The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Paige Cram, Communications Coordinator, 212-679-5100, ext. 15

National Lawyers Guild Urges U.S. Media to Cease Misrepresentation of Cuba's Human Rights Record


the wake of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the mainstream United
States media published a slew of stories condemning the so-called human
rights violations that led to his hunger strike. While Tamayo's death is
a tragic occurrence, such factual misrepresentation compounds the
tragedy by exploiting the death for political ends.

United States criticisms of foreign state abuses of power often ring
hollow. This is especially true when the criticisms are directed at a
nation that has suffered from a half-century-long economic embargo and
unconstitutional travel ban by the greatest economic power in the world.
It also carries little weight coming from a media that pays scant
attention to treatment of the ever-expanding U.S. prison population and
human rights violations that take place within our own borders.

The political motivation behind this media onslaught is clear.
During the Bush Administration, the United States paid Cuban
"dissidents" to criticize the Cuban government. Since the overthrow of
the U.S.-aligned dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, over $20 million has
been funneled to anti-Castro activists and media outlets in both
countries. Now the media is utilizing a tragic incident to browbeat the
Communist government of Cuba.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has long opposed this double
standard toward the Cuban government and calls on the media to recognize
U.S.-propagated human rights abuses, particularly in Latin America.
Since 1946, the U.S. government has operated the School of the Americas
(now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Fort
Benning, Georgia. The 61,000 graduates of the School have been trained
in torture techniques and have gone on to overthrow
democratically-elected governments in several Latin American nations.
These coups and the regimes that follow them have involved massive human
rights violations, with hardly any coverage from U.S. media.

NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian said, "The National Lawyers
Guild opposes infractions of human rights anywhere, but Cuban prison
officials acted properly when Zapata decided to go on a hunger strike.
We urge the media to turn its attention to real human rights violations
and deadly foreign policies in this country and elsewhere."

*This release was updated at 16:08.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) works to promote human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests. It was founded in 1937 as the first national, racially-integrated bar association in the U.S.

(212) 679-5100