Raul Castro gestures during a meeting of the National Assembly in Havana, February 24, 2008. Photo Reuters/Prensa Latina/Pool

At NewsBusters we've been noticing the reticence the media are showing in characterizing the Castro Brothers regime in Cuba as a Communist dictatorship. Today's Miami Herald came a bit closer with its February 26 article ("Old-style socialist takes the No. 2 job in Cuba"), although it painted Raul Castro's deputy as a "devout socialist" and results-oriented problem-solver.

Of course, there are "devout socialist" politicians in numerous countries the world over who abide by the results of free and fair elections and respect the rule of law, two things sorely lacking in Cuba.

No matter, the Herald's Frances Robles seemed more interested in painting Raul Castro's number two as though he were Che Guevara with a hearing aid (emphasis mine):

In a report yesterday from Cuba, Anita Snow of the Associated Press, with the help of the headline writers at ABC, seemed intent on telling any Yanqui imperialists or hard-liners in Miami's Little Havana who might have any ideas of doing something rash during the transition of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul to forget about trying anything (HT Rush Limbaugh; story #4 at link; link will be available until next Monday):

Below the page break I've included screen grabs taken around 3:50 p.m. today for top stories at, one having to do with John McCain and how his denial of an affair with Vicki Iseman "invited a game of catch me if you can," the second about the rise of a Raul Castro, a dictator who "promises change."

The latter, flashing a peace sign, looks somewhat avuncular. McCain, however appears to bear a scowl on his face in a photo shot apparently aboard a campaign airplane.

Apparently the Washington Post isn't the only newspaper to be taken aback by aging Communists holding a tight grip on the Communist regime in Havana. "Old guard in Cuba keeps reins," blares the February 25 headline in the Los Angeles Times.

Oddly enough, the "old guard" is still labeled "revolutionary" twice in the story by Miguel Bustillo and Carol J. Williams:

MIAMI -- Cuba's parliament signaled Sunday that the status quo of a stunted state-run economy and strained relations with the United States will persist for now as it named Raul Castro to replace his ailing brother, Fidel, as president and chose another aging revolutionary as the nation's No. 2 leader.


So much for Washington Post staff writer Manuel Roig-Franzia waxing poetic about the tech-savvy younger generation of Communists in Cuba. "Party Elders Triumph in Cuba," as Raul Castro has been formally named the new dictator, a February 25 Post headline informs readers. Party elders?! That's language suitable for a story about the role of  superdelegates in the presidential nomination process for the Democratic Party, not when describing window-dressing "elections" in one-party Communist dictatorships.

Roig-Franzia opened his article with a lament that a "younger generation" of Communists has been "bypassed" by the Geritol crowd:

HAVANA, Feb. 24 -- Cuba's revolutionary old guard consolidated its hold on power Sunday when the National Assembly bypassed a younger generation of politicians and named Fidel Castro's brother, Raúl, president and a hard-line communist first vice president.

Here in Ithaca and no doubt in other liberal bastions across the land, you can still see cars festooned with those bitter bumper stickers: "Re-Defeat Bush!" and "Bush: Selected, Not Elected!" Those sentiments remain reflected in an MSM still smarting from Florida 2000. All of which made Ann Curry's words on this morning's Today, announcing the ascendancy of Raul Castro in Cuba, so ironic.
ANN CURRY: In the news this morning, we begin with Cuba and its [first] new president in nearly half a century. Raul Castro was officially chosen on Sunday to take over from his brother Fidel who announced his retirement last week.

View video here.

With the symbolic passing of the torch - from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro - comes hope of changes in Cuba, well at least among some in the media.

Even though no one is predicting Cuba to usher in a new wave of Adam Smith-style capitalism, there might be some changes according to ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."

"[H]e's talking about significant reforms - liberalizing trade, economic reforms designed to ease poverty in a country where the average person earned $19 a month in the hope of consolidating his own power," ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said on the Feb.19, 2008, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson."

Chris Matthews on this afternoon's Hardball, speaking with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.).
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, why do you think Cubans on the island still support the Castro brothers? What is it that allows that lock on those people to continue?
DAN BURTON: I don't think they do support Castro, I don't think they supported Fidel or Raul. That is a Communist regime where they have block captains who watch everybody in each invidual block, and anybody that even speaks out against the government ends up in a gulag.

Writing in the January 16 Financial Times, reporter Marc Frank takes a look at Cuban politics as though it were an actual liberal democracy, not a Marxist dictatorship. Frank finds no irony or contradiction-in-terms in the way he qualifies the election as a public ratification of a pre-determined outcome. And in what amounts to a laughable print edition subheading, Frank's editor wrote this in the subhead to "Castro keeps world guessing on retirement":

Even if the head of state stands down, he may still be able to exert power from the sidelines, writes Marc Frank.

Gee, ya think?!

Here are the first few paragraphs of Frank's page 3 report, with my emphasis added:

Covering Raul Castro's July 26 hour-long Revolution Day speech, the Washington Post characterized the fill-in dictator's latest speech as one that "hits capitalist notes while placating hard-line party loyalists." But in truth Castro's speech was the typical Communist agitprop fare: empty promises for more pay, a call for harder work from the people, and above all else, blaming the United States for the collectivist economy's failure.

"Wearing his trademark tinted eyeglasses and military uniform, Castro, 76, struck distinctly capitalist notes before tens of thousands of flag-waving Communist Party loyalists," reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia noted in his July 27 story, filed the day before from Camaguey, a city 350 miles east of Havana.

Yet from Roig-Franzia's article itself, it becomes clear Castro is not a Latin incarnation of Milton Friedman. A little more foreign investment is the only capitalist bone to be thrown Cuba's way.

Nothing says "idealistic" like brutally suppressing freedom and imprisoning courageous advocates of democracy. At least in the view of CBS News, apparently.

At 7:21 a.m. EDT on this morning's "Early Show," CBS's Kelly Cobiella reported from Havana on the occasion of Cuba's national day. Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked Cobiella about the prospects for change.
CBS "EARLY SHOW" CO-ANCHOR MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: There's no question that Fidel and [his brother] Raul are different types of leaders. I'm sure we'll see it when he speaks later. He doesn't have Fidel's charisma and he seems a little bit more open to change. As he solidifies his power, what kind of changes do you think Cubans can expect to see?
That's when Cobiella went into Fidel-fan mode . . .