It is time once again for an update on how shortwave is ruining the hopes and dreams of oppressive governments everywhere! As many folks have heard by now the U.S. is in talks to “normalize” (whatever that is) relations with Cuba. Embassies have been reopened, limited travel for “education” purposes has been approved, and no doubt a myriad of “behind the scenes” negotiations are taking place, including free Cuban cigars for all of Congress. (Okay that last part is speculation, but come on, wouldn’t you want that on the bargaining table too?!)
One other issue on the bargaining table is stopping broadcasts by the U.S. of both Radio Martí and TV Martí, two U.S. funded broadcast stations. Named after the Cuban national hero and intellectual José Martí, Radio Martí was established in 1983 with the addition of TV Martí in 1990. Apparently Cuban President Raul Castro finds these broadcasts annoying and wants them to stop, so much so that further advancement of negotiations could be in jeopardy if the broadcasts do not cease.
Why not just stop them yourself, Mr. Castro? Or simply tell the people not to listen? Oh wait! You cannot stop the broadcasts yourself, and apparently enough people listen to the news and other programming you feel it is necessary to risk the betterment of your people’s lives through normalization with the U.S. in order to see these stations are taken off the air. I guess such shortwave broadcasts are too powerful for you.
The mission of Radio Martí in its own words is to provide “a contrast to Cuban media and provide its listeners with an uncensored view of current events.” Former prisoners in Cuba and Cuban exiles often speak on Radio Martí, and there are Spanish re-broadcasts of the American presidential weekly radio addresses (and rebuttals) played each week. (I would editorialize here these could probably be dropped from the programming without any real loss as most often both sides are flapping their gums more than saying anything significant, but that’s just me.)
Cuban President Raul Castro is urging the U.S. government to stop radio and television broadcasts that Cuba considers harmful, while also saying that his government is willing to keep improving relations with the United States. In a speech broadcast on state television Friday, Castro said that his government will “continue insisting that to reach normalized relations, it is imperative that the United States government eliminate all of these policies from the past.” He noted that the U.S. government continues to broadcast to Cuba, including transmissions of Radio Marti and TV Marti, despite Cuba’s objections. Radio Marti and TV Marti are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is also the parent organization of the Voice of America.
I will not comment on the efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, nor will I speculate on whether or not this is a good thing for either country–I am simply unqualified to make such prognostications. What I can comment on however is the need to maintain Radio and TV Martí because they are obviously effective if they are annoying an oppressive government’s leadership. Might not part of the reason the two countries are at the bargaining table be because there is an underlying unrest of the people toward the present form of government in the country, brought about, at least partially, by these radio and TV broadcasts?
Might the people want more of what we offer in a democracy because they hear an alternative way to live with less fear of government control? This does not mean they want to give up their culture and history and identity; it simply means they likely want more freedom to shape their own lives in whatever direction they wish. Hearing how the rest of the world lives and hearing reasonably unbiased news lets them compare all of this to what they hear from their own leaders and at least find out if they are being told truth or lies.
As I have stated before, no country, including ours, should have sole control over what its citizens hear. I often listen to foreign broadcasts for both world news and for news of America, just for a fresh perspective on the world and on my own country. I have added Free-to-air satellite signals to my shortwave listening as a part of that coverage, and I enjoy these alternative views immensely.
Let us hope the U.S. government and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, as well as global shortwave broadcasters, have enough sense to see Radio Martí and other shortwave broadcasts really do impact the world, including Cuba, and that we have an obligation to the world to let them add our voices to what they can freely hear. In my humble opinion shortwave radio is one of the best non-violent means for radical change available today. Why would we give that up? -73, Robert