Cubans hesitant to show reactions over Castro

According to this article from the Miami Herald, Cubans understand the reported health status of Fidel Castro and how complications arose, but are keeping their reactions to themselves. Laura Pollán, the wife of a jailed dissident, was interviewed for the Herald article from Havana and had the following to say:

"In Cuba, lots of people have seen or heard about the news reports, but comments are kept at a whisper. People realize that [Castro] is in bad shape and wonder what will happen when he dies.''

''There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety but, as of yet, reaction does not go beyond that,'' Pollán said

The only Cuban commentary that comes close to addressing this uncertainty comes from an article in Trabajadores, the Cuban newspaper . The Herald offers this general overview of the article:

The commentary, titled ''In Cuba, there is enough Fidel and revolution for a while,'' says that Washington should not expect any major changes after Castro's death and warns against a military intervention.

Joe Garcia featured in frontpage articles on Radio and TV Martí

Joe Garcia, NDN Senior Vice President and the Director of its Hispanic Strategy Center, was quoted in two front page articles from today's Miami Herald discussing Radio and TV Martí.

The first article discusses the localization of Radio and TV Martí in South Florida. Joe references one of the local stations set to broadcast the Martís, Radio Mambí:

Joe García, executive vice president of the New Democratic Network, said he was outraged. Radio Mambí, known for its virulent anti-Castro commentary, is blocked in Cuba, he said.

''This is a fraud,'' García said. ``This is using taxpayer dollars for a political payoff to benefit the most Republican and politically charged radio station in Miami. They know well that the station isn't heard in Cuba, because Cuba transmits Radio Rebelde over the exact same frequency.''

The second article discusses the management strategy of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB):

Despite having dozens of U.S.-paid journalists on staff, OCB has spent about $1 million since 2001 to contract at least 49 other news gatherers who also work or freelance at major media outlets in Miami. Several have reported on TV and Radio Martí for their local news organizations.

Joe Garcia -- a former CANF director and now vice president of the New Democratic Network, which helps Democrats recruit Hispanic voters -- said paying local journalists gives the appearance that OCB is trying to buy off criticism.

Negroponte: "Castro Near Death"

Since he transferred power to his brother, Raúl, and obeyed doctors orders to stay away from ceremonies honoring his 80th birthday celebration in Havana, we have all been questioning the state of Cuban President Fidel Castro's health. Putting suspicion to rest, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said that Castro is "very ill and close to death." Speaking to a group of Washington Post editors and reporters, Negroponte added, "Everything we see indicates it will not be much longer . . . months, not years."

Beginning today, Members of Congress in favor of easing sanctions will be on the island for a three-day visit. The ten member delegation is the largest to visit Cuba, a fact that emphasizes the increasing interest among policy-makers to learn more about the state of its affairs. Yet the White House position remains firm:

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters that the Bush administration will deal with Cuba's Communist government only when it shows a commitment to democracy. During the period of uncertainty under Raul Castro, Shannon said, "the regime has actually become harder and more orthodox and is not in a position to signal in any meaningful way what direction it will take post-Fidel."

To learn more about the opinions of the Cuban-American exile community, check out the poll NDN conducted in October.

U.S. broadcast efforts in Cuba worth the cost?

The Chicago Tribune offers a comprehensive profile of Radio and TV Martí, broadcasts directed to Cuba which have been funded and supported strategically by the United States. Speaking about the effectiveness of these programs, and the management over them by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting is Joe Garcia, Director of NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center:

But in addition to buying talent, passing out contracts also mutes community discussion of frequent criticism of OCB by outsiders, such as government watchdogs or members of Congress, said Joe Garcia, a former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a leading anti-Castro exile lobbying group.

"If you're a Cuban-American journalist, there are no other markets to be in. It's a very limited market and they're a big employer in it. That's why people don't criticize it," said Garcia, now senior vice president of the New Democratic Network, a group of centrist Democrats.

Garcia said he strongly supports government broadcasting to Cuba, but believes that Radio and TV Marti have been mismanaged under Republican and Democratic administrations.

In October, NDN conducted the first major poll of the Cuban exile community. It revealed that 88% think that Castro will not return to power, while half of those polled expect democracy and liberation of Cuba within the next 5 years. More than three quarters want a peaceful and gradual transition. To view it, click here.

If Castro Had a Talk Show, It Might Sound a Bit Like This

The New York Times quotes our very own Joe Garcia, Director of NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center, in an article covering Francisco Arusca, who was once part of Cuba's counterrevolution and was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Some like Joe feel that Arusca uses his pro-Castro radio station, Ayer en Miami, to benefit his travel business, Marazul Tours:

Mr. Aruca was first and foremost “a man who does business with a loathsome regime.” As for his on-air opinions, Mr. Garcia said, “He calls things as he says he sees it and as he benefits from seeing it.”

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