Personal and political: The anti-Castro blogosphere reacts to Cindy Sheehan's Cuba visit

Hell hath no fury like an anti-Castro blogger confronted with the idea of a US anti-war activist's visit to Cuba. Or so the reactions to Cindy Sheehan‘s visit to the island would suggest. Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq, came to the world's attention in August 2005 for her extended vigil at a peace camp outside George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. No stranger to controversy nor to personal attacks, Sheehan travelled to Cuba on January 6, 2007, along with 11 other human rights activists, to participate in the January 11 demonstrations demanding the closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba. Nearly 400 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The tone of the much of the commentary on Sheehan's visit from anti-Castro bloggers has been predictably strident. The influential Babalú Blog led the charge on January 4 with the following:

Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Code Frustrated Lesbians Pink and other prominent Useless Tools will be traveling to Cuba next week to protest Gitmo, hold press conferences in Havana and quite possibly enjoy a Jinete or three. . . .

Of course, this group of f***tards will not be visiting the Kilo Ocho prison or any of the other Cuban prisons shown in this pamphlet. They wont be visiting Oscar Elias Biscet or any of the other prisoners of conscience held in castro's gulags.

Nope. They'll be visiting Gitmo, where the detainees live better than the average Cuban citizen.

With a tip of the hat to Babalú‘s post, Ziva weighed in by focusing on the feminist anti-war group Code Pink, one of the organisers of the visit:

Head Pinko Cindy Sheehan and her commie friends are at it again. Code Pink is using the internet to solicit funds for illegal travel to Cuba. Their goal? To shut down Guantanamo. They say it's to end the inhumane treatment of prisoners, but that's a lie. They've never said one word about the inhumane treatment Cubans endure in castro´s gulag. Code Pink's sponsorship of trips to Cuba, Venezuela, and Iraq, are not to achieve world peace, but to obstuct the U.S. government´s defense against terroism because these anti-American traitors actively aide and support our enemies. Code Pink leaders Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, and Jody Evans are not pacifists, they're “revolutionaries” who wish to impose a totalitarian government modeled after fidel castro's Cuba on the United States.

Citing an appeal for funds from Code Pink's web site, Ziva said that “this is a violation of U.S. law. Notice when you click to donate you're directed to a form with different wording. This is a ruse to cover their backs in case the Feds take notice. They've previously been caught altering the webpage when things got too hot.”

Texas-based Marc Masferrer, one of the less strident — and more thorough — among the anti-Castro bloggers, offered a slightly more tempered version of Babalú's post:

Just another venue for the “peace mom” to spread her hate for America. . . .

There have been abuses at Gitmo. But they are no match for the horrors found on the other side of the fenceline, on the rest of the island.

But, of course, there will be no such marches to any of the dozens of prisons in the Cuban gulag, where brave men like Juan Herrera, Normando Hernandez and Oscar Biscet languish for exercising the same rights Sheehan has used to become such an embarassment.

Later on January 4 Masferrer republished an article about the 950 km walking pilgrimage being undertaken by Cuban Ramón Velázquez Torranso, an independent journalist from the Libertad Press Agency, to protest the Cuban regime's human rights violations, adding: “Here's a wild guess: Cindy Sheehan's visit next week to Cuba will get more coverage by the MSM than Ramón Velázquez Torranso's protest.” Then on January 5 Masferrer constrasted Sheehan and her cohorts with Cuba's “Damas de Blanco” (Ladies in White), a group comprising the wives, sisters and mothers of Cuban political prisoners. “Their methods,” Masferrer wrote, “unlike Sheehan's, are courageous and dignified, which under a tyranny like Cuba's can come with grave consequences.”

A January 6 entry from !Ya No Mas! entitled “Cindy Shame-ham, Peace Defenders, to Cuba” comprised a photo of Sheehan captioned “Cara de Culo Sheehan” (Ass-face Sheehan) and a Prensa Latina reprint. Also appearing on the same day was a post from Masferrer reporting that Ramón Velázquez Torranso and his family were arrested Camagüey. “No word yet on whether veteran marcher and “defender of peaceCindy Sheehan has taken notice,” Masferrer wrote. Later that day !Ya No Mas! — rather curiously — ran two photos and a reprint of a Reuters report on the activists’ visit without comment, but also published Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin's e-mail address.

Masferrer posted twice about the Sheehan visit on January 7. His first entry reported Sheehan's arrival in Havana, and riffed off her widely quoted comment, “anyone who knows me, knows that I am not afraid of anything,” which was uttered in response to questions about whether she had concerns about being punished for violating the ban on travel to Cuba by US citizens:

If she has no fear, maybe then she will take time to speak up for the hundreds of political prisoners languishing in her hosts’ gulag. After all, their bravery easily surpasses any courage Sheehan has ever demonstrated.

Until Sheehan surprises us like that, she is nothing more, as Charlie Bravo at KillCastro wrote, an “accomplice of the suffering of the Cuban people.”

Masferrer's second entry was an update on the plights of several Cuban political prisoners, with the astute comment: “Still no word on whether Cindy Sheehan will speak up for these and other Cuban political prisoners.”

Also on January 7, US blogger Don Rogers tried to make a connection between Sheehan's visit to Cuba and Fidel Castro's much-speculated-upon illness:

Could it be a coincidence that radical nut-case Cindy Sheehan, in violation of U.S. law has begun a grand tour of the communist country.

I don’t think so, who else would make a good replacement for the loudmouth, American hating Fidel!!! I just hope when she gets to Guantanamo and onto U.S. soil, they toss her ass in with the rest of the terrorist. See how much she loves these killers then.

Rogers’ compatriot The Skipper also advocated imprisonment for “media whore” Sheehan, as did Texas Freds, who called Sheehan an “ugly bitch”. Accusations of unattractiveness — and lesbianism — were also rampant on the comments thread for Babalú Blog‘s January 7 entry, in which Val Prieto posted an image of Sheehan and two fellow activists, along with acomplaint that a Google News search for “Cindy Sheehan” Cuba yielded only articles that made no mention of political prisoners in Cuba:

“the people in that pic, they used to be dudes right?”

“Actually, they remind me of the three (women?) Borat interviewed in his movie. . . “

“Is there a mandatory ugliness quota for moonbat peace protesters. For once could one of them no look like someone who slept in their clothes, or couldn't they get their hair done, or maybe just shave their hairlips for the Lord's sake.”

“…Are they lesbians?… She looks like a guy I used to know….”

January 7 found Marc Masferrer continuing his campaign to gain attention for Cuba's political prisoners:

I'd rather ignore Cindy Sheehan, but her current visit to Cuba to trash America is an outrage that no responsible person can allow to go unchallenged, since too many of my colleagues in the MSM have already decided to do just that. Yes, the Associated Press and other wire services did report that Sheehan arrived in Havana on Saturday, but in none of the stories has their been even a cursory mention of the fact that her Cuban hosts run one of the worst gulags in the world.

And there has been no indication that any reporter has asked Sheehan, long ago annointed as some sort of saint for her “bravery,” whether she would challenge the regime for how it treats its prisoners.

Also writing on January 7, Ziva accused Sheehan and “her group, Code Pink” of donating money to “the enemy responsible for her son's death”. The link included in the article leads to an article in FrontPage magazine stating that Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin was among a group of leftist activists who donated US$600,000 in cash and supplies to house refugees in Fallujah, Iraq. (The article makes no mention of Sheehan).

This morning Marc Masferrer resorted to posting a mug shot of Sheehan from the McLennan County (Texas) Sheriff's office, with the caption: “For various crimes of ignorance, stupidity, vapidness and general moonbattery.” The Western Hemisphere Policy Watch blog, criticising the “gratuitous snipe” made by Sheehan about ending the US embargo against Cuba, exhorted Sheehan to “keep talking”:

Anyhow, with these silly comments about U.S. policy on Cuba, ease the embargo, Sheehan and her fellow lefty cohorts may have done all of us hardliners a favor. Please keep talking and show the world, and our policymakers, the lunacy of your ways. When the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) newspaper praises everything you say and do, please, keep talking Cindy Sheehan, keep talking.

Today's post from !Ya No Mas! also had a whiff of desperation about it. It comprised an AP article (ES) reporting that Sheehan and Medea Benjamin had given a speech in Havana encouraging Latino youth not to be hoodwinked by the US military into going to Iraq, along with a photo of cleverly animated photograph showing Sheehan picking her nose and holding a bottle of purple KoolAid.

Another post from !Ya No Mas! landed in my aggregator just as I was about to post this article, however, reprinting an article (ES) reporting that the Damas de Blanco have written to Sheehan requesting a meeting and explaining the plight of Cuba's prisoners of conscience. “At the same time that you and your honourable followers are devoting your efforts towards the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Naval Base. . . ,” the letter is quoted as saying, “only a few miles away, in the prison of the province of Guántanamo, on Cuban soil, peace-loving and defenseless prisoners of conscience and political prisoners are forced to tolerate inhuman conditions. . . . “

In anticipation of a question likely to be raised by readers — and rightly so — I should say that pro-Castro (whatever that phrase may mean) bloggers are largely silent on the matter of Sheehan's Cuba sojourn. Anti-Castro bloggers are likely to respond by saying that this is because their work is already being done by the mainstream media. And so far, only one blogger from inside Cuba — Zenia — has mentioned the Sheehan visit, in the form of a brief statement of the basic facts.


  • Pro-Cuba blogs are probably “silent” because there is no news here. Just like many of Sheehan’s antics, the trip is devoid of much influence and seems likely to backfire.

    Of course I back her struggle to end the war, but am probably not alone in wishing she would broaden the movement and let others step up to the plate.

    I will say that the idea that Sheehan should visit the prisons of another country as part of her trip is a bit absurd. After all, she is a US citizen and therefore what her Government does to people is of more concern than what a foreign government does.

  • Would Sheehan’s visit to Cuba have gotten better reception from those bloggers if she had made an effort to bring light to domestic human rights issues? Or are they just out to roast her no matter what she does? Or, did she in the end make that effort, which was conveniently overlooked?

  • John, for the bloggers who are genuinely concerned with Cuba’s domestic human rights issues it’s possible that Sheehan could gain a few points by acknowledging the problems within Cuba itself, but probably only a few. In the eyes of those who support the Iraq war I think Sheehan’s pretty much damned no matter what she does, and she’s also spoken out against the US embargo against Cuba, which many of the bloggers I’ve quoted are also against lifting.

    As leftside points out above, Sheehan has come to Cuba on a very specific mission, but I don’t think the idea that she should should show concern for Cuba’s domestic situation is necessarily “absurd” — people meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries all the time. Sheehan could probably score points with the anti-Castro side by meeting with the Damas de Blanco, but it’s unlikely that she could do so without pissing off the Cuban government, who are, after all, her hosts on this trip. Several blogs this morning are carrying the full text of the Damas’ letter to Sheehan, but no word yet as to her response. Will be interesting to see how she deals with this one.

  • Amy

    It is upsetting to see so much of the anti-Sheehan attacks focusing on her looks rather than her politics (as is the case for so many attacks on outspoken public females – do you ever read this kind of sexist junk written about Michael Moore or Al Gore?)

    I agree that it is contradictory of Sheehan to protest prisoner abuse while acting as guest of a government with such a horrible record of prison. I will also be interested to hear her response to the letter composed by las Damas de Blanco.

  • I am the director of one of the online PRAVDA versions.

    What is it you people have with Cuba?

    Did Cuba invade Iraq? Did Cuba breach the UN Charter? Did Cuba commit war crimes? Did Cuba torture innocent prisoners, use acts of sexual depravity against civilians and rape women?
    Then I do not see what you are so aeriated about. Communism works if it is not blockaded, you lot never gave Ciuba a chance but even so their education system is better than yours.

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