The Cuban Obsession of Reporters without Borders

Reporters without Borders (RSF) continues being obsessed with Cuba. According to RSF’s own figures, 86 journalists and 20 media contributors were killed in the world in 2007, and 67 professionals from the press were kidnapped, but not one Cuban is on these lists. Nevertheless, the Parisian organization concentrates on the Caribbean’s largest island. (1) The secretary general of the organization, Robert Menard, who purports to defend “freedom of the press,” used the occasion of the Cuban legislative elections to remember “the dramatic fate of the jailed journalists.” (2)


During a press conference in Madrid January 15, 2008, RSF reiterated “its demand for the release of the 24 Cuban journalists […] who were jailed with the absurd excuse that [they were] ‘paid mercenaries of the United States’.” The organization refers to the people who were sentenced by Cuban courts to between six and 28 years in prison for association with a foreign power and for being mercenaries. (3)


RSF describes the authority’s accusations as “absurd” and tries to make public opinion believe that the “24 jailed journalists” were condemned for the unorthodox character of their thoughts and in no case for having violated the law against accepting financing from the United States. This is what Cuban justice states. Skeptics could question the impartiality of the Cuban legal system. That could be. Nevertheless, there is a source that corroborated this reality and that is above suspicion. In fact, official documents of the United States government confirm that the United States recruits, trains and finances individuals in Cuba to promote its foreign policy against the revolutionary regime.


First, since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the United States has developed a policy of manufacturing an opposition in Cuba. For example, during a meeting of the National Security Council on January 14, 1960, Undersecretary of State Livingston Merchant declared: “Our objective is to tighten all our actions with a view to accelerate the development of an opposition in Cuba […].” For his part, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, Roy Rubottom, affirmed that “the approved program [destined to overthrow the Cuban government] has authorized us to offer our help to elements that oppose Castro’s government in Cuba so that it seems as if its fall might be a result of their own mistakes.”(4)


In the same way, on June 19, 1962, Kennedy approved “a comprehensive plan for undercover action” “to keep all possible pressure on Cuba and to create and exploit in Cuba situations calculated to stimulate dissident elements of the regime […] with the goal of committing a coup d’Etat.”(5)


This policy continues in force today with the difference that what constitutes a clandestine and secret policy in the 1970s has been transformed into a public policy since 1992.


Passed in 1992 by the U.S. Congress, the Torricelli Law also contains an interventionist and subversive section. Section 1705 stipulates that “the United States will provide assistance to non-governmental organizations suitable for support to individuals and organizations which promote democratic and non-violent change in Cuba.” (6)


Signed by the Clinton Administration in 1996, the Helms-Burton Law also calls for plans to organize, strengthen and finance a domestic opposition in Cuba. Section 109 is very clear: “The president [of the United States] is authorized to offer assistance and to offer all kinds of support to individuals and non-governmental independent organizations to organize forces with a view towards constructing a democracy in Cuba.”(7)


On May 6, 2004, President Bush issued an impressive 454-page report titled Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. This report plans the development of a “solid program of support which favors Cuban civil society.” Among the measures announced were 36 million dollars in financing to “support the democratic opposition and the strengthening of the emerging civil society.” (8)


On March 3, 2005, Roger Noriega, then assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs in the Bush Administration, indicated that 14.4 million dollars had been added to the budget of 36 million dollars laid out in the 2004 report. Noriega was even so sincere that he revealed the identity of some of the people who were entrusted with U.S. foreign policy against Cuba. He cited the names of Martha Beatriz Roque, the Women in White and Oswaldo Paya. (9)


On July 10, 2006, President Bush approved a new 93-page report. The clearly stated objective is to break the constitutional order in force in Cuba. The first measure adopted planed greater financing to the “dissident” groups. Washington is considering accelerating the recruitment of individuals whose role would be to participate in the overthrow of the current government. To the 36 million dollars planned in the first report in 2004, and the 14.4 million dollars from March 2005, a new sum of 31 million dollars was added. Bush’s plan even cites the people charged with leading the subversive forces: Martha Beatriz Roque, Oswaldo Paya, Guillermo Farinas and the Women in White, among others. (10)


The Bush Administration also dedicated an additional 24 million dollars to Radio and TV Martí, two U.S. propaganda media meant to promote a “regime change.” The funds were for increasing transmission of the subversive programs towards Cuba, a violation of international law, which prohibits the violation of national radio space. The members of the Cuban “dissidents” will receive a part of this sum to acquire and distribute radio and television equipment that for tuning in the programs broadcast from the United States. Other countries are invited to transmit programs towards Cuba. The plan also plans “to train and equip independent journalists of the written, radio and television press in Cuba.” (11)


Thus, official U.S. documents confirm the existence of a policy of subversion and indisputably contradict RSF’s statements. On the other hand, the Parisian organization doesn’t hesitate to convert criminals into journalists provided that these people –  with two exceptions, never had held a journalist position before joining in the profitable business of dissidence – write some cutting lines against the Havana government.


But, RSF, whose agenda is clearly political, multiplies the lies. It declares in its communication that, “If it is not able to choose them, the population is ready to designate its representatives in the National Assembly and in the provincial assemblies,” and added, “there are no illusions regarding the elections […]. Political pluralism doesn’t figure in the order of the day and Cubans can only ‘elect’ 614 representatives already designated, from the Cuban Communist Party, the only one authorized.” (12)


The problem is that Cuban legislation categorically prohibits the Communist Party from designating candidates. “No party has the right to nominate candidates. The nomination of candidates is directly carried out by the voters themselves at public assemblies. The Communist Party is not an electoral organization and, therefore, it is not present at the elections nor can it nominate candidates.” (13) In addition, more than half of the legislators who were elected are not members of the Communist Party. (14) With what objective does RSF hide this reality if not to mislead public opinion and continue its campaign of demonizing Cuba?


Robert Menard’s organization also brings up “the state of health of […] the representatives of the jailed dissident press in Cuba,” among whom some must be “seriously ill.” RSF affirms that “they are not adequately fed or cared for in their cells. (15) The organization of “defense of freedom of the press” doesn’t fear seeming ridiculous. In fact, how can one survive in prison deprived of adequate food and medical attention?


For what reasons does RSF have this singular obsession with Cuba? Is the state of the press really the reason? It appears that the answer is no. Its priorities should be with Iraq where 47 journalists were murdered in 2007, Somalia where eight journalists lost their lives, Pakistan where six journalists perished, Sri Lanka where three journalists were executed, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Philippines, Nepal or Mexico, where several journalists were also murdered, but not in Cuba. (16)


The answer lies in the financing of RSF. In fact, the organization is subsidized by the extreme right organization Center for a Free Cuba (17), whose director Frank Calzon is the former director of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a terrorist organization responsible for numerous attacks against Cuba. (18) RSF is also financed by the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front whose objective is to promote the political agenda of the White House. (19)


The French writer and journalist Maxime Vivas just published a revealing book titled The hidden face of Reporters without Borders [La face cachée de Reporters sans frontieres] in which he denounced “the doubtful arrangements, the shameful financing, the selective outrage […], the reiterated lies of Reporters without Borders, all at the service of a cause totally unconnected with the objectives which it claims. This especially rigorous book brings to the light of the day Robert Menard’s double dealing and reveals the true face of the Parisian organization at the service of the powerful of the world. (20)




(1) Reporters Without Borders, «Liberté de la presse: l’année 2007 en chiffres», January 2, 2008. (site consulted January 23, 2008).


(2) Reporters Without Borders, «En vísperas de las legislativas, Reporteros sin Fronteras recuerda la dramática suerte de los periodistas encarcelados», January 17, 2008. (site consulted January 20, 2008).


(3) Ibid.


(4) Marion W. Boggs, «Memorandum of Discussion at 432d meeting of the National Security Council, Washington», January 14, 1960, Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records, Top Secret, in Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1991), pp. 742-743.


(5) Piero Gleijeses, Misiones en Conflicto. La Habana, Washington y África 1959-1976 (Havana, Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 2004), p. 37.


(6) Cuban Democracy Act, Chapter XVII, Section 1705, 1992. See also Salim Lamrani, Double Morale. Cuba l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme (París: Editions Estrella, 2008), pp. 45-55.


(7) Helms-Burton Act, Chapter I, Section 109, 1996.


(8) Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, May 2004) (site consulted May 7, 2004), pp. 16, 22.


(9) Roger F. Noriega, «Assistant Secretary Noriega’s Statement Before the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations», Department of State, March 3, 2005. (site consulted April 9, 2005).


(10) Condolezza Rice & Carlos Gutierrez, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, July 2006). (site consulted July 12, 2006), p. 19.


(11) Ibid., p. 22.


(12) Reporters Without Borders, «En vísperas de las legislativas, Reporteros sin Fronteras recuerda la dramática suerte de los periodistas encarcelados», op. cit.


(13) Parlamento cubano, «El sistema electoral cubano: cien preguntas y cien respuestas», February 9, 2007. (site consulted January 26, 2008).


(14) Pascual Serrano, «El periodismo papagayo», Rebelión, January 21, 2008.


(15) Reporters Without Borders, «En vísperas de las legislativas, Reporteros sin Fronteras recuerda la dramática suerte de los periodistas encarcelados», op. cit.


(16) Reporters Without Borders, «Baromètre de la liberté de la presse 2007. Journalistes tués», January 2, 2008. (site consulted January 26, 2008).


(17) Reporters Without Borders, «Lettre ouverte à ses détracteurs», Réseau Voltaire, September 12, 2006.ères (site consulted September 12, 2006).


(18) Salim Lamrani, «La Fondation nationale cubano-américaine est une organisation terroriste», Mondialisation, July 27, 2006.


(19) Robert Ménard, «Forum de discussion avec Robert Ménard », Le Nouvel Observateur, April 18, 2005. (site consulted April 22, 2005) ; John M. Broder, “Political Meddling by Outsiders : Not New for U.S.», The New York Times, March 31, 1997, p. 1; Allen Weinstein, Washington Post, September 22, 1991.


(20) Maxime Vivas, La face cachée de Reporters sans frontières. De la CIA aux faucons du Pentagone (Bruxelles: Aden, 2007).


Salim Lamrani is a professor, writer and French journalist specializing in U.S.-Cuba relations. He has published the following titles : Washington contre Cuba (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005), Cuba face à l’Empire (Genève: Timeli, 2006) y Fidel Castro, Cuba et les Etats-Unis (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2006).

His latest book is Double Morale. Cuba, l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme (Paris: Editions Estrella, 2008).




Translated by Dana Lubow

Edited by Robert Sandels

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