Leer en Español
According to confidential information accessed by El American, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which oversees Radio Television Martí, has a list of between 25 and 30 federal employees who could soon be fired from that channel. Since November 2020, right on the brink of the controversial presidential elections, several dozen contractors have been laid off.
At first glance, the matter seems to be a consequence of the budget cuts to be made by the current administration. However, employees and former employees explained to El American that there is strong censorship in the channel and that the budget cut would be one of the numerous measures that have been implemented for months, which would intend to seek to silence both those who discomfort the Cuban regime and those from the United States who are interested in resuming relations with the oldest dictatorship in the hemisphere.
An employee of Radio Television Martí, who asked not to be identified, explained to El American that he has been instructed not to use the word “dictatorship” in reports and audiovisual products in general. He assured that he also cannot use the word “regime” and, instead, has been asked to use the word “government” to refer to Castro’s tyranny. Likewise, the word “dictator” is forbidden and the word “president” must be used, according to our source.
“What they tell you had happened during the administration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, which ended in 2017. Colleagues related to me how they were censored back then. The budget is a pretext, an alibi, an old trick of the socialist clique that has done so much harm to the dream of the visionary Jorge Más Canosa and the great Ronald Reagan,” Luis Leonel León, a former OCB contractor who worked for years at Radio Televisión Martí, commented to El American.
Radio Televisión Martí has been since its creation a space that is supposed to be dedicated to showing not only Cubans, but the American people and the entire world, the truth of what is happening on the island under a regime that has been in power for decades. The statements and testimonies of employees and former employees about an environment of censorship that would be an “open secret” are of great concern to the entire Cuban community and to the defenders of freedom of expression.
Another source contacted by El American pointed out that the cut in funds is functional to continue firing people who are uncomfortable with the interests of the Castro regime. He also assured that what is being experienced in the working environment of the channel is “fear.”
Luis Leonel confirmed these statements, assuring that “if not everybody, a great part of the people are afraid. I was not told that. I lived it. It was sad and frustrating to see how fear is a constant where freedom is supposedly defended. The people I worked with still regret it. And you don’t have to be very enlightened to clearly understand that if there is fear, it is because something is very wrong there”.
El American also spoke with Isabel Cuervo, a renowned investigative journalist who was fired from Radio TV Martí in 2018. When we asked her if she experienced any kind of censorship at the channel, she answered the following: “The biggest censorship that has ever happened in the history of Radio TV Martí was imposed on me, when in October 2018 they censored a report on George Soros, deleted it from all platforms, escorted me out of the building and then subjected me to federal investigation.”
In relation to the atmosphere in the media, Cuervo said: “With the Soros case they left a strong precedent, but obviously the censorship and silencing of journalists will continue. It is a shame and a real danger that this is happening in the United States.”
Regarding the importance and impact of the media, Luis Leonel pointed out that Radio Martí could be “the detonator for the Cubans imprisoned on the Island to finally reach the longed-for freedom, which has not yet been achieved and which will not be possible without a media that directly and systematically sends them free information.” He also added that deactivating Radio Television Marti would be a great victory for Castroism. “They want it as much as they want the Embargo removed and the Guantánamo Naval Base handed over to them,” he said.
Legislators from both parties have sent a letter to the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which is in charge of OCB, to reject the budget cut. Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez, María Elvira Salazar, Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, among others, have stressed the importance of Radio Televisión Martí for the Cuban people and access to free information.
The budget cut for OCB is worrisome and would significantly affect a medium that for a long time has denounced to the world what Cubans suffer. However, the allegations of “censorship” within the media are even more alarming. Turning off the voices of Radio Television Martí that tell the reality of what is happening under Castro’s regime would almost be tantamount to legitimizing the Castro dictatorship and Miguel Diaz-Canel before the world. There are no media anywhere in the world that does what Radio Televisión Martí has done for decades in giving voice to the Cuban people.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.