.

The most instructive thing I can say about Mr. Aruca was the headline in a New York Times article about him from a December 2006, “If Castro Had a Talk Show, It Might Sound a Bit Like This.”

If Mr Aruca is a moderate, who or what position would represent the left or soft-line in this debate? If the Economist wishes to keep its centrist reputation, it should not allow those type of biases to creep into their articles.

Economist article referenced are copied in full at end of post.

Cuba and America

Gently does it
May 7th 2009 | MIAMI
From The Economist print edition

Cuban-Americans mostly feel that Barack Obama is making the right conciliatory gestures


A long-delayed embrace

WHEN the Obama administration relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba, Yanaisy Queija wasted no time. Taking a week’s holiday from her job at a computer-parts factory, she checked in on May 2nd for the 45-minute flight from Miami to Havana, looking forward to seeing her father and grandparents. Because the previous administration limited Cuban-Americans to one visit every three years, she had not seen her relatives for two years.

The plane was crammed. Demand for seats on the handful of charter flights has risen by up to 60% since the restrictions were eased. New flights are being added, with bigger aircraft. Some older Cuban exiles insist that visiting Cuba simply puts money in the hands of the Castro regime, but Ms Queija had no qualms. She pointed to her luggage, bulging with toys, medicines and clothes. “None of this”, she pointed out, “is for the government.”

Barack Obama’s policy shift fulfilled a promise he made to Cuban-American voters in May 2008 at a campaign stop in Miami. At the time, many thought he was taking a risk that might alienate hardline Cuban-Americans. But his move was designed to cause as little outrage as possible, while appealing to a new generation of exiles who are more progressive than those who fled the Castro regime in the 1960s.

At least 300,000 Cubans have come to the United States since 1994, when an accord was signed granting 20,000 American visas a year. The vast majority of newcomers are seeking the economic freedom Fidel Castro has denied them, not political asylum, and retain their strong ties to the island. “These people are not going to be aligned with virulent anti-communism,” says Mario Loyola, a Cuban-American and former Republican foreign-policy adviser in the Senate. The new arrivals, he adds, are now reshaping Cuban Miami. “They don’t understand a policy that isolates Cuba. They see Cuba as a prison. How does it make prisoners happy when you cut them off from the world?”

A recent opinion poll shows that 64% of Cuban-Americans approve of Mr Obama’s travel policy, giving the president an overall approval rating of 67%. “For the first time, a majority of Cuban-Americans are aligned with a Democratic president on Cuba policy,” says Fernand Amandi, who works with Bendixen & Associates, the Miami-based firm that conducted the poll. But hardliners reject the poll numbers, arguing that Bendixen polls are biased. Though they agree that Cubans should be allowed to visit their families, they are angry that Mr Obama gave Cuba a free pass. “This was a great opportunity to demand a good-faith gesture from Cuba, like releasing political prisoners,” says Ninoska Pérez, a popular Cuban-American radio broadcaster.

Some of the older exiles, such as Carlos Trueba, a Cuban-born retiree playing dominoes in an outdoor park in Miami’s Little Havana, object to the lack of ideological spine among the new arrivals. “Cubans come here asking for political asylum and then a year later turn right around and want to visit their family for a vacation. That’s not right.” Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican congressman, goes further, likening those who favour Mr Obama’s proposals to people who supported doing business with Hitler.

But most of Miami’s right-wing Cuban-Americans leaders have fallen uncomfortably silent. This can be explained, in part, by the fact that Mr Obama has so far defended the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. He is wise to do so, says Joe Garcia, a prominent Democratic Party activist and director of the Cuban-American National Foundation, an exile group that was once hardline but now backs greater engagement with Cuba. “The embargo is not a policy, it’s a religion. So…you leave it alone.”

If the president plays his cards right, he could pull off a political coup. “Obama is creating a whole new political base among Cuban-Americans,” says Francisco Aruca, a moderate Cuban-American radio-show host who also runs one of the charter companies flying to Cuba. The relatively mild reaction of Cuban officials helps to strengthen the view that he is not caving in. In fact the Cuban government seems caught off-guard, tentatively welcoming the new Cuban-American visitors—and their money—while continuing to rail against the embargo and rejecting any call for concessions on its own part.

Other diplomatic action includes a meeting last week between the State Department’s senior diplomat for Latin America, Thomas Shannon, and Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington, Jorge Bolaños. The Obama administration has also chosen as its new ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual, a Cuban-American diplomat and leading author of a recent Brookings Institution study advocating engagement with Cuba.

Although Cuba was still on the State Department’s annual list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Iran, Syria and Sudan, when it was reissued last week, the report credited it with “no longer actively” supporting armed struggle around the globe. (Cuba remains on the list because it “continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists”.) That is some progress.

American officials have privately made it clear that further steps towards better relations with Cuba can be expected. Most of these will be minor and incremental, such as reviving the talks on immigration that used to be held regularly but were suspended by the Bush administration. The next move could come from Congress when, this autumn, it takes up a bill to lift travel restrictions for all Americans. The bill already has 134 co-sponsors in the House; a bigger battle is expected in the Senate. Both houses passed a similar bill in 2003, but it was killed by Republican congressional leaders before it could make its way to Mr Bush’s desk. If this time it gets passed, it is hard to see how the trade embargo could survive.


About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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