Cuba Over and Out

By 1988 Medina had perfected his mobile method, and Alpha 66's programming began to virtually boom over the airwaves. Radio hobbyists immediately noticed a change. "Something is definitely up with this long-running anti-Castro clandestine," reads an entry in the July 1988 issue of the Association of Clandestine Radio Enthusiasts' newsletter, The Ace. "It is obvious they have a new transmitter."

Broadcast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, at first for half an hour and then for an hour, Alpha programs were now reaching Cuba, loud and clear. And someone else was listening, too. In November 1988, the FCC's Powder Springs, Georgia, monitoring station, one of thirteen scattered across the United States and Puerto Rico, picked up the Spanish-language broadcasts. Soon all thirteen FCC monitoring stations had homed in on the signal, narrowing down its location to somewhere in South Florida. But after months of searching, Miami agents had not been able to track down the source; Medina, their target, was moving around too much.

Finally, on March 3, 1989, with the help of experts sent from Atlanta and Norfolk, Virginia, FCC engineers found Diego Medina's van broadcasting from a wooded area just west of Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah Gardens. (The engineers said they could see the ladder/antenna poking up over the trees across the parking lot of a nearby shopping center.) On March 6 agents detected the same van broadcasting from a rural area near Southwest 172nd Street and 167th Avenue. The agents tailed Medina to his house, then ran a check on the Ford's license plate.

On the night of May 22, as Medina broadcast from his brother's Homestead-area ranch, federal marshals moved in. "In all those places in the country, you learn the nocturnal movement," says Medina. "In that place, nobody ever passes by. I knew the nocturnal movement around that ranch."

On that particular night, a lot of people were passing by. "I notice two cars go by there, and two cars over here, and one over there, and three over here, way off in the distance," Medina continues. "I think, `Damn, this is strange.' And they're getting closer each time. `Damn,' I say, `this is for me.'" Moments later, as Medina lowered his ladder, the agents arrived.

"Where are the others? Where are the others? Where are the weapons?" the agents yelled at Medina, pinning him down on the ground.

"What others? What weapons?" asked Medina. "There are no others. No arms."
"What do you mean?" the irate agents countered. "Don't move."
"How can I move? You're on top of me with a gun to my head," Medina replied.

Medina and Alpha 66 were issued an injunction ordering them to cease clandestine broadcasting. They complied, and currently buy time on licensed stations - evangelical station WHRI in Noblesville, Indiana, and Radio Mambi in Miami. Medina expresses no regrets about breaking the law. "If Washington and Jefferson hadn't broken the law," he says, "this country would still be part of England." But times have changed, he asserts, alluding to the ready availability of legal airtime. "Why should I go to jail when we can buy time legally?" he asks. "All we care about is getting our message to Cuba.

"Besides, I think this time they'd throw me in jail if I kept it up," he adds. "But we had them fooled for a while. They looked at the van and said, `Who would think of this? Nobody would think of this. Only a genius would think of this.' That's what you have to be to do this - a genius. Or half-crazy, like me."

Fidel Castro is going to have to realize that things have changed. He doesn't have his friends in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union any more. Things are different now.

-Jorge Mas Canosa, broadcasting on La Voz de la Fundacion, October 1990

In the fall of 1989, the Cuban American National Foundation, whose lobbying helped establish Radio Marti, commenced broadcasting its own short-wave programming, La Voz de la Fundacion, buying airtime first on Radio Clarin in the Dominican Republic and later on Indiana station WHRI - which uses two 100,000-watt short-wave transmitters to simultaneously broadcast programs to Europe and Latin America. The news, interviews, commentary, editorials, and music began as one-hour morning broadcasts that repeated in the evening, but now have expanded to two hours in the morning and three at night, after Alpha 66 programming.

"Marti cannot carry a specific agenda for any political group. That's the way it was created and that's the way it should be done," says Domingo Moreira, a CANF director and a member of the group's executive committee. "We do have a specific political agenda and a specific message that differs substantially from what Marti can do. That's primarily pointing out that the only thing that stands between the Cuban people and freedom are Fidel and Raul Castro."

Whether its sources are licensed, and whether its broadcasts attract an audience in Cuba, the network's efforts have not been well received by the Castro government. Late this past year, citing broadcast interference, La Voz de la Fundacion switched frequencies on Radio Clarin, from 11700 to 9950 kilohertz. Castro complained to the Dominican government, claiming - falsely, as it turned out - Cuba had registered that frequency for its own broadcasts. Radio Clarin shut down its short-wave transmitter.

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