March 27

This Day in History

Cold War

Mar 27, 1990:

TV Marti begins broadcasting to Cuba

The U.S. government begins the operation of TV Marti, which broadcast television programs into communist Cuba. The project marked yet another failed attempt to undermine the regime of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

TV Marti was put together under the auspices of the Voice of America, the U.S. radio and television broadcasting system established in the 1940s to beam news and propaganda throughout the world, particularly directed toward communist nations. The new addition to this propaganda arsenal, TV Marti, was primarily the result of intense lobbying by Cuban-American interest groups and a handful of senators and representatives from south Florida and New Jersey (areas with large Cuban-American populations). TV Marti programming tried to give Cubans an accurate look at American life.

The legality and effectiveness of TV Marti were immediately issues for debate. International law forbade the transmitting of television signals into another nation if the transmission interfered with regular programming. TV Marti representatives argued that the signal was being sent on unused channels in Cuba. As for how effective it was, Cuba immediately worked to jam the signal as soon as TV Marti launched, so only a few people on the outskirts of Havana could conceivably see the broadcasts. The first day's programming included some footage of old World Series games, music videos, and replays of the old "Kate and Allie" sitcom.

TV Marti was a powerful indication of the strength of Cold War animosities and the Cuban-American lobby in the United States. The United States and Cuba had been locked in a diplomatic war since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, and the United States resorted to a number of different schemes to try to unseat the dictator during the following decades. During that time, the Cuban-American lobby, which was well organized and well funded, became a powerful voice in Washington. Despite the fact that TV Marti was a dismal failure in terms of weakening the Castro regime, it continues to receive funding and is still in operation.

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