In 1982 the Cold War was still as chilly as a Russian babushka’s left nipple and the United States was still spending huge sums of money trying to contain communism wherever it threatened American hegemony. One such place was the communist island of Cuba sitting at the gateway to the Caribbean and led by our arch-enemy, Fidel Castro.
I happened to be in the nation’s capital during the summer of 82 and had an opportunity to spend several late night hours sitting in the gallery of the US House of Representatives. The people’s house that night was debating a bill which would establish Radio Marti. Radio Marti would be a powerful radio transmitter located in the Florida Keys broadcasting anti-Castro propaganda down the radio hoses of Cuba and far beyond.
By 1985 Radio Marti had been established by law and was bombarding the Caribbean and most of Latin America with pro-American, anti-Castro information in the Spanish language. In 1990 TV Marti was fired up and for an antenna an unmanned blimp was raised by cable high above Cudjoe Key just north of Key West. At last report the blimp was destroyed during hurricane Dennis in 2005. In recent trips to the Keys I’ve seen it floating over Cudjoe so it must have been replaced.
For the past six years yet another effort has broadcast effort has emerged, Aero Marti. This consists of an American airplane making daily flights over Cuba and broadcasting television programing that is only watchable by about one percent of the Cuban population. The annual cost of this effort is $24 million.
I recently read that those responsible for running these programs, the Board of Broadcast Governors, have petitioned Congress to end these efforts but anti-Cuban conservatives have refused to listen. Sequestration, however, has done what Congress won’t. Across the board cuts in government spending has left the Aero Marti plane firmly tied to the tarmac of a Georgia airfield.
Sequestration is taking its toll on all American government broadcasting but America’s story is still being aired to large parts of the globe. Regarding all three Marti programs I view them as a waste of American resources. America’s Cuban policy has existed since 1960 and has accomplished little to weaken Castro’s grip on the island. What it has done is cost American businesses countless billions lost earnings because of a strong trade embargo and a refusal to permit Americans to visit Cuba. Cruise ships and 747s loaded with American tourists would have accomplished far more to undermine Castro than all the electromagnetic energy we’ve sent his way. Instead we are left with a communist neighbor just ninety miles off our shore and a huge electric bill.