Radio Marti: The Voice of Cuban Dissidents / Ivan Garcia
Posted on March 2, 2015
Iván García, 24 February 2015 — One summer during a stay in Camaguey — a
province 340 miles east of Havana — the owner of a house where I was
staying listened from early morning to Radio Marti, a network created in
1985 under the administration of Ronald Reagan with the goal of
providing Cubans with information uncensored or manipulated by the
The woman told me that since 1985 she has been listening to radio soap
operas, news and a morning program geared to a rural audience. When I
travelled to other provinces, nearly all the people with whom I spoke
said they got their information from or followed big league baseball on
Radio Marti, which is probably heard more in the countryside than in the
There is a logical explanation: the regime jams the station’s broadcasts
less here. In Varadero, located on the Hicacos Peninsula and along the
northern coast of Cuba, Radio Marti’s programming can be clearly heard.
Given the new geo-political dynamic between Cuba and the United States —
two Cold War adversaries — various voices within the U.S. Congress are
questioning the effectiveness and impact of the “Martis,” as they refer
to an entity that includes a radio station, a television channel and a
Among the conditions for normalizing relations with the United States,
Raul Castro asked that the media conglomerate be dismantled. Since the
first broadcast in 1985 the government in Havana has used electronic
jamming to block its radio and television signals. And readers cannot
access the Marti Noticias website from Cuba.
Using the radio as a vehicle for informing citizens in totalitarian
countries, where news, films and books are controlled by a dictatorship,
is nothing new. During the Soviet era, the United States created Radio
Free Europe and Radio Liberty, broadcasters which disseminated
information the Kremlin was trying to suppress.
The so-called “asymmetrical war,” which according to the regime is an
attempt by the United States to destabilize Cuba, is something of an
With Fidel Castro’s arrival in power in January 1959, revolutionary
propaganda became a powerful instrument of social control. One year
earlier, in February 1958, Radio Rebelde (Rebel Radio) had already begun
broadcasting from the Sierra Maestre, which contributed to the
dissemination of the insurgents’ message.
A few months after becoming president, Fidel Castro completely did away
with a free press, nationalizing newspapers and magazines, and
establishing Prensa Latina and Radio Havana Cuba — media outlets that
would later have the task of selling the world on the alleged benefits
of the Cuban system, alternating between true and false propaganda.
Official radio networks in the United States, the United Kingdom, France
and Spain often make use of these tools to their advantage too, but the
storyline is different. In spite of being government entities, Voice of
America, BBC, Radio France International and Radio Exterior de España
air dissenting opinions.
I speak from personal experience. I have been a regular contributor to
Radio Marti since 1996. I have been a guest on its radio shows and have
had articles published in which I criticized both Cuban dissidents and
the government of the United States without any form of censorship.
If Radio Marti were shut down, dissidents and independent journalists
would not have a feedback channel to reach those living in Cuba. If the
government allowed dissident voices to be heard in the media, the
station nestled in Florida would lose its reason for being.
Before returning home after attending a workshop on investigative
journalism in San Diego in November 2014, I spent a few days in Miami.
There I met producers, directors and journalists who work for the Martis.
I have had frank conversations with Karen Caballero, a presenter on TV
Marti. I have debated with Alvaro Alba, Ofelia Oviedo, Hector Carrillo,
Amado Gil, Jose Luis Ramos, Rolando Cartaya, Margarita Rojo, Omar
Montenegro, Luis Felipe Rojas and Juan Juan Almeida about the future of
I had a very productive meeting with Carlos Garcia Perez, director of
both Radio Marti and Television Marti, and with officials Humberto
Castello and Natalia Crujeiras. I argued that this broadcaster’s radio
programs are crucial in providing a platform for the opposition and an
outlet for articles by Cuba’s independent journalists.
It is a shame that jamming by the regime prevents TV Marti from being
seen on the island. Ideally, it should have a wider audience. We all
know the power of images.
In my opinion any reorganization that the Martis might go through should
be for the better. Giving a broader platform to independent journalists
and alternative bloggers is something that should be considered.
Programs on leisure and recreation could be improved. International news
programs could be made more attractive, especially in regards to
Venezuela, a country of great interest to some sectors within Cuba.
Thousands of housewives are regular listeners of soap operas. The
variety of programming could be increased to offer more shows for women.
Sports shows always gets high ratings so it should be given more air time.
Independent journalists in Cuba surely have entertaining stories. This
is the 21st century. Never before have humans had access to so many
sources of information as today. To reach them means having to be
The government of Raul Castro prohibits the free flow of news and
information. It fears Radio Marti. That’s why it is censored.
Travel Notebook VIII
Photo: Cuba Day, a Radio Marti news show that airs Monday through Friday
from 3 to 4 PM. Produced by Ofelia Oviedo, it is directed by Tomás
Cardoso, Omar Lopez Montenegro and journalist Cary Roque. Freelance
journalist Iván García is often invited to report from Havana. In his
last appearance on Friday, February 6, he talked about what Cubans can
expect from talks between Cuba and the United States (TQ).
Source: Radio Marti: The Voice of Cuban Dissidents / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba –
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.