Times Sees a Perky Cuban Economy Under Raul

"Cuba Perks Up as Venezuela's Lifeline Foils U.S. Embargo," blared the headline for Juan Forero's page A3 story in the August 4 New York Times.

Relax, fair Times reader. The Cuban economy won't collapse under Raul Castro:

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Aug. 3 - As Raúl Castro takes up the task of leading Cuba in place of his brother Fidel, there is, surprisingly, one less thing he may have to worry about: the state of Cuba's economy.

Forero goes on to hint that Cuba's woes as resulting from Bush administration policies, not a fundamentally unsound socialist economy:

The credit goes, in large part, to the economic lifeline thrown to Cuba by the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, who is using his country's tremendous oil reserves to prop up the Castro government and counter Bush administration policy in Latin America.

Forero later attempted to render a sober assessment of the Cuban economy:

One of the world's last Communist countries, Cuba's economy is far from healthy, but it is also a world away from the one left destitute and marooned when Cuba's long-time benefactor, the Soviet Union, collapsed, beginning in about 1989.

Of course, Forero excludes any mention of why the Soviet Union collapsed or how its oil production was a source of the cash with which it was able to prop up Cuba.

Eventually, Forero returned to flowery language that conflated a tourist-friendly Havana market with the overall shape of the economy for the island's 11 million subjects.

At the Farmers Market on 19th Street in Havana on Thursday, stalls were brimming with super-sized avocados and mangoes. String beans were almost a foot long. Rolls came out warm from the oven. Vendors offered lobster and shrimp caught fresh that morning. And the place was bustling with paying customers.

Despite quaint window-dressing in tourist-friendly cities like Havana, the Castro regime is far from close to opening the floodgates of reform that would bring properity to the Cuban people.

In fact, say Cuba experts like Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute and Cato Institute's Ian Vasquez, Raul Castro is enough of a pragmatist to allow for some reforms in the early '90s, but still rigidly commmitted to maintaining the status quo.

Wrote Falcoff in an August 2 New York Post op-ed:

Until fairly recently, it was probably true that normalizing relations with the United States-at least getting the existing trade and travel embargo lifted-was Cuba's No. 1 foreign-policy priority. This may no longer be the case. The combination of tourist revenues and Chávez's gifts of oil have relieved the regime of its most pressing necessities.

In other words, the monkey is off Castro's back and further economic reforms are unlikely to come down the pike.

TimesWatch.org's parent company, the Media Research Center (MRC) recently detailed a history of the media's cheerleading of Fidel Castro's Communism.

The MRC's Business & Media Institute also recently weighed in on how NBC's Andrea Mitchell portrayed Raul Castro as a hard-liner with a soft spot for free enterprise.