By Osvaldo Rodríguez Martínez
The news agency received, as courtesy of the author, the article “The Revolution Will Be Teletyped: Cuba’s Prensa Latina News Agency and the Cold War Contest over Information,” in which she made a journey from the background and creation of this journalistic institution, making emphasis on the United States’ interest in its disappearance.
The research was supported by an extensive bibliography that included official documents from the US Government, among others, some from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of State, statements by officials, politicians and personalities, analyses by experts from the two nations, facts, attacks, legal actions, books, and interviews.
“Prensa Latina survived, expanded, and even flourished,” she pointed out in her conclusions, adding that “in a way, survival alone could be considered a victory,” while demonstrating the ability to resist numerous attacks, which she described as “impressive and unprecedented.”
The researcher acknowledged the role of this wire service in promoting the Cuban Revolution and in counteracting the isolation to which the United States subjected it, at the same time, she assured, “Its founders hoped to create an alternative source of news and information for Cuba, Latin America and the rest of the world, and they did it.”
The research revealed documents proving the US Government’s concerns and actions regarding Prensa Latina’s role, while intelligence services focused on spying on the operation of its offices abroad to try to block the proven effectiveness of the news agency’s role.
“Prensa Latina’s coverage of Latin American news is much better than any other service, and the material reported is often objective and factual. The news broadcast is not overtly propaganda in nature, nor does it reflect the trademark communist line,” the CIA acknowledged.
But the concern of intelligence services, cited in the research, is that, without being tacit, the materials are biased against US policy in the selection of what is broadcast and it reports on “communist activity” as routine news, while ignores those contrary to that ideology or the Cuban Revolution, according to the report itself.
Keller’s research reflects the accusations made by the United States and its allies in Latin America against journalistic personnel, whom they charged of carrying out activities unrelated to their profession, such as serving as a communication channel between governments, when from Washington they promoted and achieved the mass breaking of relations with Cuba, with the exception of Mexico.
Also in the US, they speculated about Prensa Latina’s participation in intelligence actions, as reflected in CIA cables and alleged statements by deserters, rumors that the author counters with the claim that US espionage uses media and journalists for similar work.
In order to expose what is objectively known in Prensa Latina on the subject, the historian resorted to publications such as the alert to Cuba made by Argentinean journalist Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977), one of the founders of the news agency, on the mercenary invasion by Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) in 1961.
“Perhaps the most effective Cuban propaganda weapon, and from the US point of view, most dangerous, is Prensa Latina,” reads another CIA report on Cuban foreign policy, which offers details on the effectiveness of the medium, focused on breaking Cuba’s informational and diplomatic isolation, the researcher quoted.
The article also describes this Latin American news agency as a forerunner of a post-colonial movement in the 1970s to reshape the international flow of information in the so-called Third World, and stated that its history “sheds light” on the barriers those countries face to change rooted modes of production of journalistic content.
Keller is an associate professor at the University of Nevada, based in the city of Reno, and in 2012 she received a doctorate in historical sciences from the University of Texas, in Austin. She is also a researcher in the relations of the United States with Cuba and Mexico.
In 2015 she published the book “Mexico’s Cold War: Cuba, the United States, and the Legacy of the Mexican Revolution” and she is preparing “Nuclear Reactions: The Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War in Latin America.”