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Senate Votes to Continue TV Service to Cuba

Apr 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Senate voted 65-35 Wednesday to derail an amendment aimed at pulling the plug on TV Marti, the U.S. government’s controversial TV service to Cuba. In a statement, amendment co-sponsors Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said TV Marti, which is slated to receive $21.1 million next year, is a “complete and total waste of taxpayer’s dollars.”

TV Marti’s signals, which are transmitted from the United States to Cuba from a balloon and an airplane, have been jammed by Cuban leader Fidel Castro since the service first went on the air in March 1990. With the jamming, critics charge that few if any Cubans have ever been able to receive the Spanish-language programming. “It’s absurd to spend $21.1 million to send TV signals to Cuba that no one sees,” said Sen. Dorgan. “The only message we’re sending here is that we have little regard for taxpayer money. This is wasteful spending and it ought to end.”

But backers of TV Marti say the service has the support of many Cubans living in the United States. “It’s important to make the attempt because we think some of it’s getting through,” said Joe O’Connell,” a spokesman for U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees TV Marti. “We think the continued attempt demonstrates our commitment to finding ways to provide uncensored information for the people of Cuba.”

The $21.1 million budget for TV Marti includes $8 million for a new airplane to transmit the signals, the senators said.