In the wake of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the mainstream United States media published a slew of stories condemning the so-called human rights violations that led to his hunger strike. While Tamayo’s death is a tragic occurrence, such factual misrepresentation compounds the tragedy by exploiting the death for political ends.
United States criticisms of foreign state abuses of power often ring hollow. This is especially true when the criticisms are directed at a nation that has suffered from a half-century-long economic embargo and unconstitutional travel ban by the greatest economic power in the world. It also carries little weight coming from a media that pays scant attention to treatment of the ever-expanding U.S. prison population and human rights violations that take place within our own borders.
The political motivation behind this media onslaught is clear. During the Bush Administration, the United States paid Cuban “dissidents” to criticize the Cuban government. Since the overthrow of the U.S.-aligned dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, over $20 million a year has been funneled to anti-Castro activists and media outlets in both countries. Now the media is utilizing a tragic incident to browbeat the Communist government of Cuba.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has long opposed this double standard toward the Cuban government and calls on the media to recognize U.S.-propagated human rights abuses, particularly in Latin America. Since 1946, the U.S. government has operated the School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in Fort Benning, Georgia). The 61,000 graduates of the School have been trained in torture techniques and have gone on to overthrow democratically-elected governments in several Latin American nations. These coups and the regimes that follow them have involved massive human rights violations, with hardly any coverage from U.S. media.
NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian said, “The National Lawyers Guild opposes infractions of human rights anywhere, but Cuban prison officials acted properly when Zapata decided to go on a hunger strike. We urge the media to turn its attention to real human rights violations and deadly foreign policies in this country and elsewhere.”
The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.