Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Media management

The Castro regime has launched what has been described as a “blistering attack” on the Damas de Blanco, the small but vocal group of wives and female relatives of imprisoned dissidents.

As readers will recall, the group has staged a series of peaceful demonstrations around Havana over the past couple of years, calling on the regime to free the dissidents still behind bars.

These demonstrations have been largely ignored by the regime and its all-pervasive official propaganda machine, which means that sadly, few Cubans would have any idea whom the Damas de Blanco are or what they are up to.

But this week, the tactics appear to have changed.

A peaceful sit-in staged by the women on Monday was violently broken up by female goons from State security, ably assisted by a group of about 100 Government-organised thugs posing as ordinary workers and housewives, who shouted insults at the demonstrators and then helped police officers drag them into a waiting bus. As you do.

The whole shameful episode was captured by a handful of foreign media journalists in Havana and broadcast to the rest of the world, although in the scheme of things, the coverage was fairly limited.

Now, two days later, the regime has used its media apparatus to attack the Damas de Blanco directly. Instead of doing what they normally do and ignore the demonstration, the regime has publicly accused the women of being subversive elements and mercenaries doing the bidding of, yes, those nasty Americans.

To prove its case, State television even showed photographs of the women meeting a US diplomat as well as a tape recording of a conversation between some of the Damas de Blanco and the Cuban-American congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

In some ways, this is standard stuff for the Castro brothers. But you’ve got to wonder whether such high-profile coverage of a dissident group most Cubans would have never heard of will in the longer term, be counter-productive.

Let’s hope so.

As for the regime, well, it’s more of the usual crap we have come to expect for the past half century or so - it claims that police officers only “intervened” to “protect" the demonstrators from "a spontaneous outburst by angry patriots”.


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