Op-Ed

Best birthday gift ever — CNN paints Castro as a victim

A peeling wall in Havana bears poster of Fidel Castro, who turned 90 this month.
A peeling wall in Havana bears poster of Fidel Castro, who turned 90 this month. AP

When Fidel Castro celebrated his 90th birthday recently, CNN was the eager first-responder. “Survivor Turns 90,” gushed CNN’s perky Patrick Oppmann from Havana. “More people have tried to murder the world’s most famous socialist than any man alive, according to the 2006 British documentary “638 Ways to Kill Castro.”

Got it? CNN paints the poor old boy as a victim. And gosh? What in the world, CNN implies, would cause anyone to wish harm upon this inoffensive healthcare provider? After all, his only offense was to dispossess mobsters and provide free and fabulous healthcare and education to his formerly wretched and exploited countrymen.

This pretty much sums up the CNN story. The primary source for the British documentary — and for CNN’s report — by the way, is Fabian Escalante, one of Castro’s oldest and most trusted KGB-trained intelligence officers.

Actually, CNN is upholding a long and sniveling tradition. Indeed, no serious Cuba-watcher expects a network bestowed a Havana bureau by KGB-trained apparatchiks to even feign honesty, or even play-act its professed duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

“The Castro regime assigns 20 security agents to follow and monitor every foreign journalist,” said Vicente Botin, who reported from Cuba for Madrid’s El Pais until he was booted from the Castro-family fiefdom for taking his job title seriously. “You play the regime’s game and practice self-censorship or you’re gone.”

“The vetting procedure starts the minute the (Castro) regime receives your journalist visa application,” adds Lieut. Col. Chris Simmons, recently retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency where he served as the agency’s top Cuban spycatcher. “When your smiling Cuban ‘guides’ greet you at the airport they know plenty about you, and from several angles.”

The Castro regime has jailed and tortured political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin’s during the Great Terror; murdered more Cubans in its first three years in power than Hitler’s murdered Germans during its first six; converted a nation with a higher per-capita income than half of Europe and a huge influx of (first-world) immigrants into one that drove 20 times as many people to die attempting to escape it as died attempting to escape East Germany — and boasts the highest suicide rate in the Western Hemisphere.

Given this tally of wantonly and horribly “afflicted” you might think CNN faced an easy job when reporting on Castro’s birthday, right?

Wrong! Instead the only afflicted CNN comforted was the agent of these horrors.

Regarding all those dastardly CIA assassination attempts against Castro so breathlessly reported by Escalante and eagerly transcribed by CNN’s intrepid gumshoes:

In the early ’60s, the late E. Howard Hunt was head of the political division of the CIA’s “Cuba Project.” “So far as I have been able to determine,” Hunt clarified in his book “Give Us This Day,” “no coherent plan was ever developed within the CIA to assassinate Castro, though it was the heart’s desire of many exile groups.” Interestingly, Hunt stressed that killing Castro was his own recommendation. But he couldn’t get any serious takers within the agency.

This may have been because there were so many Castro supporters in the CIA at the time. Maybe it was hard to get their hearts and minds wholeheartedly into such a wrenching flip-flop. Consider these quotes from CIA officials:

▪ “Me and my staff were all Fidelistas.” (Robert Reynolds, the CIA’s Caribbean Desk chief from 1957 to 1960.)

▪ “Everyone in the CIA and everyone at State was pro-Castro, except [Republican] ambassador Earl Smith.” (Robert Weicha, CIA operative in Santiago Cuba.)

Even the U.S. Senate’s liberal Church Committee, chaired by Sen. Frank Church in the 1970s, claimed that the assassination stories were largely mythologized:

‘In August 1975, Fidel Castro gave Senator George McGovern a list of 24 alleged attempts to assassinate him in which Castro claimed the CIA had been involved. … The Committee has found no evidence that the CIA was involved in the attempts on Castro’s life enumerated in the allegations that Castro gave to Senator McGovern.

On the other hand, we have CNN’s Havana bureau earning its keep by transcribing reports of those nefarious CIA assassination plots, as reported to them by Fabian Escalante — one of Castro’s oldest and most trusted KGB-trained intelligence officers.

There was a day when Americans laughed at any U.S. network that regarded on-duty communist intelligence officers as trustworthy news sources.

Humberto Fontova is a Cuban-American author, blogger and political commentator.

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