We are all frustrated by the difficulties of reaching a large audience with TV Marti, but we should not let those difficulties bar us or prevent us from trying. I, for one, am unwilling to give up and give in to Fidel Castro. Deleting the money for TV Marti is running up the white flag to Fidel Castro. Mr. Chairman, I do not possess a white flag. We have a duty to press for more freedom in the prison that lies so close to our shores and with such strong historical ties with the United States, so I support continued funding.
MS. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-MIAMI): Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Colorado. Mr. Chairman, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek to receive and to impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. So for almost four decades the people of Cuba have been denied this basic, universally recognized right. They have been denied this right by the Castro regime.
The Cuban dictatorship realized from the onset that knowledge empowers, and it knew that if it controlled the flow of information, it would be able to manipulate the Cuban people and forever imprison them in a parallel world created by Castro's lies and twisted propaganda. Thus, if it were to sustain its campaign against the United States, against American newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts, it had to be prohibiting all the information at all cost.
So, Mr. Chairman, the people of Cuba have lived in absolute darkness about the U.S. commitment to freedom and democracy in their island nation until the first broadcast of Radio Marti was transmitted into Cuba. Another milestone was crossed when TV Marti began its transmissions in 1990. Do we want to allow the veil of silence to envelope Cuba once again? Cutting off funding for TV Marti would do just that. TV Marti challenges Castro's hold by educating the Cuban people about our policies in the United States and about American society. It is critical to fulfilling the mission that USIA has of explaining and supporting American foreign policy and of promoting U.S. national interests through a wide range of overseas information programs.
TV Marti offers the U.S. government our capacity to reach out to the Cuban people on two fronts. It is an integral component of a multifaceted strategy to bring freedom and democracy to the last bastion of communism in our Western Hemisphere, and it is also a conveyor of truth as well as its servant. Thus, eliminating TV Marti would place truth at a significant disadvantage against the venom that is spread daily by the Castro regime.
We have heard arguments from opponents of TV Marti that it does not reach the Cuban people because of jamming by the regime. Well, copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that I quoted from earlier and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, those documents are frequently confiscated by the Castro regime. Does that mean that we should stop trying to send these valuable international documents to the dissidents, to the growing opposition, to the general population? Religious groups tell us that they routinely try to smuggle bibles into Cuba. Castro's thugs block their distribution. So we should stop sending bibles to the enslaved Cuban people? Of course not.
TV Marti is reaching the Cuban people. One new viewer means that one more person will question the situation in Cuba. One more viewer means one more person that has escaped Castro's intellectual imprisonment. Castro used to very massively jam Radio Marti, and the opponents on the other side worked very hard to get the funding out of Radio Marti. Well, now the signal is going through, the technology was improved. So now they say we have got to block TV Marti. But if this body passes the Skaggs amendment ... the House of Representatives would be awarding a tremendous victory that we would be bestowing upon the oppressors, while at the same time depriving the enslaved people of Cuba of a critical tool that we can give them, which is unbiased, free information. It would essentially cut off the flow to Cuba, as the dictatorship would be able to concentrate its resources on blocking the remaining broadcast, and the result would be an even more strengthened Castro regime.
MR. JOSE SERRANO (D-NEW YORK): Let us understand what TV Marti is. TV Marti is, and I have called it this for many years ... an electronic toy for a lot of people, for a little group in this country that makes a lot of political donations and in return gets a foreign policy that they like. I would hope that instead of taking taxpayer dollars to buy that toy called TV Marti, they would do what I do. When I want my electronic toys, I simply use my Radio Shack card, and it is much cheaper and does not hurt the taxpayers in any way. So I would recommend that to some folks in Miami and other places.