Last week Washington saw the opening of Hemingway’s, an exclusive bar situated in the section of the Swiss embassy reserved for Cuba’s communist dictatorship. The master-stroke in this propaganda drive by the Cuban regime was its decision to invite the BBC to cover the event. In return for a few rum cocktails the Cubans have been rewarded with a couple of pieces of gushing PR that must have exceeded even their wildest hopes. For a small outlay on drinks and a band they have received an uncritical filmed report (although it does include possibly the most boring Hemingway anecdote ever, as told by former US diplomat Wayne Smith) and an article by Kate Dailey that would not look out of place in whatever passes for the society pages of Granma. Take this bit for example:

While mojitos and Cuba Libras were being poured in the small back room that houses the bar, a 12-piece band played Latin music in the front of the hall.

Sandra Levinson, resplendent in a sparkling black and blue blouse, spun and twirled with her partner. MS Levinson, executive director of the Center for Cuban Studies in New York City and director of the centre’s Cuban Art Space, learned to dance during her many trips to Cuba, and had travelled down to Washington specifically to attend the opening.

The “resplendent” Ms Levinson is a throwback to the days when New York socialites rubbed shoulders with the Blank Panthers, as immortalised in Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic (see Levinson’s letter to the New York Review of Books in 1969 for a taste). She founded her Cuban Studies centre in 1972 and has been a loyal and much-valued supporter of Cuba’s dictatorship. The following description of her is taken from a Minnesota Star Tribune article in 1996:

“The Minneapolis native has become one of the most well-known North Americans in Cuba. She’s on a first-name basis with the who’s who in Havana – including Castro, with whom she has dined on several occasions. Castro has even met her mother.”

In an interview with CBS in 1988 Levinson complained that Cuban youth were an ungrateful bunch:

“there are a lot of young people who simply cannot appreciate … what the revolution has given them.”

So said the New York art gallery director who dines with the dictator.

And what of Hemingway and Cuba? Here’s an example of the sort of detail the BBC prefers to avoid when discussing the communist state’s history:

Hemingway, who had looked kindly on Leftist revolutions since the Spanish civil war, invited his friend George Plimpton, editor of the Paris Review, to witness the shooting of prisoners condemned by the tribunals under Guevara’s control. They watched as the men were trucked in, unloaded, shot, and taken away. As a result, Plimpton later refused to publish Guevara’s memoir, The Motorcycle Diaries.

While the likes of Kate Dailey and Kim Ghattas (who seems to have been in attendance in a purely social capacity) cheerfully glug the Cuban regime’s cocktails in the company of various limousine liberals, stories such as this continue to be ignored by the BBC:

Cuban human rights activist Yris Perez Aguilera was released from jail late Friday after she was arrested earlier in the day.
It was the second this week that Perez, the wife of the former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”, had been detained by the Cuban second police.
Before she was released, a State Security official delivered an ominous threat if she again takes to the streets:
“Whatever happens, you cannot go out. … And every time you do, we’re going to wear you out with 72 hours of detention. We’re going to liquidate you little by little.”
Via his Twitter feed, Antunez called on the U.S. Congress to take up the cause of Cuban activists risking their lives to oppose the Castro regime.