Cuba suspicious of a Radio/TV Marti baseball contract
The U.S. dismisses Cuban complaint that encrypted baseball broadcasts to
the island is part of a "cyber war."
By Juan O. Tamayo
The mystery of Radio/TV Marti's encrypted broadcasts to Cuba, which
fueled Havana complaints of a U.S. "cyber war" against the communist
government, has been solved.
The mystery began Oct. 10, when a Web site that tracks U.S. government
spending on Cuba programs reported that an Israeli firm had won a
contract to broadcast Radio/TV Martí programs to the island via satellite.
Worth up to $1 million, the agreement requires RRsat Global
Communications Network to provide Radio/TV Martí with the capability of
encrypting its satellite TV signal.
CubaMoneyProject.org, a Web site run by Tracey Eaton, a U.S. journalist
who was based in Cuba for several years, highlighted the contract's
mention of encryption but did not comment on why TV Martí needs it.
Radio/TV Marti are U.S. government stations created to try to break the
Castro government monopoly on the island's news media. Cuba brands them
as propaganda arms of the U.S. government.
Martí's radio signals are broadcast on short wave and AM frequencies,
and the TV signals are broadcast from the Hispasat satellite and an
airplane that flies along the Florida Keys. Cuba easily jams the
airplane broadcasts but cannot jam the satellite broadcast, which work
much like Direct TV.
Satellite reception dishes are illegal but relatively common in Cuba,
usually mounted on rooftops and disguised inside water tanks or
surrounded by hanging laundry.
Two days after the Eaton report, Cuba renewed its allegations of a U.S.
"cyber war" against it using the Internet, cellular phones and other
high technology equipment.
The RRsat Global contract was "suspicious" because of the requirement
for encryption, "which can have no other purpose than intelligence,"
noted a column published Oct. 14 in the government's CubaDebate web site.
Signing the column was Jean-Guy Allard, a French Canadian who has lived
in Havana for many years and regularly writes about dark plots by Cuban
exiles, the CIA and others against the island.
Allard added spice to the mystery Wednesday with another column
reporting that the president of RRsat Global's board of directors is
Shlomo Shamir, former head of the Israeli version of the National
Security agency, the U.S. agency in charge of electronic spying.
It's all much ado about nothing, said Radio/TV Martí director Carlos
García-Perez and Tish King, spokesperson for the Board of Broadcasting
Governors, with supervises all U.S. government broadcasters.
The contract with RRsat Global is exactly the same as a previous
contract with Hispasat for broadcasting the TV signal, free of charge to
the receivers in Cuba, except it's cheaper, they told El Nuevo Herald.
As for the need for encryption, they added, Major League Baseball allows
games to be broadcast from the airplane, free of cost to TV Martí
because the audience is small — Havana and its surroundings.
But Hispasat's signal can be received in most of Latin America, the
eastern and central United States, most of Europe and part of Africa.
MLB would charge millions to broadcast the games on the satellite, they
And that's why the need for encryption — usually referred to as
scrambling the signal — so that unauthorized audiences cannot watch the