The Benefit Of The Doubt (01/01/1959 to 31/12/1959)
When Dr. Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba at the beginning of the year, he enjoyed wide international sympathy as the brave rebel who had overthrown a brutal tyranny. With every passing month, however, doubts about the man and his policies have grown.
“‘Stay, Fidel!’,” Globe and Mail, 27 April 195910!!!!
Fidel Castro garnered a wealth of international goodwill as M-26-7 consolidated its hold over Cuba in the earliest weeks of 1959. By the end of the year, he had squandered nearly all of it on a series of provocative actions that even patient international observers struggled to explain: the start of executions just days after Batista’s flight, an unofficial visit to Washington and New York in late April that only emphasized growing estrangement, land reform legislation openly hostile to foreign investment in June, and a drawn-out cabinet shuffle between July and December that began with the transparently orchestrated dismissal of President Manuel Urrutia and raised questions about confidence within the new government.
Chapter Three examines the first year of the Cuban Revolution as three episodes: trial (January and February), tour (March to April), and governance (May to December). It finds that elite Canadian print media effectively overlooked the impetuous first year of a popular and promising young leader it considered capable of a more pragmatic and prudent course. That media proceeded so, amid the growing rift between Castro’s actions and official persona, and despite the end of American patience, set up a measured calculus for criticism that fed an independent narrative which would begin to flourish in 1960. In contrast to Chapter Two, the Revolution sparked a departure from national disinterest in Cuban affairs that lasted through to the Missile Crisis. This interest was framed by the eyewitness accounts of a handful of national correspondents who facilitated the development of more sophisticated opinion. Reports in January and February dominated the front page but struggled with rumour as the collapse of the old guard bled into the provisional government bound by Castro and his extemporaneous style of delegation. The earliest narrative coalesced around Castro’s slow march from Santiago to Havana and concurrent inter-factional brokering, only to pivot abruptly and evolve into a second narrative that addressed the drawn out execution of Batista loyalists. International reaction, and Castro’s reaction to that reaction, led all subsequent coverage including his decision to hold official office despite foreswearing otherwise previously.
In such an atmosphere, correspondents waved certain mores against first-person narration as getting the story often became the story (as per the Matthews-Dubois model). Andrew MacFarlane (Telegram) continued to break ground as the first staff reporter to introduce the Revolution to Canadians as such and the only one to achieve a well-rounded series. He emphasized “…all shades of revolutionary opinion…” within M-26-7 as much as without. He not only continued to present Castro as one face within a broader populist movement but also prefigured elite conclusions at the end of the year MacFarlane found Castro inexperienced but capable, idealistic but popular — typical, in other words, but outside of the broader national trend which approached him indirectly and qualified his agency exclusively within Cuba-U.S. relations.
Their first conversation stressed Castro’s regard for Canada (at the expense of the U.S. and United Kingdom) while the second included a direct response to the Telegram that Castro was, indeed, willing to “lose friends” over the executions. Castro’s quip about doing the “right thing” by carrying out the executions betrayed more about his character than either MacFarlane or his readers may have immediately realized. These, and a variety of encounters with M-26-7, led MacFarlane to dismiss any suggestion of untoward ideological sympathies. MacFarlane set the overall tone for media in general and it was indeed a favourable one. Philip Deane (Globe) began his series by dodging bullets but ended nearly as productive as MacFarlane. Deane reached similarly nuanced conclusions about purported ideological sympathies but grew increasingly apprehensive about Castro’s ability to “control extremists” and reorganize a “…guerrilla movement into a stable democratic administration.” Deane found Castro more evaluative — “sincer[e]”, “long-winded”, and “fatigued” — and, despite personifying hope, with more potential than literal power. In effect, Deane was willing to entertain a future where Castro, despite his best intentions or perhaps even himself, failed to deliver on the potential foisted upon him (which he did little to discourage). Deane predicted that Castro would sell sugar to communists (for profit, above all) and, like most of his colleagues, noted that the success of the Revolution depended on whether Washington remained neighbourly.
William Kinmond (Star) filed two days behind Deane and left just after the narrative turned. His neglect for the broader details of “…the strangest kind of revolution…”, including a chance to investigate the executions when they began, was mitigated by a successive pair of interviews with Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos. Kinmond’s interview with Castro (a day ahead of MacFarlane’s) relayed critical details about the new government, including prospective land reform that would purportedly not
amount to “confiscation”. He went on to perfectly capture the nexus between Castro’s extemporaneous leadership and willingness to contradict himself by effectively briefing Cienfuegos, isolated by assignment, on Castro’s latest positions. Kinmond found Castro magisterial, affable, and also “fatigued” but absolutely not communist, particularly on given his Catholic roots. Kinmond’s parting reports examined an apparent attempt on Castro’s life but did not echo Deane’s apprehension.
Bruce West (Globe) landed with the narrative shift and stayed right through until the end of February despite being remarkably unproductive. While he mostly chased rumours, West managed to amalgamate the romanticism of the Revolution with that of
Cuba’s established reputation in such a way that would have appealed to a core audience of Canadian Cuba-watchers for its emphasis on the status of tourist accommodations and attractions. In parting, he offered a passing critique of Castro’s executions as a poor substitute for democracy.
Marie Moreau (Sun) filed a short series at the end of January that focused on the treatment of prisoners. Arguably the most resourceful correspondent of the group, Moreau exercised her uninhibited access by attending a trial in Santa Clara, speaking with prisoners in Havana before sneaking into an execution (the boldest move by any correspondent by far), and then interviewing Castro during a nostalgic tour of the Sierra Maestra. She found Cubans on an “emotional binge” and generally supportive of reprisals against Batista loyalists but wary of broader violence, noting that “plenty of people” welcomed Castro’s demise. She found Castro precisely as advertised, if not slightly more worse for ware, and paralleled MacFarlane by approaching Castro directly. Her depiction — that “Cubans say he looks like a saint. I think he looks exactly what he is, a completely revolutionary leader” — echoed a broader sentiment in the elite press that held the Revolution as being atypical of the region due, in part, to its unique instigator (or, adjusting for scholarly qualification, spokesperson). Their mutually charming exchange glossed over Moreau’s interest in the executions, ostensibly due to their emphasis in her previous dispatches, and relayed Castro’s “respect” for Canadians in sincere, affable terms.
Larry Allen maintained his CP byline (Citizen, Gazette, Globe, and Star) but, as with other wire correspondents deployed prior to January, struggled to compete with newly deployed colleagues. The end of Batista’s regime and Castro’s micromanagement
conspired to advantage new correspondents over more established ones (i.e. not only did allen eschew the Matthews-Dubois model he was isolated from opportunities to embrace it). Allen filed a concurrent profile of Castro the same day as MacFarlane but kept to the more removed tone prior to the Revolution despite excellent coverage of the executions. Such ambivalence was perhaps more indicative of an apprehension similar to what Deane, more at liberty, clearly articulated. In sum, Allen resisted the Matthews-Dubois’ model while it reached a new height. In aggregate, this correspondence comprised the first comprehensive domestic portrait of Castro. While media certainly found Castro agreeable, the most pervasive theme was a uniform categorical rejection of any untoward ideological sympathies (i.e. he was not a communist!). This is clearly a direct response to rumours rampant in the U.S. press fed no less, as many scholars have since noted, by Castro’s personal ambiguity. Overall, the most significant aspect of this portrait was the fact that Castro and the Revolution were not presented as exclusively synonymous.
This subtle separation furthered the development of media’s independent narrative. In effect, media upheld Matthews’ narrative and certainly deferred to Castro as a revolutionary symbol but did not adopt Matthews’ rigid emphasis on Castro either in February 1957 or upon further review in early 1959. Castro remained a unique and interesting character but media overwhelmingly gravitated to the end of a brutal tyranny as the more important story. Editorialists were eager to contextualize the Revolution during the initial narrative despite confusion on the front page. The first wave of opinion embraced a fresh start for Cuba and dismissed ideological rumours. Most papers echoed the Gazette’s view that the Revolution’s evident popularity made it atypical of the region but differed on the details: the Globe considered it an “internal matter” while the Sun predicted regional reverberations. Castro was well-regarded but the extent of credit due was contested: the Star credited Castro with routing Batista while the Citizen cited the end of U.S. military support. Elsewhere, La Presse lauded Castro for not seeking office (encouraged by the Star) while the Chronicle decried the lack of specific information about Castro or his “purposes” (prefiguring Geyer and others). In the second wave, the Globe portrayed Castro’s “ruthlessness” as a liability while the Citizen all-too forebodingly noted that “serious mistakes” in the near future could derail the Revolution.
Opinion turned abruptly after it became apparent that isolated reports of a few executions were actually part of a more methodical campaign. That this occurred while editorialists asserted the legitimacy of the provisional government following recognition on 7 January from Washington and 8 January from Ottawa had the effect of diluting criticism. The range of earlier perspectives narrowed into a surprisingly uniform lament over such an flagrant waste of goodwill. On the cusp of the turn, the Globe asked whether such violence was specific to the Revolution or simply a byproduct of the fall of a dictatorship. Other broadsheets indirectly responded by exploring potential answers for the remainder of the month. They collectively ruled that Castro’s handling of the executions made an unfortunate byproduct worse or, as the Citizen put it on 26 January:
“Castro is being judged more severely than Batista precisely because he and his achievement are widely admired and better things are expected of him.” Barely a month into power, Castro failed the (externally imposed) first test of good faith. However, elite media were reluctant to let a lone incident (an understandable false start) serve as a final word on either Castro or the Revolution he evidently brought about and then reined in.
Editorialists had little to say between the Citizen piece and Castro’s controversial decision to assume office in mid-February — and even reaction to Castro’s decision that was muted. The Star conceded that Castro effectively “arranged” to have himself appointed prime minister but reiterated earlier support for the move on the basis of populist acclimation that forthcoming elections would no doubt bear out. The Gazette ventured that such a transparent move could potentially backfire and have the opposite affect on his popularity; the Globe went further, arguing that it was duplicitous and another in a mounting series of indiscretions despite ruling any further. Andrew McNaughton’s sensational confession that he smuggled arms for M-26-7 was by far the most significant feature of the episode. His four-part account ran in early January and was carried by the Chronicle, Citizen, and Telegram. It put a Canadian face
on the Revolution and lent legitimacy to the young government, particularly through an endorsement of the transitional period leading into elections. Harbron evolved his profile of Castro in Saturday Night at the end of January by contextualizing popular support for executions within a regional response to corruption. He went on to map Castro’s most immediate challenges, with reference to the island’s socio-economic history, in more depth than most correspondents were ble to venture in their shorter dispatches. Other personal perspectives, including an interview with CBC cameraman Erik Durschmied, upheld the typical “Robin Hood” portrait of Castro while also dismissing the usual rumours.
Persistent reference to these rumours proceeded from an implicit domestic fixation on tension in the U.S. press, best described in the pages of an elite broadsheet by Max Freedman of the Chicago Daily News (soon to be more formally phrased by Dubois) when he observed that “…the State Department does not know whether to classify [Castro] as a domestic leader or dictator…”. While elite media made consistent reference to such rumours, typically to dismiss them on some specific basis, they demonstrated little interest in pursuing them to the same extent as their U.S. counterparts. This, combined with both the deployment of staff correspondents and an editorial prerogative to satiate a growing domestic appetite for all things Cuba, diminished the demand for (and the relevance of) syndicated foreign material during this episode. Matthews’ eyewitness reports, which ran in the Globe as before, provided a perfect example: he leaned far too heavily on his already well-established profile and failed to offer anything markedly different from domestic correspondents. The core theme of Matthews’ series in 1957 remained current for media but concurrent Matthews was overshadowed (by the fruits of his earlier work, no less).
The comparatively muted reaction to Castro’s appointment in mid-February inaugurated a wait-and-see holding pattern that held through to the beginning of his jaunt through North America in mid-April. There were two notable exceptions during this recess. The first, from the AP’s Paul Saunders, foresaw land reform as Castro’s next move (after dismantling Batista’s regime) in a review of his legislative priorities that surpassed Harbron’s own analysis. The second, from Bruce West, argued that Castro’s “highly emotional” nature served his romantic image but not his governance, in preface to a curious critique of U.S. neglect for Batista’s actions. These views were, of course, more late additions to the first impressions of the Revolution (especially in West’s case) than any deliberate assault on established conclusions and perspectives.
Castro’s tour of the U.S., as famous for his speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on 17 April (where he undermined the accuracy of Matthews’ narrative by publicly humiliating him!) as his meeting with Vice President Nixon on 19 April, served as something of a preface for his arrival in Canada. Monroe Johnson (Star) observed that Castro mostly succeeded in convincing U.S. media of Batista’s responsibility for the present situation (executions notwithstanding) but remained “cryptic” throughout his stay (partly due to refusal to speak English, as scholars have noted). Deane concluded similarly, noting a concurrent curb on rumours, while relaying Castro’s rising popularity among American youth. Castro arrived in Montreal on Sunday 26 April and succeeded in charming as much as being charmed. Publication was delayed until Monday but was no less effusive (if somewhat local): Jean-Marc Leger (Le Devoir), Marie Bourbonnais (La Presse), and Bantey respectively found Canadians enchanted by Castro’s accessibility, forays at both English and French, and willingness to concede mistakes (the lack of elections not the executions). Castro’s relatively short stay did not allow for more detailed interviews or profiles but certainly upheld and reinforced earlier impressions.
Editorialists began assessing Castro’s tour of the U.S. and impending arrival on 17 April. The Press dismissed the tour as a “public relations” push required by the executions, arguing that a governmental “cleaning” would be a more efficient means of
reclaiming ill-spent sympathy. Before any official meeting was ruled out, the Citizen astutely noted that the real impact of Castro’s visit would hinge on whether or not he made it to Ottawa. On a broader level than both of its peers, the Star took the opportunity to anchor their overall impressions of the Revolution thus far, concluding that “[i]t is too soon to pass judgement on Fidel Castro…” despite valid concerns. La Presse bridged the divide with an effusive welcome to Castro, asserting that he visited Canada as a “Latin among Latins” — just shy of an official endorsement. After Castro’s departure, the Gazette was willing to grant “sound” relations on the basis of protected national interests and new signs of maturity. The Citizen updated their view by suggesting that Castro’s visit succeeded in clarifying his objectives, namely his intention to end Cuba’s dependency on sugar, which it considered good news for North Americans.
In sum, the Star’s general observation might stand for elite opinion as a whole but for a score of lesser quips. Feature content was limited to a stand-alone piece by Knowlton Nash (Sun) that proclaimed Castro’s tour a boon for his image and a handful of reviews of Dubois’ welltimed if clearly rushed book. MacFarlane found common threads in Dubois’ and his own respective impressions while Mac Reynolds (Sun) decried the tension and drift between Dubois’ questions and Castro’s answers. Elmore Phillpot (Sun) also disliked the book but commended Dubois’ work in exposing U.S. support for Batista, going on to use it as a platform for criticizing U.S. media for biased coverage — the only domestic piece to do so in such explicit terms. Syndicated foreign material maintained the same irregularity, this time, for the opposite reason. Freedman once again captured the tension of the U.S. media in the Star, observing that Castro at least succeeded in convincing them to reconsider the U.S. role in supporting Batista if nothing else. Elsewhere in the Star, a follow-up to Saunders pushed against rumours but echoed the Tribune by highlighting Castro’s apparent vulnerability to communism (not unlike Deane, earlier).
A detailed opinion from Le Monde in Le Devoir fixated on Cuba-U.S. relations by boldly declaring that Cuba could not “afford” to “neglect” Washington while Washington, conversely, could neglect Cuba. It added that where Castro betrayed no apparent fealty to the USSR, he could be pushed into it such an arrangement should Washington make some miscalculation, particularly over the sugar quota. This French view was corroborated by media but in less explicit terms. The U.S. narrative formally turned against Castro in June. Media not only resisted any pressure to follow suit but refrained from any discernible shift for the rest of 1959. Even more remarkably, they continued to entertain the possibility of a redemptive course correction within the spirit of Matthews’ prewar victory narrative: Castro was not necessarily the single-means of deliverance for Cuba but that was not to say that he did not still have time to rise to the challenge. This, of course, did not preclude criticism — indeed, much of this redemptive, encouraging tone was driven by criticism and a general air of well-intentioned disappointment. Neither Bantey nor Bruce Phillips (Citizen), for example, were impressed with Castro’s drawn-out resignation in mid-to-late July: they found that it re-legitimized Castro’s domestic popularity (if, indeed, that was ever in doubt) but not in explicit electoral terms. In August, Leger and Deane respectively examined governmental action and rhetoric. Leger used the controversy over appropriation under the Agrarian Reform Law to illustrate the growing divide between well-intentioned reform and actual policy. Deane linked this controversy, and other domestic troubles, to the discernible rise in anti- American sentiments — alarming, particularly for those outside Cuba-U.S. relations, as it only fed American assumptions and rumour. In November, MacFarlane lamented the loss of Cienfuegos as an immense influence on Castro, especially domestic issues, as yet another setback for the increasingly troubled Revolution.
Castro’s Agrarian Reform Law was widely lauded for its intent but editorialists took issue with its practicality. The Star positioned land reform as the most significant regional issue but found Castro with an impossible choice to make: reform invariably targeted foreign interests while no reform fed the communist opposition (which, in turn, fed American anxieties). A follow-up piece took this further by observing America’s similarly impossible choice: supporting Castro’s land reform meant supporting Castro while opposing land reform played poorly in the region. The Gazette made an appeal for scale, presenting Castro as only the latest in a series of leaders to attempt such reform, and called on him to start with realistic objectives over nationalist platitudes. The Chronicle echoed this in mid-July by arguing that “honorable” intentions were no
substitute for measured governance, urging Castro to curb initial reforms lest a disorganized sugar harvest bleed Cuban marketshare into oblivion.
Castro’s resignation shook confidence and provoked considerable response. Initial reaction was dismissive: the Telegram reduced it to a transparent “political manoeuvre” which only called attention to the lack of elections, while the Gazette entertained a rumour that Castro might prefer to return as foreign minister (in light of the impending OAS conference) but conceded that, as the “only authority”, his formal title was moot. Opinion became specifically critical closer to M-26-7’s anniversary: the Globe blamed the messy cabinet shuffle on Castro’s inexperience; the Star took exception to his
“tactics”; the Telegram followed-up to commend Urrutia’s “honorable exit” and call for elections; while the Chronicle noted the resignation’s proximity to mounting internal resistance to land reform. On 25 July, the Citizen granted Castro the benefit of the doubt on the basis of his inexperience and rejected resurgent ideological rumours, when it concluded that “…it is too early to write off the Castro [R]evolution as just another adventure in dictatorship”. The Globe concurred similarly on 26 July, in a piece that included the quotation from which the opening quotation derives, and called for a sign or gesture of good faith. The Chronicle took the last word on 29 July, observing that while Castro had indeed returned by popular demand he did so without Urrutia or the middleclass he represented — two elements critical to his victory in January.
Cuba’s defensiveness at the OAS conference in Chile between 12 and 18 August clashed with the working perception of both Castro and the Revolution. The meeting effectively served as Castro’s formal introduction to regional (if not international) relations given the casual nature of his selective jaunt through North and South America in April and May. Again, Castro failed to meet expectations — expectations set by others but still expectations which he certainly encouraged. Accused of attempting to foment revolution beyond its borders, the Citizen scolded Castro for attempting to spread democracy abroad before practicing it at home. A week later, it argued that Castro had unfairly accused the U.S. of supporting dictatorships, citing the Revolution, itself, as evidence. The paper went on to prefigure its peers at the Globe, La Presse, and the Gazette by endorsing regional non-intervention through the OAS and calling on Castro to cooperate with the regional body and its statutes.
Dissident raids from Miami and the arrest of Matos conspired to produce something of an early year-in-review in late October. The Chronicle betrayed a nearcomplete loss of patience over the arrest of Matos. It argued that not only was Castro “…aspir[ing] to rule Cuba solely by his own word…” but his lack of tolerance for internal criticism represented failure in the face of his most significant challenge yet. The paper continued nearly a week later by likening Castro to Batista and entertaining the possibility that Cubans might be better off without him — but not, of course, the Revolution itself. In response to the dissident raids, the Gazette sought to remind Castro that the West needed more than vague “anti-[c]ommunism” in order to assuage its insecurities over his ambiguous ideological alignment. La Presse, by contrast, took a broader view and argued that Castro was far too “overwhelmed” to achieve any of the reforms he promised (as any other leader in a similar position would have been) before calling on him to reach out for assistance in pursuing a more pragmatic or prudent course.
Of course, the formal year-in-review began in mid-November. The Citizen took the first and last word. Their first piece found Cuba “more uncertain” than early January and argued that while Castro “…cannot escape responsibility for many of the things that have gone wrong…” he nevertheless retained support from around the world. Their second piece echoed the first and encouraged Castro to surround himself with “more cool-headed advisors” toward a more pragmatic course over the following year. The Globe demonstrated a loss of patience similar to the Chronicle in October by hedging that Castro was likely to become even more dictatorial, drawing parallels to Argentina’s Juan Perón. The Press found it difficult to reach the same conclusion, echoing the broader sentiment throughout the year and argued that it was still too early to resolve Dubois’ imperative. The Chronicle recovered enough patience to specify that Castro’s “ambition” and “idealism” led him to focus on foreign issues at the expense of a pragmatic domestic transformation throughout the year. These views were critical but far from a denunciation of Castro himself or a break with Matthews’ victory narrative.The immense interest during the first months of the year diminished the interest in features between May and December. In May, Eric Geiger (Press) examined the government firsthand and found Castro’s extemporaneous leadership, first rendered by Kinmond, a key factor in disorganization and a major challenge in overcoming bureaucratic inertia inherited from Batista. In August, Harbron filed a superb review of regional politics which qualified M-26-7’s socialist “bent” within a typical reaction to region’s colonial history. In late November, Peter Churchill (Telegram) found Cuba exactly as it was described in January and February, echoing both MacFarlane and Moreau. Similar to Harbron, he suggested that Castro gave Cubans “personality” outside of colonialism but argued that the Revolution ultimately had more of a Russian flavour than an American one. In early December, the Sun published Matos’ prison letter in which he denied the charge of treason and relayed his simple intention to resign from a government that he could no longer support. While the Sun was the only paper to publish the letter as a whole, Matos’ arrest and trial were generally taken as an especially dark conclusion to the drawn-out cabinet shuffle and a rather inauspicious way to round a year that opened with an unprecedented outpouring of international goodwill.
Syndicated foreign content rose with the souring of American opinion in June. The most significant U.S. coverage typically split between six month reviews or early year-in-reviews. The first began with Matthews in the Globe, who attributed Castro’s difficulties to inexperience but reiterated his legitimacy on the basis of being able to convert populist sentiment into a formal electoral mandate. Tad Szulc, also in the Globe, dismissed Castro’s resignation as a ruse and rejected the legitimacy of his return through “democracy by acclamation”. Frank Kelley of the ribune, in the Gazette and the Press, echoed Szulc, and found Castro’s blindness to Cold War tensions a considerable factor in the souring of Cuba-U.S. relations but appealed for U.S. restraint. Walter Lippmann in the Gazette, La Presse, and Press, and Freedman, in the Star, similarly appealed for restraint, while the former specifically and presciently warned against anything that might push Castro into collusion with the USSR.The second began in early November with the hauntingly precise critique byS.L.A Marshall, from the Tribune in the Gazette, where he checked rumours by asserting, that: “The real question is whether Castro is not so filled with personal villainy that he may be expected to embrace communism, nihilism or mugwupism if he thinks any of the three will keep him in power.” Such a blunt personal critique not only went further than concurrent domestic profiles but also much further than any other U.S. view adopted by the elite press. In mid-November, Freedman once again spoke to the tension in the U.S. press by locating the narrative shift within a systematic change at the State Department and popular perceptions at the same time. Szulc ended the year by chiding Castro on his failure to safeguard against communist exploitation.J. Halcro Ferguson, from the Observer, offered the best indication of European opinion in a five-part series in mid-September in the Press. Newly returned from a tour of Cuba, he echoed domestic descriptions of the Revolution as atypical and Castro as unconventional but accessible. Ferguson’s distinction between Castro as “dictator” despite the lack of any “…outward trappings of a dictatorship…” implicitly echoed domestic conclusions, granting Castro leniency in something of a special office free of any immediate conclusions. His concluding anecdote (from a Nicaraguan opposition leader) — which held that there were only two types of communists, those who answered to the Kremlin and those manufactured by Washington — went further than elite media were willing despite touching on a shared anxiety about increasingly terse Cuba-U.S. relations.
The elite Canadian print media construction of the Revolution in 1959 was characterized by a willingness to grant Castro the benefit of the doubt despite a series of provocative actions that progressively eroded the outpouring of international goodwill he earned and also alienated the U.S. mid-year. This collective position was informed by three factors. First, media retained Matthews’ association between the Revolution and deliverance for Cuba, above all, following the Revolution. The end of Batista’s regime brought challenges and even violence but this was ultimately preferable to the continuation of a brutal tyranny. Second, media did not actively reject the increasingly impatient U.S. narrative but they were certainly aware of its influence. Media used the U.S. perspective to measure their own response to Castro without necessarily following the same logic. Third, media were impressed with Castro and granted his synonymity with the Revolution but only up to a point. Castro was ffectively positioned as the trustee of the Revolution but this was widely understood as an office that must be earned and maintained in good faith. In sum, these positions did not isolate media from either Castro or the U.S., respectively; rather, they set up a measured calculus for more specific criticism in 1960 from which a formal independent narrative proceeded. The development of this narrative throughout all three episodes in 1959 was particularly clear. In the first episode, editorialists and orrespondents were equally impressed with Castro but were more effusive about the end of a brutal tyranny. The level of attention given to rumours perpetuated by the U.S. press was indicative of the fact that- media took them seriously despite categorically rejecting them in persistent investigation. Editorialists were highly critical of Castro’s handing of the executions, a position the Citizen described as a result of holding Castro to higher standards, but refused to use the incidents as a platform for wagering any broader conclusions or rendering a final verdict. In the second episode, Castro’s brief visit solidified initial impressions despite provoking a general lament over the missed opportunity for official reception in Ottawa. The Star’s declaration in April that it was too early to properly assess Castro’s actions, despite many valid concerns, spoke to continued collective refusal to draw rushed conclusions. Syndicated media paralleled domestic concerns about the growing potential for a disruption in otherwise amiable Cuba-U.S. relations, especially given Castro’s cool reception in the U.S. and an increasingly hostile mood in Washington.
Not only would final conclusions about Castro have been premature, as media consistently noted the fact that the difficulties inherited from Batista’s regime required a lengthy transitional period, they were largely irrelevant given the lack of clear response or conclusive policy position from Washington. This, itself, was obviously not received as a good sign given the pervasiveness of rumours in the U.S. press, but remained important all the same. In the third episode, media resisted following the U.S. press as it pivoted from fragmented criticism to a comprehensive rebuke after Washington’s swift response to Agrarian Reform (or appropriation without compensation). Media were critical of Castro but this proceeded from a place of disappointment informed by a collective view that there was still time for him to overcome challenges and pursue a more prudent course. The Citizen echoed the Star in July by insisting that it remained impossible to render any final conclusion about Castro. The favourable reception of Agrarian Reform can be attributed to media’s appreciation for the difference between socialism and communism — a distinction entirely at odds with the nostalgic, postwar victory narrative in the U.S. — and the obvious fact that Canadian assets were not subject to confiscation.
The internal discord that concluded with Cienfuegos’ disappearance and Matos’ arrest (as noted by MacFarlane) combined with the lack of any measure of good faith (as noted by Marshall) from Castro fractured the underlying logic behind collective commitment to extending Castro the benefit of the doubt as much as it dried the well of international goodwill going into 1960. Overall, the lack of a comprehensive impression of Castro prior to the Revolution did not impede the development of the one that emerged in early 1959 and evolved throughout the year. In effect, media were patient with Castro, regardless of any expectations inherited from Matthews or projected by others. First of all, media never considered his victory a foregone conclusion and did not develop any specific expectations of their own until after the Revolution (or at least any impressions they were not willing to revise or reexamine). Second, Castro’s significant burden of restoring order and eliminating the culture and infrastructure of Batista’s regime was acknowledged to be a formidable task for anyone, let alone a young and inexperienced rebel leader — one at the head of a loose coalition of dissidents, including communists. Third, media accepted Castro’s legitimacy which proceeded from popular support. Uniform preference for official validation of this through a formal election was preferred but populist acclaim was accepted as a fair expression of Cuban sovereignty in the interim. In turn, this tempered domestic frustration with Castro — in contrast to his increasingly negative portrayal in the U.S. — away from any sense of betrayal toward well-reasoned and measured disappointment. Such disappointment characterized the tone of media throughout 1960 but it also collided with increasing alienation from the U.S. perspective, which increased exponentially during the first four months of 1961 and peaked with the Bay of Pigs. The confluence of this produced a clear and formal retreat to the core theme first derived from Matthews in 1957.