February 28, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Anthony Collings
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On Tuesday, homes in Havana heard the United Nations Security Council denounce Cuba's shooting down of two American civilian planes. But it wasn't Fidel Castro's government-run media that was broadcasting the news; it was the U.S. government-financed Radio Marti.
That's the raison d'être of the Washington, D.C.-based station: to filter information into Cuba, information that's often unflattering to the Castro government.
At a cost of $12 million a year, Radio Marti produces programs in Washington and beams them from transmitters in Florida to Cuba over both standard AM and short-wave frequencies.
Despite claims that it reaches 80 percent of the country, Radio Marti has reception problems, including jamming by Cuban authorities. One resident of Cuba said he finds it difficult to hear the broadcast, though he said he would like to tune in to know who is lying and who is not.
Critics in the United States say the station is a waste of tax money and hasn't done much to bring down Castro. But it lives on, largely because it has the backing of the powerful Cuban-American lobby .
The wattage goes up or down depending on U.S. relations with Cuba; for instance, during the Cuban rafters crisis, Marti's signal was boosted.
But Cuban officials seemed unperturbed by Radio Marti's hopes to reach a bigger audience with a more powerful signal.
"So what? you cannot interfere with our radio and television," said Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon
Indeed, most people in Cuba seem to get their news from the Cuban government-controlled television network and radio stations.
But Radio Marti claims it's dominating Cuba's airwaves. "I have no doubt that Radio Marti is the number one station in Cuba," said station director Rolando Bonachea.
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