US Funded Radio Marti: paying Cubans to listen

Rachel E grrrach at
Sat Dec 18 19:37:58 MST 1999


Today, Saturday (December 18th, 1999), at 11:30AM Eastern
Standard Time, Radio Marti broadcast an announcement that
went as follows:

Throughout the week listeners have been told that on Fridays Radio
Marti they will be calling a phone number that has been supplied to
them by listeners in Cuba. In other words, a listener writes a letter to
Radio Marti, tells them who he or she is, where he/she lives and then
provides a phone number where Radio Marti can call them. Radio Marti
broadcasts a particular word (la palabra clave)during the week. Of
they do not say when they will be broadcasting the word, so you should
listen 24 hours around the clock in any of the numerous frequencies (AM
and shortwave).

Every Friday Radio marti selects one or more letters of the many (?)
received. Radio Marti makes a long distance call to Cuba, and the
person at the other end is supposed to provide the "palabra clave" -
the password (for example "libertad", "liberty") then the listener
wins $200. Of course, Radio Marti records the conversation,
broadcasts the name or names of the persons who won, and one might
assume the money is sent to the island.

That is how Radio Marti, a federally funded radio station in Miami,
builds a radio audience in Cuba and then tells the American people
that listenership has increased. As you know, "liberty" has a "price."
wonders of marketing. The cubanos in the island should have it clear
liberty" and "money" come together. Not bad...

How is the cost of those phone calls justified in the Radio marti

Seemingly, the $200 plus given to more than one person per week comes
the Radio Marti budget? Under what heading is that justified?

Our tax dollars at work, no doubt.

Who does the selecting of the letters? Can the relative of a Radio Marti
staffer end up receiving a call and a payment in Cuba as well? The U.S.
Goverment Accounting Office certainly could have some intriguing work to
do, it is just a tragedy that U>S. law ends south of Orlando, Florida.

This type of operation began a few weeks back. First they started with
offering VCRs to kids who were told to write about the Three Kings -
supposedly such an exercise aimed at fostering Christianity among kids,
with a little economic incentive, of course. Then it was changed to
kids $200 for writing about the three kings and sending the letters to
Radio Marti and the best essays were to be chosen weekly. I assume they
stopped the idea of the VCR because how do you get a VCR to Cuba, who
could use VCRs without having the money to rent videos, and moreover,
people want something else. The cultural ethnocentric tendencies of
Marti were disclosed, but well, they changed the approach... Now it has
evolved into what I have described above.

Interesting, but, is it legal?

Nelson Valdes
Cuba Research & Analysis Group

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