A few weeks ago I was invited to interview for a show to air on Radio & TV Martí , a Miami -based station that during the past two decades has soaked up and wasted more than $500 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money attempting to beam anti-Castro news and commentary at Cuba .
To have accepted would have been the kiss of death for me in terms of visiting Cuba, where Radio & TV Martí is, understandably, considered anathema.
I also happen to believe that Radio & TV Martí is an absurd waste of taxpayers’ money (the 2009 budget was $28.4 million) that needs to be shut down immediately.
The U.S. government-funded entity was created by President Ronald Reagan  in 1983 and is designed to foment internal dissent and subversion in Cuba. Radio Martí, which is overseen by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), began beaming short- and medium-wave broadcasts at Cuba in 1985; TV Martí was initiated in 1990. Together, they beam at the Communist island 24 hours a day, including from converted AWAC aircraft.
A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office study found, however, that fewer than two percent of Cubans on the island have ever heard or seen the broadcasts, which highlight the plight of dissidents in Cuba and similar topics, but which have been condemned by the International Telecommunications Union as a violation of ITU regulations.
Why such a low reception? Because the Cuban government has consistently been able to jam the broadcasts.
More importantly, various reports by the GAO have found systemic financial irregularities, from payments being channeled to media entities owned by family and friends of the Cuban-American board members to questionable expenses for “cashmere sweaters and Godiva chocolates.” The most recent GAO report slams Radio & TV Martí for “editorializing, use of offensive language in broadcasting, use of unsubstantiated reports… and presentation of individual views as news.”
The fact that Florida’s arch right-wing Cuban-American representatives Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen  and Lincoln Diaz-Balart  have had their own shows on Radio & TV Martí could have something to do with why this boondoggle continues to get U.S. government funding.
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Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly
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