The Cuban government and state-controlled press have disseminated the same bogus GI gang-rape photos that WorldNetDaily reported originated on porn sites.
As previously reported by WND, the publication of the images and stories about the images added confusion to the unfolding Abu Ghraib crisis especially in the Middle East, where top newspapers and political sites published the hard-core porn photos side-by-side with genuine photos of abuse.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba has published eight of the gang-rape porn photos under the heading, "Accusing Photos." A link on the Ministry's main page, called "The photos that the US does not want to be seen," ("Las Fotos que EE.UU no quiere que se vean") takes readers to a page that presents real photos of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse along with the eight fake rape photos, plus three fake photos of abuse by British soldiers which were published but then retracted by the Daily Mirror.
As of publication time, Felipe P?rez Roque, minister of foreign affairs for Cuba, could not be reached for comment. Roque was appointed in May of 1999.
The URL of the Cuban Ministry photo page, "De la Prensa Cubana," suggests the photos were republished from state-controlled media.
Indeed, Diario Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba's Communist Party, published the fake "rape" photos in the online May 7 edition under the title, "Humiliate, beat, torture and murder, these are the rules of American soldiers." (""Humillar, golpear, torturar y asesinar... m?ximas de los soldados norteamericanos.")
A May 10 story by Jean-Guy Allard, titled "Abu Ghraib prison: The images of horror," contains three of the fake rape photos and is linked to from a special section of the website called Huellas de la 'Liberaci?n' de Iraq ("Traces of Iraq's 'Liberation'").
Underneath the link to Allard's story and a thumbnail photo of a hooded prisoner reads the following: "Images reminiscent of the horrors of Hitler's concentration camps go around the world." ("Im?genes que recuerdan los horrores de los campos de concentraci?n hitlerianos, recorren el mundo.")
Unlike other media outlets that published the staged photos and/or stories about the photos, Allard suggests they are of British, not American soldiers. He writes: "Many pictures are simply revolting, they show Iraqi women being sodomized by British soldiers." ("Muchas fotos son simplemente asquerosas. Ense?an mujeres iraqu?es mientras son sodomizadas por soldados de Gran Breta?a.")
The fake rape photos were also published in Juventud Rebelde ("Rebel Youth"), the official newspaper of Cuba's Union of Communist Youth. Juventud Rebelde has a circulation rate second only to Granma. Four of the fake rape photos are published alongside genuine photos of abuse under the title, "Torture, abuse, mistreatment and humiliation." ("Torturas, abusos, maltratos y humillaciones.")
Juventud Rebelde has a weekly journal called La Jiribilla, which also published the fake rape photos under "Galeria de las Fotos del Horror" ("Gallery of the horror pictures"). In addition, the Jean-Guy Allard piece is republished in La Jiribilla.
Chris Perez, of South Florida's Cuba Free Press Project, brought the Cuban publication of the images to WND's attention.
"Keep in mind that nothing gets published in that newspaper without Castro's personal authorization," Perez said. "In a country where all the media is monopolized by the government and no alternate press is allowed, it is not difficult to figure out what's next. If it is published in Granma, it gets re-published again and again and every big and little local news outlet across the country."
Perez was born and educated in revolutionary Cuba, graduated in the Soviet Union, and arrived to the U.S. in the early '90s. A telecommunications engineer by profession, Perez runs the interactive Cuba Free Press website which publishes articles on the Internet and serves as a discussion forum for related issues. During the last six years he has investigated the intricacies of Cuba's internal digital networks and the regime's use of the Internet for asymmetrical operations and propaganda.
Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans fronti?res), an international organization that defends and supports press freedom, calls Cuba the world's biggest prison for journalists and labels Fidel Castro "a predator of press freedom."
"There are instigators and powerful people behind press freedom violations whose responsibility is not always apparent," reads one RSF statement. "Whether presidents, ministers, chiefs of staff, religious leaders or the heads of armed groups, these predators of press freedom have the power to censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and, in the worst cases, murder journalists."
Ironically, Granma's Jean-Guy Allard, after producing the article featuring the fake rape photos, went on to castigate Robert M?nard, secretary general of RSF, for "contradictions," labeling him a probable CIA agent, due to his efforts to contact and elicit information from Cuban dissident writers.
"Robert M?nard is not afraid of contradictions," Allard wrote. "... His defense of press freedom is a farce, a fraud, a grotesque tale that does not correspond in the slightest with what he's actually doing." Allard also accused M?nard of circulating "slander, lies and libelous comments."
Juan Granados, editor of the Cuban Free Press Project, emphasized the veracity of the assessment made by Reporters without Borders, and underlined the irony of Cuba ignoring its own scandalous prison abuses.
The editor told WND that out of the 75 dissidents imprisoned last year in a notorious roundup, 25 had written for the Cuba Free Press Project or relayed information for publication to them.
The 75, whose prison terms averaged 20 years each, were charged with belonging to "illegal" groups of independent journalists, running independent newspapers and libraries,and associating with American diplomats.
"We've stopped publishing new writers," Granados said. "The damage done to our people has been significant. We are under great stress. This is a time of great pain for us."
"We have been working hard to support freedom of the press, and all it seems we have accomplished it to get these writers into prison."
"It is unbelievable, these independent journalists in Cuba now live in individual drawers in prison."
Granados was referring to prisoners kept in solitary confinement in lightless cells called gavetas. According to dissident testimony, the most recent version of the gavetas resemble coffins and measure approximately 7 feet long by 18 inches tall by 24 inches wide.
In October of last year, the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights reported on conditions of psychological and physical terror and torture suffered by women detained in the gavetas. The "drawers" reportedly include a hole on the ground for "bodily needs," and are infested with a multitude of rodents, roaches and other insects. Juan Carlos Gonz?lez Leiva, the imprisoned, blind lawyer and president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights reported hearing "screams of tormented women in panic and desperation who cry for God's mercy." Leiva claimed the women were sometimes injected with sedatives to silence them. (Leiva's description was publicized via his wife Maritza Calderin in a conversation that was taped, transcribed and translated into English by the Coalition of Cuban-American Women.)
Cuba has not allowed the International Red Cross to visit or inspect its prisons since 1989.
Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, previously told the Washington Post about the "punishment cells" (gavetas) in which the 75 dissidents are held. He told the reporter the cells were about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long.
"These jails are like concentration camps," Sanchez said. "There is no doubt that this is a deliberate policy of extreme cruelty on the part of the state."
Cuba Free Press Project Editor Juan Granados declined further comment to WND, saying: "I have been very affected by all of this. Last year I had a heart attack."
But he added, "Thank you. In the name of all those in prison now, thank you for taking an interest in them."