Overthrow on the Radio
One night each week, three Cuban exiles make their way through a tall gate and the cluttered, overgrown yard of a house in Westchester. They file past a long table stacked with pamphlets and papers in what used to be the living room, then down a hallway and into a bedroom that has been converted into a cramped radio studio. A man waits near an ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder and worn audio control board. Then for half an hour the exiles sit before banged-up microphones and instruct the people of Cuba in the dark arts of sabotage, arson, and assassination.
Here's the opening of one such taping session, recorded this past December: "Since the sugar harvest is about to begin, and it's almost the new year, we want to start this new period with review and explanation, with an understanding of what those on the island are suffering. Now, this year's sugar harvest, it must be destroyed. In the past Castro promised ten million tons. Now it must be ten million acts of sabotage. Cubans, we urge each of you to destroy the grinders of the sugar mills by tossing pieces of lead pipe or screws into the cane that is being processed. Loosen or damage parts of the mechanisms. Also burn the cane fields. This can be done by pouring a little gasoline or combustible liquid on an empty cloth sack. Set the sack on fire and let it burn a few minutes, then put out the fire. At night throw the sack into a field. The next day the heat of the sun by itself will cause the sack to reignite."
The speaker is 47-year-old Enrique Encinosa, youngest of the three exiles, a writer of fiction and books about Cuban history. Encinosa and his colleagues then go on to detail methods of burning down warehouses and disabling government vehicles. They'll save for other taping sessions instructions for destroying computers, derailing trains, short-circuiting electrical systems and power grids, driving tourists out of ritzy hotels, even selectively assassinating high-ranking communist officials.
These and other recipes for mayhem are being broadcast to Cuba on a shortwave radio program called La Voz de la Resistencia (The Voice of the Resistance). The half-hour program is taped in this house that serves as headquarters for Radio CID (Independent and Democratic Cuba), the shortwave station founded by exile leader Haber Matos, a former Cuban Rebel Army major who resisted Castro's move toward communism and served twenty years in prison as a result.
La Voz de la Resistencia and other Radio CID programs are broadcast from a transmitter whose exact location in Central America is a closely guarded secret. According to station personnel, the program airs Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. and also on various other days -- depending on the station's programming commitments. (Anyone with a shortwave radio can tune in to Radio CID at 9940 kHz from 6:00 p.m. to midnight, and at 6305 kHz from midnight to 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.)
Encinosa, along with 69-year-old Coral Gables cardiologist Armando Zaldivar and 63-year-old building contractor Ramon Ramos, has been producing La Voz de la Resistencia for about fifteen months, but until recently they were reluctant to discuss the program in the English-language media, concerned that such exposure would attract scrutiny from federal authorities owing to La Voz de la Resistencia's seditious content. (Encinosa says he did speak about the program on Spanish-language radio this past summer.) But they have since learned that because the broadcasts originate outside the U.S., federal telecommunications regulators have no jurisdiction. In addition, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami says the program almost certainly is protected by free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The shortwave saboteurs also say they were encouraged to go public by none other than Fidel Castro himself. According to Encinosa, Castro decried subversive radio broadcasts such as La Voz de la Resistencia in a January 1 speech in Havana. (New Times was unable to confirm Encinosa's claim.) "Now even Castro himself talks about [the show]," Encinosa beams. "He mentioned in a pissed-off tone that there were some exiles on the radio trying to get the Cuban people to commit acts of sabotage. After the speech there were a lot of comments about that on the radio here."
Along with the supercharged rhetoric and inflammatory calls to action commonly heard on Miami's Spanish-language AM airwaves, myriad other anti-Castro broadcasts reach Cuba on shortwave bands -- the U.S. government's Radio Marti and the Cuban American National Foundation's station La Voz de La Fundacion being the most prominent. But La Voz de la Resistencia pushes the format to its extreme. "Are we advocating the overthrow of the Cuban government? Yes, we are," declares the bearded Encinosa, taking a quick drag from a Kool. Despite his relatively young age, he has been involved for decades in both peaceful and paramilitary anti-Castro activities. He is the author of three books about armed struggle within Cuba, and hosts a half-hour talk show on WQBA-AM (1140). "We don't claim we have a resistance army inside the island, or commando units. What we have is a direct line by radio to explain ways of resisting, and encouraging acts of resistance."
Encinosa sometimes refers to the instructions as "classes." His texts: U.S. Army field manuals, other treatises on urban and rural warfare, and the classic illustrated guide to sabotage the Central Intelligence Agency used in training the Nicaraguan contras during the Eighties. For example, he and his two collaborators explain the need for basic reconnaissance of targets such as warehouses or electrical plants in order to determine escape routes, and point out the best spots to attack for maximum damage.
Given the scarcity of resources in Cuba, the prescribed actions are usually simple and practical. Throwing a cloth sack in the cane field and making Molotov cocktails are among the more elaborate procedures discussed: "The best way to disable a government Lada is to pour dirt or sand into the motor. But if possible, before destroying the vehicle, drain the gasoline, since this can be used for other actions." (Encinosa is adamant -- on and off the air -- in noting that they are promoting only directed actions and expressly discourage random attacks that might injure bystanders.) "We believe this is the only way open to us," he says. "The violent overthrow of a government that has constantly abused human rights, denied a place for opposition in the political spectrum, and executed at least 10,000 Cubans."
Encinosa got to thinking about a show like La Voz de la Resistencia when he realized that more than half of the Cuban population today grew up under the revolution and thus hasn't been exposed to either the practical or the philosophical aspects of insurgency. "The people who fought underground -- the guerrillas, the CIA operatives -- are all dead or [in exile]. These people [on the island] don't have access to techniques of conspiracy, resistance, sabotage. It's fairly easy in the U.S. to go to the library or get on the Internet and learn how to make a bomb, but not in Cuba."
So about a year and a half ago Encinosa convened a "think tank" of counterrevolutionaries, recent arrivals from Cuba, and other activists, including Ramos and Zaldivar, both former guerrillas and political prisoners. Soon after the group decided to create a radio program, Ramos and Zaldivar arranged with Matos to use the Radio CID studio. Their first show aired in October 1995. As for any documentable results, the men can only speculate about the occasional news of major fires or industrial mishaps on the island -- incidents that could have been caused by sabotage but which the government calls accidents and for which no political motive will ever be established. Nonetheless, in a show this past December, Encinosa claimed that a top interior ministry official returned to his Havana home to find that "a patriot" had pushed a water hose through an open window and flooded the inside of the house. "This interior ministry official received a message from the people," he gloated. "With just a few basic materials and courage and common sense, you can send a message to this criminal regime.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.