Ruthless Cuban Communist "an Advocate for Women's Rights"?

That's the ludicrous description the Times gives to Vilma Espin, the wife of Cuban leader Raul Castro.

Things go wrong right from the start of Anthony DePalma's obituary for Vilma Espin, "Cuba's unofficial first lady" - and Cuban CommunistParty leader.

"Vilma Espin, an idealistic socialite who fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro in the mountains of Cuba and later, as Raúl Castro's wife, became a prominent advocate of women's rights and a powerful member of the Cuban Communist Party, died Monday in Havana. She was 77."

Even the text box was a howler: "A revolutionary, Cuba's unofficial first lady and a proponent of women's rights." How in the world can a Communist leader be a credible advocate for anyone's rights?

A photo caption read: "A revered warrior, she fought beside Raúl and Fidel Castro."

As Ken Shepherd notes at Newsbusters (in his dissection of a similarly biased obit in the Washington Post), that probably didn't include the "right to private property, the right of free speech, the right to free and fair elections, or the right to travel freely outside of Cuba."

As biased as the Post's obituary was, it did at least eventually reveal the ruthless heart behind the old grinning face of Vilma Espin, albeit in the 17th paragraph: Raul Castro's late wife "was reportedly ruthless when it came to ordering the killing of suspected informers." DePalma's piece in the Timesdidn't mention that.

"Ms. Espín was a revered figure of the revolution. The image of her and several other prominent women shouldering rifles and wearing combat fatigues during the rebel war helped change attitudes about the role of women in Cuba. She founded the Federation of Cuban Women in 1960, and remained president of the organization until her death. Although few women were allowed into Fidel Castro's inner circle, women advanced in most other fields in Cuba, and Ms. Espin became an international figure in the struggle for women's rights."

Except in Cuba itself, of course.