Tuesday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), yours truly noted an email from the Associated Press's Images Group which encouraged subscribing outlets to use its "iconic images and videos" to promote the 85th birthday of Fidel Castro, the "Legendary Cuban revolutionary and longtime leader."
Today, writing what may be the wire service's last calendar-driven excuse to heap praise on him while he is still alive, the AP's Peter Orsi described Cuban dictator Castro as a "revolutionary icon" with an "outsize persona," who in his prime was "a gregarious public speaker," and while in retirement remains a "prolific writer."
To the AP's Orsi, Castro is not a dictator; he's an "aging leader." To Venezuelan authoritarian Hugo Chavez, who is in Cuba attempting a recovery from what reportedly is cancer, Castro is not a fellow oppressor; he is a "longtime friend and political mentor." There's no direct reference to the island's miserable conditions; just once does Orsi mention feeble attempts at "reforms" which might "save the island's economy by loosening some state control."
For readers who can stand it, here are excerpts:
Castro turns 85 quietly but still a force in Cuba
Revolutionary icon Fidel Castro marked his 85th birthday behind closed doors Saturday as the aging leader famous for railing against Washington increasingly fades from the spotlight - even if his outsize persona continues to cast a long shadow over Cuban society and U.S. relations.
There were no announcements of how Castro planned to spend the day, though Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in Havana for cancer treatment, said via Twitter that he was with his longtime friend and political mentor.
"Here with Fidel, celebrating his 85th birthday! Viva Fidel!" Chavez tweeted.
The previous night two dozen musical acts from across Latin America held a concert in Castro's honor.
"What we say in the songs of our invited artists will be little next to what he deserves," Alfredo Vera, one of the organizers, said late Friday. "Congratulations, beloved and eternal comandante."
... A gregarious public speaker as president, Castro is seen publicly these days in official still photographs and video footage, such as recent images showing him with Raul and Chavez.
... Yet even in retirement, Castro has continued to be a player on the island. Raul has said he consults with his older brother, and some Cuba-watchers say his presence has acted as a brake on reforms that Raul is betting will save the island's economy by loosening some state control.
... In retirement, Castro has been a prolific writer of newspaper columns and a series of books, including autobiographical accounts of the events that led him to take power after the 1959 revolution.
What I noted on Tuesday in relation to the items AP offered subscribers in its email is also true of Orsi's writeup, namely the total lack of any reference to:
- Cuba’s unsanitary hospitals, including sights such as those found here.
- The nation’s collapsing infrastructure or its crumbling buildings.
- The rationing of the most basic of necessities, which as of 2003 enabled the average Cuban to obtain “2.5 kilograms of rice, 1 kilogram of frozen fish, 1/2 kilogram of beans, 14 eggs and sundry other basics at subsidized prices” — per month.
- The island’s gulags, where thousands of dissidents are imprisoned, starved, and tortured, and where many have died.
Cuba, along with North Korea, provide living proof of a key historical point, namely that state-controlled nations, no matter how comprehensively inefficient and oppressive, don't implode and become democratic on their own. They must be pushed. Remember this the next time some loopy leftist argues that the Soviet Union fell apart on its own, and the words and deeds of Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan, Lane Kirkland, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher had nothing to do with it.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.