CBS Calls Fidel Castro 'Revolutionary Hero,' Touts Brother's Reforms as 'New Era'

     They may not have food to put on their tables, but at least Cuban citizens can text message about it now.

     CBS’s “Early Show” gave a fairly glowing report from the May Day celebration in Havana, Cuba, May 1, on changes Cuban President Raúl Castro has made in the country. Reporter Elizabeth Palmer called the leader's brother, Fidel Castro, a “revolutionary hero.”

     Fidel Castro handed provisional power to Raúl Castro, his younger brother, in July 2006. Raúl Castro officially took over the presidency in February 2008 after Fidel Castro fell ill.

     Anchor Russ Mitchell said the May Day celebrations in Cuba signaled a “new era” for the country, and Palmer touted reforms like “cell phones,” “text-messaging,” opening of “resort hotels” to Cuban citizens and “shiny new Chinese buses.” Previously, Cubans were not allowed to own cell phones, and they had been banned from visiting the island’s resorts, which were reserved for foreign tourists.

     “Few can afford to buy [cell phones], but window shopping is free,” said Palmer, who noted later that the average salary per month is around $20.

     Palmer did note there was no sign that Raúl Castro would introduce any political or democratic reforms, so hopes of improved U.S. relations with Cuba were not realistic.

     Recent optimism over the reforms has been called into question with publications like The Wall Street Journal saying hopes were “misplaced, or at best premature.”

     “But Raúl's objective is to placate a restless population, while the regime tightens its grip on economic power,” said the April 21 newspaper. “The regime warned democracy advocates last week not to interpret the reforms as a weakening of its resolve to preserve socialism.”

     James M. Roberts and Ray Walser at The Heritage Foundation said the Cuban economy “is not likely to respond quickly or robustly to any minor ‘China-like’ opening that Raul may attempt.”

     “He may begin to tinker with the economic system, presenting limited reforms in the agricultural area and some modest private market opportunities, but the command economy will remain firmly in place,” Roberts and Walser wrote in a WebMemo February 19.

     " Raúl Castro's government will eventually need to confront the million-dollar question: Once it releases the genie of public opinion from the bottle, does it risk permanently reducing its control over Cuban society?" Inter-American Dialogue Caribbean analyst Daniel P. Erikson said to The Los Angeles Times.

     Erikson told the Times that Cuban officials are mindful of the Soviet Union’s collapse and are wary of allowing any kind of “political opening that would be perceived as diminishing the legitimacy of the Communist Party.”

     The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal said in the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom that Cuba was 27.5 percent free, making it one of the world’s “most repressed economies,” ahead of only the dictatorship in North Korea.

     The Index of Economic Freedom also notes that Cuba performs poorly in business freedom, investment freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, labor freedom and financial freedom.