's Birthday Gift to Fidel: A Story Devoid of Castro Critics

"As Castro Turns 83, Cuba Caught Between Past, Future," announces an August 13 headline for the World Watch blog.

The 10-paragraph entry by Havana-based news producer Portia Siegelbaum amounted to an electronic birthday card for the Communist dictator.

No Castro critics, domestic or foreign, were cited in the story, although Siegelbaum made sure to note how a "U.S.-based religious group, Pastors for Peace" got to hang out on Wednesday with the aging despot.

Yet Siegelbaum failed to note the leftist political bent of Pastors for Peace, describing it merely as "an anti-embargo organization." The Web site for Pastors for Peace, a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), insists that its purpose is: advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination. For almost 40 years, IFCO has assisted the poor and disenfranchised in developing and sustaining community organizations to fight human and civil rights injustices. This work includes education about the realities of the poor in the US and the third world.

Of course, Cubans under the Castro regime have been perpetually disenfranchised from free and fair elections, not to mention human rights and civil freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and bearing of arms.

But don't look to Siegelbaum to question whether the Pastors for Peace are putting blind faith in wolves [the brothers Castro] in sheep's clothing:

Several members of the group, including Harlem Rev. Lucius Walker met with Castro on August 1 in Havana. In the waist-up photo (seen above), Castro, wearing a blue baseball cap and a white windbreaker with blue trim, is standing with his arms around his American visitors, wearing a grin and appearing more robust than in earlier photos.

Of course, Fidel is in retirement from the dictating business. That's up to younger brother Raul now. As Siegelbaum noted in closing:

Clearly Castro is depending on his brother Raul to salvage the situation even if it means restructuring the economy and the two seem to be on the same page as to what their end goals are. Raul Castro told parliament at the beginning of this month that he had not been elected president to restore capitalism in Cuba nor to hand over the revolution.

"I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not destroy it," he said.

No doubt that is what Fidel Castro wishes for as he blows out the candles on his birthday cake.

-Ken Shepherd is Managing Editor of the MRC's NewsBusters blog.