Friday, September 2, 2016

Dangerous Spin: AP reporting Cuba official propaganda on Zika as news

Reason for concern: Cuba has a poor record on timely reporting of epidemics due to politicized healthcare claims

Soldier carries fumigating machine into a Havana home (AP/Desmond Boylan)
The Associated Press not only engages in self-censorship to maintain their Havana bureau but also continues to report Castro regime propaganda as news. This is nothing new but the latest episode on September 2, 2016 "Cuba reports remarkable success in containing Zika virus" should raise concerns for perspective travelers to Cuba because it contains numerous claims about the Zika virus by Cuban officials.
"Six months after President Raul Castro declared war on the Zika virus in Cuba, a militarized nationwide campaign of intensive mosquito spraying, monitoring and quarantine appears to be working.
Cuba is among the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that have so far prevented significant spread of the disease blamed for birth defects in thousands of children. Only three people have caught Zika in Cuba. Thirty have been diagnosed with cases of the virus they got outside the island, according to Cuban officials.
Many are now watching to see whether Cuba is able to maintain control of Zika or will drop its guard and see widening infection like so many of its neighbors.
On August 25, 2016 this blog outlined a number of concerns arising from the reporting on Zika and Cuba and the possible danger it poses to travelers:

  • Past aggressive responses hyped by the regime such as dengue by 1997 involved the arrest of at least one doctor for enemy propaganda who correctly warned of a Dengue outbreak sentenced him to eight years in prison then forced him into exile after an international outcry.  Eventually when the bodies started to pile up and it was no longer possible to cover up the epidemic the regime admitted they had a problem. 
  • In 2012 a cholera outbreak went unreported at first and later was under reported. A Cuban independent journalist who broke the story on cholera spent months arbitrarily detained and was recognized as an Amnesty International prisoners of conscience.
  •  With Zika the Castro regime can fall back on a tried and true method that it has also used to reduce infant mortality rates and that is the aggressive use of abortion, even without the mother's consent. The dictatorship will be able to cover up cases of microcephaly with abortions.
Consider that 3.5 million people visited Cuba in 2015 and tourism to the island in 2016 so far is 15 percent higher than last year. The crisis in Venezuela is impacting Cuba economically making tourism a priority source of hard income. In the past the regime has demonstrated a resistance to reporting or it has under-reported on the outbreaks of diseases in the island.

Shouldn't the Associated Press mention any of this in its unquestioning reporting of what Cuban officials are saying today about Zika? This may mean little for Cubans on the island, but the spread of the virus will pose a danger to tourists visiting the island who not being advised of the danger may return home as asymptomatic carriers of the virus spreading it in their country unknowingly.

However there is also a failure on reporting on how Cubans are being treated versus foreign visitors at healthcare facilities in Cuba.  Translating Cuba has a report from Juan Juan Almeida "Zika Reveals the True Character of the Cuban Health Service" on the differing treatment facilities and standards of care that should be newsworthy but goes unmentioned in AP's reporting. Cubans receive far inferior healthcare in their own country compared to treatment meted out to foreigners..

However, even foreigners have had nightmare experiences with Cuban healthcare. Not that the Associated Press will report on it.

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