Live from Havana, It's Mesa Redonda!

Thanks to one show, an unprecedented amount of foreign news is airing in Cuba -- but it ain't Nightline yet

These radio incursions were preying on people Rodriguez described as the "least educated politically or culturally, where our signals don't arrive well. A whole spectrum of stations from the Caribbean and Miami enter directly, interfering. It's not contrary opinions [that we exclude]. It's terrorism, literally. We aren't talking about the North American people [doing this]. We're talking about a mafia with millions of dollars supporting a counterrevolutionary project."

Sensing our interviewees were now digressing wildly, we began feeling a little like the cantankerous Chris Matthews ourselves.

Is there ever going to be a journalist in the studio who takes a different position regarding the war in Afghanistan?

"We are defending [our position] that we are against the war," Alonso retorted.

"And against terrorism," Dimas added.

"And against terrorism," Alonso echoed. "How is it that the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, ABC, CNN, et cetera, et cetera, only defend the editorial line that concludes that the war is necessary?" Alonso continued.

But those news organizations also present a variety of reports that include critics of the war.

"That's fine," Alonso retorted. "But I only have an hour and a half. CNN devotes 24 hours to that.... I devote [the time] to defend my editorial position."

Rodriguez submitted another rhetorical -- and hyperbolic -- layer to the case for limiting debate. "This country is full of people killed by terrorism," she began, adding, improbably, that virtually everyone knows of a relative or friend who died from it. "This country is full of the tears of terrorism, and nobody has ever paid any attention." Now, after the September 11 attacks in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., the United States knows the pain, she added. "And it hurts everybody who has a little sensitivity," she emphasized. "Please! Do something for our struggle. Why are there five boys in prison in Miami? Because this country has been living under the threat of terrorism. Why does this country have security measures that seem strange in other countries? Now it's spreading. Why are Fidel and Raul never in the same place at the same time? Now everybody understands why Cheney and Bush aren't either." (We knew we were bogged down in the propaganda war when Dimas launched into a recap of Cuba's unanswered appeals at the United Nations in the Seventies after the bombing of a Cubana de Aviación airliner in 1976, in which 73 people were killed.)

Alonso said that of the thousands of people surveyed for MR, only one person has expressed an opinion in favor of the war. "In favor of the war or in favor of terrorism, it's difficult for you to find someone who is looking for a platform to defend that," Barredo declared.

Well, not that difficult. The next day New Times, without really looking, stumbled into the supposedly rare Cuban citizen who supported the bombing raids in Afghanistan. "If the United States doesn't hit the terrorists hard, they'll attack again, in China or somewhere else," reasoned a 31-year old native of Santiago named Alexander, who was on a stroll near the Plaza de la Revolución. "If the U.S. hadn't done it, the terrorists wouldn't believe in the power of the United States."

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