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March 8, 2011 > Cuba criticizes Obama, US media

Cuba criticizes Obama, US media

By Paul Haven, Associated Press

HAVANA (AP), Feb 25 - Cuba on Friday denounced U.S. President Barack Obama as a copy of his conservative Republican predecessor, and said he gave more credence to Cuban-American exiles than his own diplomats.

An opinion piece in the official Communist Party newspaper Granma criticized Obama for supporting dissidents on the island and called for Cuba to release all political prisoners. It said the president's Wednesday statement shows he is being manipulated by exiles, uninformed advisors and a biased U.S. media.

Obama's call came on the one-year anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died after an 83-day hunger strike.

Obama termed Tamayo's death ``selfless and tragic'' and said it brought the world's attention to the mistreatment of prisoners unjustly held by Cuban authorities for standing up for the rights of the Cuban people. Tamayo's mother was briefly detained in Cuba over the weekend, an action Obama criticized.

Cuba has said its doctors did all they could to keep Tamayo alive. It maintains he and all other dissidents are common criminals, and says his jail term was extended because of poor behavior behind bars.

The Granma piece refers to a secret diplomatic cable sent out in 2009 over the signature of Jonathan Farrar, America's chief diplomat in Havana, which describes Cuban opposition groups as petty, fractured and out of touch. The cable was revealed by WikiLeaks late last year.

The article says Obama's statement made clear he had ignored his chief diplomat's council.

``The White House is giving more attention to pressure from Miami and its mafia in the capital then it is to its own diplomats,'' the article says, adding that Obama's emotional statement ``emulated his predecessor George W. Bush in its abuse of adjectives.''

The article was published next to a series of altered photos showing the face of former President George W. Bush gradually turning into that of Obama.

The newspaper also had harsh words for Cuban bloggers and the U.S. media, particularly The New York Times - the latest in a series of official articles criticizing the American press.

``In an era where newspapers are filled with more lies than advertisements... it is hard to tell who got the president so worked up, the New York Times or an adviser on the National Security Council,'' it said.

Granma also carried an article denouncing The Wall Street Journal for an editorial that drew parallels between Cuba and Egypt, where a popular uprising forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Cuba has been led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro since 1959.

The article said the newspaper's ``image of sobriety and power cannot hide fanaticism and hate.''

The articles come days after Cuban media lashed out at CNN's Spanish-language network for reporting that an opposition demonstration was going to take place in Havana. The protest never occurred.

Cuban state cable providers last month removed CNN's Spanish network from a package of channels provided mostly to hotels, foreign companies, and diplomats on the island, though no reason was given.

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