Clinton allows U.S. to set up news bureaus in Cuba

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a move it said would focus more attention on the shortcomings of Communist Cuba, the Clinton administration gave the go-ahead Wednesday for 10 U.S. news organizations to open bureaus in Cuba. Of the 10, only CNN has permission from the Cuban government.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry said the other media applications, including one from The Associated Press, would be reviewed.
The administration acted after influential conservatives, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said they would have no objection to the presence of U.S. news bureaus in Havana.
No U.S. news outlet has had a permanent bureau in Cuba since the AP was expelled from the island in 1969.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the administration action was in keeping with a policy dating back to October 1995 “supporting an increased flow of accurate information to and from and within Cuba itself.”
He said the administration believes reporting by U.S. news organizations “will keep international attention focused on the situation in Cuba and on the realities of economic and political conditions there.”
“It also will bring greater public exposure to those who are advocating a democratic change in Cuba,” he said.
A Cuban Foreign Ministry official in Havana, contacted by telephone, said that CNN was the only U.S. news organization authorized by the Cubans.
“We will continue analyzing the rest of the applications” and will make decisions “when the Cuban government considers it opportune,” said the official. Cuba approved CNN’s application last August.
Several foreign news outlets, including British and French news agencies, have been allowed by the Cuban government to set up permanent bureaus.
But Cuba frequently has granted American reporters visas — usually lasting about a week — for travel to the Caribbean island. Cuban officials have said that 90 percent of visa applications from American reporters have been approved over the years.
Besides CNN and the AP, U.S. government permission to open bureaus was extended to ABC, CBS, Univision, The Miami Herald, Dow Jones News Services, the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, which publishes a Cuba news letter.
CNN News Group President Tom Johnson said that he was pleased by the administration decision, and that the network’s Havana bureau would open in March.
“Our year-round Havana bureau reporting will enable CNN viewers to be more informed about developments in Cuba,” Johnson said. Veteran CNN Latin America correspondent Lucia Newman was named Havana bureau chief.
Louis D. Boccardi, AP president and chief executive officer, said: “We welcome the American action and continue, as we have been doing for several years, to press the Cubans for their approval.”
CNN asked for U.S. permission to open a bureau in November, but the administration held back out of concern over a potential negative reaction from conservatives.
Last week, Helms said allowing CNN to open a bureau in Havana could hasten the demise of Fidel Castro’s government. Earlier, the Cuban-American National Foundation, an anti-Castro group based in Miami, said it had no objections to a permanent CNN presence in Cuba.