Today in the Americas, Radio Martí

This is my first post on To the Roots, which gets its name from a quote by Jose Marti. It seems a good place to continue my discussion of the Americas

radio marti

An interesting cold war tale begins (like many) in Cuba. This is the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, but it has been almost as many years of constant US subversion and coup attempts. When the assassination attempts failed, the US took a more ecumenical approach in its creation of Radio Martí today in 1985 (24 years ago) – which, and this is not a coincidence, was the day Cuba was “liberated” from Spain in 1902 (107 years ago)

Radio Martí (and its 1990 successor TV Martí) beams 24-hour broadcasts from the United States to Cuba, often featuring former political prisoners and exiles. Radio Martí is funded by the United States with a $15 million budget. Its short- and medium-wave signals are often blocked by Cuba.

The West’s insistence that propaganda and capitalism would bring down the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and across the world was a distinctly, ideologically cold war idea. The effectiveness of Radio Free Europe, for example, cannot be measured. The fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc cannot be empirically traced to propaganda (although we try). The taxpayer funded station’s very existence today is testament to our cold warrior ideals and our inability to let go (Voice of America, broadcast in forty-six languages across the world, is another example).

But it hard for some to swallow that we have kept funding this relic of the cold war. After the USSR fell, voices began to emerge from thaw after the deep freeze of communism. Fabio Leite, director of the Radiocommunications Office of the International Telecommunications Union, has called Radio Martí illegal and ineffective. We are, in essence, only able to create information for dissemination, as Radio Martí, while at times being able to be listened to in the US, can only be broadcast towards, in this case, Cuba.

As the conversation with Cuba has shifted in the past few months under Barack Obama, so to must our empirical and tangible policies. I agree with the calls to end Radio Martí after a report from the Government Accountability Office saying that TV Martí reaches less than 1 percent of the Cuban population.

If for nothing else, this is sly subversion of the legacy of Jose Martí, a man that is championed by both sides (for good reasons). However, Martí would not stand for this sort of championing. In fact, it is clear that the US is clearly aware of Martí’s standing as it trying to further the radio stations credibility by launching TV Martí today to commemorate “Cuba’s” “independence” from Spain in 1902 – and held the island hostage until 1934, when its Platt Amendment was revoked by Congress.

If Martí was around today, this sort of tactic would be what he feared from the US and its intentions with the island.


~ by Daniel on May 20, 2009.

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