Thursday, July 19, 2007

SBS and the Ladies in White

Those indefatigable Ladies in White – Las Damas de Blanco - have finally made an appearance on Australian television, courtesy of SBS Television.

The network’s Dateline program last night broadcast a refreshingly even-handed report on Cuba following a visit to the island recently by journalist David O’Shea.

Sure, there are the usual references to universal health care, free education and the US embargo.

There is even a representative from the Ministry for Foreign Relations shamelessly parroting the same old lines about how human rights are protected and safeguarded "by the Revolution”, blah, blah, blah ...

But O’Shea balances the obvious spin from the regime with interviews with ordinary Cubans, as well as with dissidents such as Miriam Leiva, one of the Ladies in White.

But for my money, the most telling scene comes when the reporter visits a classroom somewhere in what I am sure is Havana to witness first hand the great Castro education miracle.

It's quite obvious the place has been hand-picked by the regime's minders, complete with a couple of dozen well scrubbed, brightly faced, uniformed primary school pupils on show, achingly polite and busily working on computers.

It’s a perfect picture … until one of the girls, who seems to be 11 or 12 at most, stands up and under her teacher's watchful eye, recites a cringing poem wishing the Comandante en Jefe a speedy recovery.
Be assured, Comandante, she recites, that the Revolution is "in safe hands".

Not surprisingly, it’s dismissed by O’Shea for what it is: cheap indoctrination of the worst kind.

And the program's conclusions? “The tragedy for Cuba is that years of repression and economic stagnation mean that many of its youth want to be elsewhere,” O’Shea says.

He is spot on about that. And yes, it’s a great tragedy.

You can read the transcript here.


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