Sometimes small events can reveal a great deal. A case in point was the opening of an exhibition of political cartoons in Los Angeles in June.
The cartoons were drawn by Gerardo Hernandez, who is serving two life sentences in a US prison. Hernandez is one of the Cuban Five, as they are usually known in English, or the “Five Heroes” as they are called in Cuba. The five have been imprisoned in the US since 1998 for the “crime” of opposing terrorism.
For half a century, Cuba has been the target of terrorist attacks, most of them launched by Cuban counter-revolutionary groups based in the US state of Florida. A greater number of Cubans have been killed in these terrorist attacks than the number of people who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Since the US government deliberately turns a blind eye to these anti-Cuban terrorist conspiracies, in the 1990s the Cuban government sent volunteers to Florida to infiltrate the terrorist groups and learn their plans so that Cuba could prevent the attacks being carried out.
In 1998 the Cuban government invited FBI representatives to Havana and gave them documented evidence of the terrorist conspiracies, all of which were in violation of US law. The FBI promised to act but didn’t. The Cuban government then gave the documentation – four volumes of it – to the New York Times, which published nothing about it.
Shortly thereafter, the US government arrested the Five and railroaded them into prison in trials conducted partly in a Miami courtroom but mainly in Miami’s anti-Cuban commercial media. (It was revealed for the first time in June that the US government funded a number of journalists to write articles attacking the Five before and during their trial.) The Five remain in prison despite a persistent legal campaign and a growing worldwide movement demanding justice for them.
The exhibition of Gerardo Hernandez’s cartoons was an act of solidarity intended to keep the case of the Five in the public eye. It was held at the gallery of SPARC – the Social Public Art Resource Center – in Los Angeles from June 4 to 17.
The staff of the SPARC gallery were surprised and understandably sceptical shortly before the exhibition’s opening when they were telephoned by a CNN journalist who expressed interest in covering the exhibition. However, an interview was set up, and on June 3 the journalist arrived and stayed in the gallery for more than three hours, filming long interviews in English and Spanish with organisers from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and with the executive director of SPARC.
Asked when it would be known whether the interviews would be telecast, the journalist said that her editor wanted also to interview someone with a different “point of view” to “balance” the story. While they could easily imagine the sort of lies and slander that the “balance” might consist of, the supporters of the Five were still hopeful that the program, if aired, would allow at least some of the truth to reach a wider audience.
Their hopes were raised when the journalist told them that the “balancing” viewpoint had been recorded and that CNN would broadcast the story on June 15. But it didn’t.
All the journalist was able to say later was that there had been an “executive decision” not to run the program. But even that cryptic remark is quite informative. Despite all the Hollywood images of crusading reporters or editors challenging the powerful in order to expose wrongdoing, the reality is that the “free press” has owners, and those owners or the executives they hire to do it for them make all the important decisions about what is reported and what is suppressed. And in this case, US capitalism doesn’t want the public told anything that reveals its support for anti-Cuban terrorism. End of story.
[For more details about the case of the Cuban Five and the campaign to free them, see the Cuban 5 website.]