Cuban dictator Fidel Castro visited Grenada recently as the final stop on his three nation Caribbean tour, and we were struck by the diverse ways the story was covered. This was, after all, Castro’s first visit ever to the island nation where 15 years ago his troops battled U.S. troops during the U.S. invasion that successfully rescued the Americans there and liberated the people of Grenada from Communist domination following a coup attempt in which one Communist leader was killed by a party rival.
The Washington Post, not surprisingly, crafted the story to make it seem that Castro was given a heroes welcome. “Fidel Castro is Cheered in Grenada,” the front-page headline read on August 3. Castro arrived, the article gushed, quote, “to a full military salute as hundreds of Grenadians waved Cuban flags and chanted, `Fidel! Fidel!’” unquote. Every paragraph is written to suggest that Castro’s motives and actions are all admirable and generous, while the U.S. continues to bully Cuba and act petty and cruelly toward Castro’s beleaguered island nation.
The Washington Times added some badly needed perspective. Its article refers to a crowd in the hundreds also – fewer than 200, despite the fact that Prime Minister Keith Mitchell had urged the citizens, in a national broadcast, to come greet Castro. Whereas the Post never mentions Cuba’s involvement in backing the Marxist government of Maurice Bishop, which had overthrown the government of Prime Minister Eric Gairy, both the Washington Times, and even more so, the New York Times, revisit the historic encounter which was the only time that U.S. and Cuban troops officially and directly fought each other.
The New York Times piece was a front-page, above the fold story, with a color picture of Castro being greeted in full military salute. The story quoted Mitchell as saying that Castro is, quote, “one of the most distinguished and dedicated leaders of the 20th century,” unquote. Where has he been? Inside, the Times gives important additional perspective. Both The New York Times and Washington Times quote Leslie Pierre, editor of the weekly newspaper, The Grenadian Voice. According to the New York Times, Pierre had been a political prisoner under the Bishop government, and argued that a significant part of the population was opposed to Castro’s visit because they blamed him for the events of October 1983 and, quote, “can’t put the past behind them,” unquote.
Regarding the controversy over the airport the Cubans were involved in building, The Washington Times quotes Pierre, who was liberated by the U.S. invasion force, as saying that “The building of this airport was unquestionably to be a medium for exporting communism through the region.”
All three papers ignored just how serious the threat really was. The truth was not that the U.S. was bullying a little rag-tag army that posed no threat to anyone. Captured documents show how Grenada was being set up as a Soviet base in a strategic location at a critical juncture in the Cold War. Why else would the Soviets have 49, quote unquote, “diplomats” on the tiny island?