Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to join you today to discuss TV Marti in the context of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
I support public diplomacy in the large sense of that term, encompassing information and ideas that our government directs to foreign publics; scholarship and visitor programs that give foreign nationals chances to live, study, and work in America; and policies that allow free, unregulated contact between Americans and people overseas. Vigorous public diplomacy is an expression of American confidence, and it’s an underrated, costeffective foreign policy tool that boosts our influence around the world.
TV Marti is a classic instrument of public diplomacy, an attempt to go beyond the radio signals of the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and Radio Marti, and to bring television programming to our neighbors in Cuba.
Last March 27, TV Marti marked 19 years on the air. It also marked 19 years without a discernible audience in Cuba.
TV Marti has been broadcast from balloons floating in the air over Florida, from satellites in outer space, and now from an airplane that flies figure eights in U.S. airspace south of the Florida Keys.
Nineteen years of effort have not overcome Cuba’s jamming. I don’t think it’s possible to find a broadcast engineer who will explain how a television signal that originates more than 50 miles from its audience, can ever overcome jammers that are located amid the target audience. We cannot repeal the laws of physics.
Among all the difficult decisions this Committee makes in its jurisdiction, I would think this would be the easiest: to pull the plug on TV Marti. Lots of good intentions and hard work cannot overcome the fact that this project is, and has long been, an affront to the
Some might argue that ending TV Marti would be a concession to the Cuban government, a sign of retreat. By the same token, one could argue that a pitcher who can’t locate his curve ball is backing down by switching to sliders and change-ups. Both arguments are absurd – TV Marti is a tactic, not an end in itself, and it is certainly not a test of anyone’s fortitude with regard to communism in Cuba.
If anything, TV Marti itself manifests weakness – it’s a communication program that communicates with no one, and it wastes $10 million per year that could be used in other ways actually to communicate with Cubans. Only in government could such a program prosper for 19 years, into its fourth Administration and its eleventh Congress.
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