Telagression TV Marti vs. the Cuban people By Marc Frank The man on watch flashed the long

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Telagression: TV Marti vs. the Cuban people By Marc Frank The man on watch flashed the long-awaited signal to his comrade waiting below. He mounted his horse and began his famous ride shouting: "The British are coming! The British are coming!" All patriots responded to Paul Revere's call. No sacrifice was too great for independence. Growing up in the Boston area, I traced Paul Revere's ride more than once, visited the first battle site of our War for Independence, dug for war treasures and learned from my teachers the importance of a nation's right to self-determination. These days my first history lessons come to mind often as I watch Cuba prepare for the latest invasion and the long series of battles to maintain those same basic human and national rights that we all hold so dear. But we are approaching the year 2000 not 1800. No matter! The players may have changed, the tactics and weapons, too, but the essence of the matter is the same. Here in Cuba there is no horseback rider nor enemy ship sailing into Havana Bay, at least not yet. But on TV and radio, in the press and on the street, one can hear an ever stronger refrain: "The Yankees are coming! The Yankees are coming... again!" The country feels threatened by an imminent invasion, though one, at least for now, that takes a very different, more up-to-date form: television. However, the feelings conjured up in Cubans by that knowledge are no different than those in the old British colonies. "They have no right!" To the Cubans, TV has become part of that new and very sophisticated U.S. weapon known as psychological warfare, in turn part of the U.S.'s arsenal for "low intensity conflict." "The signal will first be relayed from TV studios to a ground transmitter, which will then shoot the signal up to a satellite," explained engineer Carlos Martinez, Cuba's minister of TV. "The satellite will beam the signal back down to another ground transmitter on Cudjoe Key. It will relay the signal to the powerful 10,000-watt TV transmitter located in the gondola of a hot-air balloon 3,000 meters above ground at a U.S. military base in the Florida Keys. The signal will then be beamed to Cuba." Martinez was explaining to a Cuban prime-time TV audience the technicalities of TV Marti, a Spanish-language TV station the Bush administration and the CIA hope will allow them to enter every Cuban's home "to occupy one or more of our channels," says Martinez. "It's an unprecedented and clearly illegal project," says Cuban Communist Party Central Committee official Jorge Gomez Barata, a man deeply involved in preparing Cuba's defense against what's termed here as "TV aggression." No one is manning a lighthouse as a lookout. But Cuba's most sophisticated scanners are now on alert day and night for the first signal of TV Marti, slated to go on the air at any moment. For a number of months now Havana has been preparing people for what Carlos Aldana, secretary of the Cuban Communist Party's Central Committee, says will be "a conflict, a crisis, of this you can be certain." Aldana emphasizes that Cuba has made it crystal clear to the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress that TV Marti is in a league by itself, different from the dozens of U.S. sponsored subversive radio stations that have come and gone over the last 30 years. He called TV Marti the "twin sister" of Radio Marti, a CIA run AM radio station that has "occupied" a Cuban frequency now for over two years. When Radio Marti went on the air, Cuba took a series of actions but did not, as expected, jam it or beam its own AM stations back into the United States. Aldana says some of the most reactionary segments of the Cuban-U.S. community and the Bush administration may have the mistaken idea that in the case of TV Marti "we won't do anything and that we're going to grin and bear it." In a recent interview with the Florida-based magazine Areito, Aldana explained: "We've tried every means to signal the Bush administration that such an assumption is mistaken, that it's a poor calculation. We're not looking for a fight, and we're not provoking it. That's why we've tried to exert all possible influence to prevent it. But, frankly, I don't see a favorable outcome, though we will continue to insist that this project be dumped." When the U.S. flicks the TV Marti switch to "On," most likely in early November, it will be violating international law. Olga Miranda, head of the legal division of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, looked through reams of documents the other day for a prime time Cuban TV audience. "There is the U.N. Charter," she said, "its basic principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states and the right to self-determination. There is also the 1982 International Telecommunications Agreement, signed by over 100 nations, including the United States and Cuba." Miranda says that TV Marti "specifically violates the spirit and letter of the Nairobi Accord, the fundamental principle of every state's right to regulate its communications and, what's more, the increasing importance of telecommunications in safeguarding peace and cooperation between states." She points to clauses 158 and 175 of the Accord, which bind its signers "not to cause prejudicial interference in the services of other countries." Then, specifically referring to TV, she points to #2666 of the rules governing radio communications, "that establishes that a TV station can not pass the borders of the country it is based in. Television is a domestic signal," she concludes, "and therefore its projection outside a state's borders must be an expressed accord between the states." Party leader Aldana and many other Cuban officials with whom World Magazine talked are concerned that the U.S. people either do not know about TV Marti and the crisis it surely will provoke, or do not understand its aggressive, even warlike, nature. Gomez Barata point out the funding process for the station, amounting to tens of millions of dollars to date, has been questionable at best. He says initial seed money amounting to $7.5 million came from a U.S. Information Agency plan to set up a Taiwan transmitter to beam Voice of America broadcasts into China. With the recent events in China, the VoA decide to go ahead with the project and got another $7.5 million. Thus, points out Barata, the Congress gave money twice for the same purpose. Last year, Congress approved another $32 million for operation costs in 1990 and 1991, and the purchase of programming, says Barata, will amount to at least another $30 million. Then there are the non-public expenses of the CIA. "This project has military components, legal components and those having to do with foreign affairs, yet it has never been examined by the respective subcommittees of the U.S. Congress, for example the Armed Services Committee or the Legal Affairs Committee." If the U.S. people have heard at all about TV Marti it has been in the context of "the free flow of ideas" or the need of the Cuban viewer to have access to objective news, information and entertainment. The Cubans get riled when they hear this argument. For one thing, as UNESCO researcher Jean Ting points out, "the U.S. (really U.S.-based mulitnational corporations) manages 65 percent of the international television traffic, 50 percent of the movies, 90 percent of the circulation of video cassettes and it inundates the world with its model of society." A bit one-sided, point out the Cubans. Inside the United States, the situation is even worse. Citing various congressional and other studies, the Cuban daily Granma reports that in 1983, of 1,700 dailies in the United States, only 531, about 30 percent, were "independent." The rest, with an even larger percentage of the circulation, were controlled by banks and other financial groups. Since then, many of the independents have been bought out and giant communication companies, like Time and Warner, have merged. These same monopolies control magazines, TV stations, movie and video production. Cuban officials, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Ricardo Alarcon, point out that the U.S. people are not happy with the news and information they receive. In particular, he cites reports that show that the average U.S. child sees 32 violent scenes and more than 6 murders on the screen each and every day! No thanks, says Alarcon and almost every Cuban to whom I've talked. Nor is U.S. reporting objective, say the Cubans. It's a key argument for TV Marti's backers. Analyst of the U.S. media Noam Chomsky points out that when Polish priest Jerzy Topieluska disappeared in 1984, the New York Times used more than 89 column inches in the first weeks of the story, and more later. In sharp contrast, when Catholic missionary Felipe Balan was assassinated in 1985 while saying mass in Guatemala, the New York Times blocked out the story altogether. Numerous studies have proven there is extreme class bias in U.S. reporting, say the Cubans. "In the case of the TV station, there is no room for flexibility, just as there is no precedent or legal backing whatsoever. It's a clear violation of the rules," says Carlos Aldana. "We've thought a lot about this. We've sought technical advice and we have been preparing out answers. Obviously, I won't go into details but I can indeed say that we won't take this lying down." Aldana, Gomez Barata and other officials say Cuba has developed the means to seriously interfere with the TV Marti signal -- rendering the U.S. investment of tens of millions of taxpayers dollars a complete waste. In addition, they strongly hint that Cuba will respond by broadcasting radio, if not TV programs, into the states. Other measures, both political and diplomatic, are clearly in the cards. "Our country, the Revolution, our people in no way can tolerate this invasion, this occupation of our telecommunication space. We cannot tolerate this limit to our sovereignty," says Gomez Barata. "In our relations with the United States, we have always taken measures geared to the nature of the aggression: technical measures, political and diplomatic measures. naturally, we have prepared a series of responses in all these areas. Our country has designed measures for every one of the possible situations that could develop and for every step in the project. These measures include counter-responses to every possible U.S. reaction to out initial response."


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