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      U.S. Media Celebrity Lies About Cuba -
      Why Rush Limbaugh Fears Socialist Cuba

      By Tamara Hansen

      On August 14, 2015 Rush Limbaugh, famed ultraconservative radio host of The Rush Limbaugh Show had a special segment about the reestablishment of US- Cuba diplomatic relations. On The Rush Limbaugh Show website, the transcript of the Cuba segment is titled, “The American Left Celebrates: Viva Fidel!”

      He opened the radio piece explaining, “The American flag was raised today over the American embassy in Havana, Cuba. Such a great day for the Drive-Bys, such a great day for the American left, and such a great day for Fidel Castro. Victory for Fidel Castro is considered victory for the American media.”

      During his usual rant-style commentary Limbaugh mentioned many different issues seemingly off the top of his head: Elite Americans and their desire to smoke Cuban Cigars for photo-ops. He explained how, “Traditionally, America has liberated people from oppression all over the world.” He also stated, “Dissidents are celebrated here [in the U.S.]; in Cuba they’re put in jail." He ended his rant proclaiming that, “We fought a war to liberate Cuba, which was under the jackbooted thug Spanish dictatorship! Have you ever heard of the Spanish-American War? It was also called The War for Cuban Independence.” All these exaggerated comments and lies just to emphasize his discontent with the reestablishment of US-Cuba diplomatic relations.

      Who is Rush Limbaugh?

      Rush Limbaugh is one of the most popular voices of the right-wing in the United States. His show, The Rush Limbaugh Show, claims to enjoy 20 million listeners weekly, although these numbers have been criticized by many mainstream news publications, including the Washington Post and Business Insider who believe Limbaugh’s actual number of listeners is probably closer to 14 million, or possibly only 1.4 million a week. However, what we do know is that his opinions are taken seriously by political pundits and many right-leaning people across the U.S. and his show is popular enough to have stayed on-air for over 25 years, it launched in 1988.

      This of course, does not mean he is universally liked. In fact, his views on many issues are so unpopular that there are several websites dedicated to boycotting his sponsors, #StopRush is a popular hashtag on twitter and there are several online petitions with various demands against Rush Limbaugh.

      Here are some of the gems spouted by Limbaugh on his show that have stirred up controversy:

      Example 1, when Limbaugh was discussing consent versus rape he opined, “No means yes, if you know how to spot it”.

      Example 2, in 2007 Limbaugh repeatedly played a song, which was written and recorded specifically for the Rush Limbaugh Show called, “Barack the Magic Negro”.

      Example 3, in 2011 when the tsunami hit Japan and thousands were killed or left homeless, Limbaugh laughed as he said, “The Japanese have done so much to save the planet. [...] Even now, refugees are still recycling their garbage, and yet Gaia levels them [laughs], just wipes them out. Wipes out their nuclear plants, all kinds of radiation. What kind of payback is this?” Example 4, when discussing Michelle Obama’s weight and programs for healthy eating Limbaugh said, “if you are going to tell everyone to eat twigs and berries and gravel and all this other stuff, you had better look like an Ethiopian.”

      Okay and a final example, about Indigenous people in the U.S., Limbaugh said, “How many Native Americans, how many Indians were killed by the arrival of the white man through disease and war, and how many people have died since the white man arrived here due to lung cancer thanks to the Indian-invented custom of smoking tobacco? Who are the real killers here?”

      So for those not familiar with Limbaugh’s name, now you have a better idea of where he is coming from.

      Limbaugh on Cuban Healthcare

      Limbaugh says that the new diplomatic ties mean, “in due course we’ll have access to that wonderful, superior Cuban health care system that has only been available to the elite and the precious few, such as Michael Moore and Sean Penn and, well, maybe some others.”

      First, while Limbaugh is trying to be sarcastic in calling Cuba’s healthcare system “wonderful” and “superior” some people have made the case that in many ways it is true. Two of those people are Michael Moore, who created and directed the film Sicko in 2007 where he took a group of ill 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for health treatment because many could not afford proper treatment in the United States. Sean Penn is a left-wing actor well known for supporting the social gains of the Cuban revolution.

      Important to add to this is that Michael Moore did not take the “elite” to Cuba, he took people that he considered American heroes who could not afford healthcare in their own country. While making fun of Michael Moore, Limbaugh completely ignored the very real health crisis facing these American workers. According to the New York Post article from August 9, 2015, “The rising toll of Ground Zero responders and others afflicted with 9/11-linked cancers has hit 3,700.” According to another article, “9/11 death toll rises as cancer cases soar among emergency workers” from the UK Telegraph from July 2014, “The compensation bill for treating those who became ill after helping in the long-running recovery operation at Ground Zero has already run into millions of dollars.” These workers are having to apply for compensation from The September 11 Victims Compensation Fund and the WTC Health Program – because the healthcare system in the United States is exactly what Limbaugh accuses Cuba of being “available to the elite and the precious few."

      At the same time, when we compare U.N.I.C.E.F. health statistics we can also see the gains of Cuba’s healthcare system under the Cuban revolution. For example, in the U.S. infant mortality means that 6 babies will die before their first birthday for every 1,000 babies born. In Cuba the infant mortality is lower with only 4 deaths/1,000 live births, in fact Cuba’s is the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas. In 2012, life expectancy at birth for a baby was 78.8 years in the United States, in the same year in Cuba babies were born with a life expectancy of 79.1 years. These are important factors showing that it is not only “elite” Cubans who benefit from their healthcare system, but the general population. Not only that, but on some important indicators, such as life expectancy and infant mortality, Cubans are actually healthier and better off than Americans.

      Limbaugh on Cuban “dissidents”

      Rush Limbaugh’s greatest criticism of the reestablishment of US-Cuba relations, has to do with the so- called “dissidents,” the Cubans who are calling for the overthrow of the Cuban government and socialist system. Limbaugh’s perspective is, “any dissidents in Havana, any dissidents in Cuba who seek to speak out against the regime are put in jail, and now the American flag is essentially flying proudly over that real-life circumstance. People that want to show up at Castro’s -- doesn’t give speeches anymore, but -- public events in Cuba and protest or just be dissidents for freedom? Dissidents are celebrated here; in Cuba they’re put in jail. And we are proud as we can be to be normalizing relations with such a forward, revolutionary thinking as Fidel Castro. Damn right. This is the kind of ally we’ve always needed. This is the kind of support we’ve needed internationally, and it’s about time we got it, right?”

      First we have to ask, who are the “dissidents” in Cuba? In a fairly straightforward explanation of the situation in Cuba, Business Insider published an article on July 23, 2015 titled, “US politicians are now ignoring the Cuban dissidents they once courted.” They write, “Cuban officials are highly sensitive to the issue of domestic dissidents, whom they call mercenaries and tools of a U.S.- backed policy aimed at overturning the half-century-old socialist revolution. Many dissidents receive support from anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in Florida. They have been unable to generate widespread support on the island because of intense government pressure aimed at stifling popular organizing and because many ordinary Cubans believe dissidents only want to earn money, renown and visas to live in the U.S. Advocates for the Obama administration’s policy say recent congressional visits have aimed to take the pulse of a broader swath of society: small- time entrepreneurs who have set up shop under the economic reforms of recent years; foreign diplomats and businesspeople operating in Havana; and regular Cubans who have complaints about Internet access and other issues without calling outright for a 180-degree change of the political system.”

      What can Limbaugh learn from this article? To begin with, there is no automatic ‘go to jail’ card for Cuban dissidents. But yes, if they are being paid by a foreign government to attempt to over-throw the government in Cuba they can be put on trial and found guilty – it is called acting as an agent of a foreign government or treason. It is also a crime in the US and Canada! It is also true that “regular” Cubans want to see changes and improvements in their society, but that sentiment exists in every country in the world! As Business Insider explains these are, “regular Cubans who have complaints about Internet access and other issues without calling out right for a 180-degree change of the political system.” Furthermore, it is not just Cubans and their government that believe these dissidents are motivated by personal gain and not altruistic desires to “be dissidents for freedom” as Limbaugh put it. The USAID openly admits on its website to helping dissidents in Cuba. They explain, “USAID supports independent civic, social, and development activities by providing technical and material assistance to organize, train, and energize small groups of people within their communities.” The website also explains that USAID programs have received several million dollars a year to operate in Cuba from the Congress of the United States.

      Next we need to look at Limbaugh’s claim that, “Dissidents are celebrated here; in Cuba they’re put in jail.” I am pretty sure Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, two whistleblowers who have exposed U.S. crimes would whole-heartedly disagree. Snowden had to flee to Russia and seek asylum there because the U.S. government wants to put him in jail for exposing that it was spying on its own citizens and people around the world through the National Security Agency (N.S.A.) and Manning is currently serving a 35 year sentence in an American military prison for leaking documents and videos showing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can also name many other political prisoners in the U.S. who have been framed with trumped up charges based on their status as independent journalists, social justice activists and dissidents: Mumia Abu- Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera and hundreds of others. Maybe the right- wing dissenters that Limbaugh supports are better treated? But saying that these people are celebrated in the U.S. media or by the government as dissidents is ludicrous.

      Finally, we need to ask why Limbaugh is so unhappy about having Cuba as an international ally for the United States. Cuba is widely respected internationally. Cuba has diplomatic or consular relations with 187 countries and States. It is also a member of many important international organizations: the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and many United Nations agencies such as UNICEF and UNESCO. We can also compare the fact that Cuba is sending doctors and educators around the world to provide free healthcare and literacy to rural and remote communities. While the United States is basically known internationally for corporate pollution and exploitation, spying and monitoring, setting up military bases on foreign soil, extra-judicial killings by drone strikes and war.

      Limbaugh on Cuban democracy

      Rush Limbaugh then tries to explain his understanding of Cuban parliament, “Hardly anybody knows this because nobody cares, but the fact is that more than 60% of the Cuban population is descended from slaves. Not that you would ever know it, particularly if you looked at photos of the Cuban parliament. Do you know the Cuban parliament, for whatever purpose it serves... I mean, it’s a rubber stamp. But do you know that it’s practically lily white? And when’s the last time you saw a lily white Cuban citizen? But nobody says it."

      First, we have to ask, is the Cuban Parliament really “a rubber stamp”? The last election for the Cuban parliament was held in 2013. According to Juventud Rebelde , over 7.8 million Cubans voted in the election, which means their election boasted 90.8% voter turnout. Of the ballots cast, 94% were valid, 1% were spoiled ballots and 5% were blank, this is an amazing voter participation rate, especially because Canada is fighting to get over 60% turnout and the U.S. voter turnout was about 58% for the 2012 presidential election. Why would Cubans be so interested in participating and voting in these elections if they felt the parliament was just “a rubber stamp”?

      Second, we have to investigate this “lily white” status of Cuban parliament members. Of the delegates elected in 2013, 67% were re-elected to their seat, the average age of delegates is 48. Most important to respond to Rush Limbaugh’s “lily white” accusation, is that 37% of the over 612 delegates are black or “mestizo” (multiracial). Despit what Limbaugh believes, according to the C.I.A.’s own WorldFactBook, Cuba’s general population is 64.1% white, 26.6% mestizo and 9.3% black, which means people of colour are well represented in the Cuban parliament.

      On the other hand, we have the U.S. Congress, which is definitely “lily white” when compared to the American population. Despite the title of the PewResearch Center ’s January 2015 article, “114th Congress is most diverse ever”. They explain, “Overall, non-whites make up 17% of the new Congress, but that is below these groups’ 38% share of the nation’s population. This difference also exists among the newly elected members of Congress, as minorities account for 11 of 71 new members of the House and Senate.” So even though the current congress is the most diverse in American history – it is still nowhere near representative of the American populace.

      I would also like to take the opportunity to discuss the role of women in Cuban parliament. On June 9, 2015 the New York Times published, “The Cuban woman: A rising power” an article that stated, “Cuba consistently ranks high in international surveys regarding women’s status, standing at 18 among 142 nations in women’s political empowerment and at number two for percentage of women in parliament, according to the 2014 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. By contrast, the United States is ranked at 54 in women’s political empowerment and 83 for women in parliament (U.S. Senate and U.S. House).”

      Continuing, the article explains, “Today, women make up nearly half of [Cuba]’s work force and more than half of university faculties, and hold top portfolios in the ministries. Among the best educated in the West, they make up the majority of high school and college graduates, the majority in technical and administrative jobs, 33.6 percent of directors and executives, and a remarkable 48.9 percent of the Cuban parliament, the National Assembly.” Maybe this is one of the reasons Rush Limbaugh is so afraid of Cuban socialism, he has often referred to feminists and those fighting for gender equality as ‘feminazis’ in his rants.

      Limbaugh on Guantanamo Limbaugh also makes it very clear that he is concerned about the future of the U.S. naval base and prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. You might think, oh finally he is making some sense, but he is not concerned in the way that most of humanity is troubled by Guantanamo. He said, “So then the next question, ladies and gentlemen: How long will it be...? Seriously, how long will it be before Barack Hussein Obama gives Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba? For all the talk about here the American flag today being raised today over Cuba, the American flag has been flying proudly at Guantanamo Bay.”

      According to Limbaugh, an American flag has been proudly flying over Guantanamo. What exactly is proud about that flag? In 2011, Amnesty International published a 64 page report with the title, “Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights”. The report concludes with the following paragraph, “A month before the 10 th anniversary of the Guantánamo detentions, two retired US Marine generals characterized the detention facility as a “morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse”. It is not just a symbol of past abuse, however, but of a continuing assault by the USA on human rights principles. Two and a half years ago, President Obama said that the Guantánamo detentions were a “misguided experiment”, but his administration has kept the laboratory operating. Also in 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder said that he and President Obama were in agreement that “Guantánamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us”. How much longer does the world have to wait until the USA steps into a future without the Guantánamo detention facility, and adopts an approach to countering terrorism that incorporates full respect for its international human rights obligations?” Guantanamo has become synonymous around the world with torture, illegal detentions, violations of human rights, hunger strikes, torturous force feeding, lack of access to due legal process and the hypocrisy of the U.S. war on terror. What is Limbaugh so proud of?

      It is also unclear why Limbaugh is so worried about Obama giving up Guantanamo bay. Clearly that territory is not part of the United States, clearly it is attached to the rest of the sovereign island of Cuba- why shouldn’t the U.S. government give it back to its rightful owners? Why shouldn’t the U.S. government stop using Guantanamo as an international torture facility and give up their military base? Would the U.S. allow the Cuban government to have a Cuban military base in California, Florida or somewhere else in the United States?

      Limbaugh on US foreign policy & freedom

      While not directly discussing Cuba Limbaugh makes many great claims on behalf of America. He said things like, “Traditionally, America has liberated people from oppression all over the world and seen to it that freedom and economic advancement has been the story of the day." Adding to that he explains, ““What is it that enabled people to elevate themselves and escape the bonds of poverty?” It wasn’t social safety net programs. It wasn’t big federal government. It was freedom, liberty, and capitalism which allowed this economic march.” Well Limbaugh, the world begs to differ with your track record.

      Fidel Castro has a great quote, he once said, “They talk about the failure of socialism, but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?” While the U.S. and its imperialist allies have prospered with capitalism, we have to ask how? It is not because they work harder or are inherently smarter. It is because they have stolen the wealth of other people. Whether we are talking about natural resources in Africa, sweat shops in Asia or cutting down the rainforests of Latin America to grow food to cheaply feed people in the so-called first world. But even that division, between the so-called north and south, rich and poor, is fake, because within the imperialist countries themselves there is a growing divide between rich and poor. Limbaugh is advocating what he sees as the successes of this system. While the rest of the world is looking around at the environmental impact, the social impact and the growing divisions between human beings and saying this has to stop!

      Did you know that last week according to Yahoo! News a young American father, Brian Randolph, held up a bank in Michigan? He was later arrested and admitted that “his motive was to pay for his child’s chemotherapy since his insurance company was no longer paying for the pricey treatments. The child suffers from an eye cancer called retinoblastoma. The 23-year-old has been charged with armed robbery and bank robbery, which could land him a maximum sentence of life in prison.”

      This news story was really infuriating. This is one small example of why many refuse to believe Mr. Limbaugh and his co-thinkers, we refuse to believe that capitalism is the only way forward for humanity. Shouldn’t jobs, healthcare, education, and homes be considered basic human rights guaranteed to every human being at birth?

      Of course there are many further claims that Limbaugh makes during his segment about the U.S. government being known as “a beacon for freedom”, that the U.S. has “liberated people to freedom” and that the U.S. “eliminated tyranny where we could”. These are important points that need to be confronted, but there is no space for exposing all of his hyperbolic nonsense in this article.

      Why is Limbaugh so afraid of Cuba?

      Limbaugh’s ideas about Cuba represent the old guard of the American ruling class. These are people who have generally been in favour of the U.S. policy of blockade and sabotage against the Cuban revolution since 1959. This group does not feel that the last 50 years of hostility between the U.S. and Cuba have been a waste. They want to isolate Cuba and its socialist example and pretend it does not exist.

      Today with the reestablishment of US- Cuba relations we see a different side of the US ruling class, a side that is hated by Mr. Limbaugh and his co-thinkers. Despite what Limbaugh claims, the Obama administration still hopes to see regime change in Cuba. Obama also hopes to defeat the gains of Cuba’s socialist revolution. However, Obama believes that the policy of the last 50 years has been a failure at reaching these goals, so he plans use his favourite ‘smart power’ strategy with Cuba.

      The term “smart power” is defined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as “an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships, and institutions of all levels to expand American influence and establish legitimacy of American action.” This means that at this time Obama plans to re-establish US-Cuba relations while keeping the U.S. blockade against Cuba and holding on to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo. This is a part of the devious balancing act. Make no mistake, Limbaugh claims that Obama is a friend to the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro, this is not true. Obama’s plan is basically the carrot and the stick, rather than Limbaugh who would prefer to just use a stick.

      Cuba is well aware that the United States government, whether Republican or Democrat, is no friend of the Cuban people or their great socialist revolution. However, the Cuban government has weighted its options and believes that going with the Obama administration on this path is the best at this time. However, Cuba continues to push for an end to the U.S. blockade, for the U.S. to fully return Guantanamo (Obama just wants to close the torture prison, not abandon the military base) and that the U.S. stop funding their so-called ‘democracy building projects’ in Cuba, such as those of USAID.

      Despite what Limbaugh claims, the Obama administration is not at all interested in listening to those aspects of Cuba’s legitimate demands. So it is up to the peace-loving people of the world, those who believe in justice and Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, to raise our voices along with the people of Cuba and keep the pressure on the U.S. government.

      End the U.S. Blockade on Cuba Now!

      U.S. Out of Guantanamo Now!

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