Luv Ya, Fidel! CBS Says Cubans 'Shook Up' By Castro's Hand-Over of Power

August 1st, 2006 8:09 AM

In Miami, Cuban-Americans were literally dancing in the street at the prospect that the repressive regime of Fidel Castro might finally be drawing to an end. But back in Cuba, people greeted the news of the great liberator's illness with dismay. At least, they did according to CBS News' woman-on-the-spot.

On this morning's Early Show, CBS ran a brief clip of a phone interview with Portia Siegelbaum, a CBS News producer based in Cuba. Here is the entirety of her report:

"The news of Castro's illness was most unexpected. I spoke to half-a-dozen people last night and they seemed most shook up by his handing over power, even if provisionally, to his younger brother Raul."

Note that Siegelbaum said the people she spoke with were 'most' shook up - not 'mostly.' In other words, it was unanimous: all the people she spoke with were 'most,' i.e., very, disturbed.

That was it. Not a hint that some in Cuba are as overjoyed as their brethren in Miami at the notion that this brutal dictatorship might finally be coming to an end. Nope. Every single person Portia spoke to was 'shook up' at the news that, even if just temporarily, Fidel has had to turn over his totalitarian reins, albeit to brother Raul.

I'd say there are three possible explanations of Siegelbaum's report:

1. She moves exclusively in pro-Castro circles;
2. People realize that expressing anti-Castro sentiments to a journalist could be inimical to their health. Siegelbaum never raised that possibility; or
3. Siegelbaum intentionally chose to ignore anti-Castro sentiment to paint a portrait of an island distressed at its dictator's possible demise.

Portia, the cigars are in the mail.

Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact him at