Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba-US thaw sparks mixed media emotions

Cuban newspaper front pages Image copyright BBC Monitoring
Image caption Markedly different tones in Communist Party paper Granma and El Nuevo Herald

The media of Cuban exiles are suspicious of an agreement between the US and Cuba to end more than 50 years of hostility, while the Latin American press approve of the deal. In Cuba itself, however, official newspapers seem to give little importance to Wednesday's announcement.

All attention on the island is focused on the release of three men from a US prison - spies according to Washington, heroes according to Havana.

The men were members of the so-called "Cuban Five" group. The two other members had already been released.

'Triumph and joy'

Communist Party mouthpiece Granma leads with the headline: "Cuba opens its arms to its sons Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio in a welcome that emanates human warmth and sincere feelings." A huge photo underneath shows Cuban leader Raul Castro posing with all five alleged spies.

"This 17 December will be marked in Cuban history as a day of triumph and joy. Our Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz said they will return and here they are," writes Granma's photojournalist Alberto Borrego Avila.

"Fidel is never wrong," reads another Granma headline. The article quotes Marietta Mila Lombida, an ordinary Cuban, who says that the years during which people were "crying for the Five" was a "lesson of dignity for our people".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Many in Havana celebrated the release of the alleged spies from US custody

Group photos of Cubans apparently celebrating the return of the three alleged spies dominate another Cuban daily, Juventud Rebelde. The paper, published by the Union of Young Communists, shows students and what appear to be groups of employees posing with photos of the Cuban Five and giant posters saying: "They are back".

On Cubadebate, a pro-government website run by a group calling itself Circle of Journalists Against Media Terrorism, Arleen Rodriguez Derivet says Cubans are "experiencing the same emotions as our parents on the 1st of January 1959", the date the Cuban revolution triumphed. The only thing still missing, she adds, is the "complete defeat of the [US economic] embargo".

Dissident voices

In contrast, the mood in papers run by Cuban exiles in the US is sombre. An editorial in Miami-based El Nuevo Herald questions whether the normalisation of relations between Washington and Havana will lead "to profound changes in Cuba, with more rights and freedoms for the people," or if the change in US policy "will give oxygen to a regime that is witnessing with fear the weakening of its economic godfather, Venezuela".

Cubanet, a US-funded website that posts reports provided clandestinely by independent journalists in Cuba, runs an article headlined: "We'll fight until the end for freedom in Cuba". It quotes opposition leaders who say that President Obama's rapprochement with Havana is "a betrayal".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The mood among Cubans in the US was more sombre

Some of the well-known dissident voices in Cuba, however, cautiously welcome the US-Cuba breakthrough. "Today is a new day… in history and we have to acknowledge it, unless we want to make fools of ourselves by referring to an outdated agenda," writes journalist Reinaldo Escobar on 14ymedio.com website.

Well-known Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez notes that "under the leadership of Fidel Castro we would have never even reached an outline of an agreement of this nature".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Barack Obama (L) met Cuba's President Raul Castro briefly at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in 2013

Nevertheless, she criticises Cuba's current leader, Raul Castro, for giving "no evidence of any agreement or compromise from the Cuban side" in his speech announcing the warming of relations with Washington.

As long as this is not done, she exclaims, "many of us will continue to think that the day we have longed for is not near".

"So, we will keep the flags tucked away, keep the corks in the bottles, and continue to press for the final coming of D-Day," Ms Sanchez concludes.

'Miracle'

Commentators in the region are more optimistic, with newspapers in Venezuela urging the government to follow in Havana's steps.

"Cuba leaves us looking foolish," reads a headline in La Verdad, while another newspaper, El Tiempo, quotes analysts as saying that Caracas should also change its anti-US stance.

Argentine papers quote South American leaders, including Argentine, Uruguayan, Chilean and Peruvian presidents, as praising Havana's and Washington's decision.

Image copyright O Estado de Sao Paulo
Image caption Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo reports that US-Cuban relations are improving after 53 years

The Brazilian press stresses the split and scepticism among Cubans.

"Surprised, Cubans are divided between criticism and celebration," reads a headline in O Globo, while another newspaper, Estado de Sao Paulo, notes that "dissidents are sceptical about rapprochement".

Image copyright BBC Monitoring
Image caption "New mates" declares Venezuelan paper Diario 2001

Some papers speculate about the reasons behind the sudden breakthrough in US-Cuban relations. Columnist Bernardo Mello Franco in Folha de Sao Paulo speaks of "The Pope's miracle", referring to Pope Francis' mediation. While a headline in Estado de Sao Paulo notes that the "deal with the US happens after Cuba records its worse growth under Raul".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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