Tag Archives: Cuba

Radio Martí: an uncertain future with the “thaw” in US/Cuba relations

Havana, Cuba (Photo: Wikimedia)

Havana, Cuba (Photo: Wikimedia)

(Source: PRI)

RadioMartiOn first impression, Radio and TV Martí looks and feels pretty much like any other newsroom. Emilio Vazquez shows me around, and we stop and watch two radio broadcasters behind a thick pane of glass.

“We have a morning show known as ‘El Revoltillo,’ which is like an on-air swap market type of show, where people call in and offer different products and services for sale on island,” says Vazquez.

But here’s what’s different about this call-in show: It’s illegal for its listeners to call in, or even to listen. That is, if they even can — the Cuban government tries to jam broadcast signals coming from Florida. Vazquez said they’re always trying to stay one step ahead.

“We have various methods of transmission. We have medium-wave transmission on AM frequency, we have our short-wave transmissions as well.”

Those change frequencies throughout the course of the day.

Radio and TV Martí has been delivering news and information to Cuba since 1985, an intense period of the Cold War. The Cuban American National Foundation, a powerful lobbying group of Cuban exiles in Miami, helped persuade the Reagan Administration to create the stations, which fall under the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a US government agency.

[…]Still, critics of the Martís question if Cubans are getting the best information from the government news agency. They call the programming one-dimensional, conservative and a mouthpiece of American policy. Gamarra says he’s staunchly disagreed with many editorials broadcast by the Martís over the years.

“But I think the criticism of them, that because they’re conservative, they’re not good journalists, doesn’t follow. They still have some value,” says Gamarra. “I think [the Martís] has an expiration date though.”

As part of the US government, Radio and TV Martí works out of large compound in Miami fortified by barbed wire, guards, and airport-type screening. As part of the US government, Radio and TV Martí works out of large compound in Miami fortified by barbed wire, guards, and airport-type screening. Credit: Jason Margolis
When that expiration date should be is the big question. With a thaw in US-Cuba relations, some say the time is now. Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota introduced a bill to end the Martís. It’s called the: “Stop Wasting Taxpayer Money on Cuba Broadcasting Act.” The Martís cost US taxpayers $27 million a year.

President Barck Obama wants to turn the Martís into an independent non-profit, but still funded by the government. It would be called a “grantee.”

Many conservatives say that would weaken the government’s commitment, and that the Martís still provide an invaluable service exposing human rights abuses in Cuba.

Malule González says her operation is more important than ever, even with President Obama on the island today.

“Don’t be confused by people shaking hands, that doesn’t mean that the Cuban people have any freedom,” says González.

Read the full article on PRI’s website…

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An SWL perspective on US/Cuba relations

WFL_015Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who has posted an article on his blog regarding US/Cuba relations after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced, last Tuesday, the re-establishment of relations. London Shortwave has included recordings from the VOA, Radio Marti and Radio Havana Cuba.

Click here to read the full article on London Shortwave’s blog.

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Shortwave Radio Recordings: Radio Progreso

Radio-Progreso-CubaFor your listening pleasure: one hour, twenty eight minutes of Radio Progreso (Cuba), recorded on February 28, 2014 starting around 2:15 UTC on 4,765 kHz. Though I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure this includes a radio soap opera.

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

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Miami Herald: Cuban spies and shortwave numbers

towersI should note that we have several recordings and frequencies for the numbers station HM01, which is mentioned in this article. Very happy to see that they interviewed Chris Smolinski:

(Source: Miami Herald)

Even if you’re not a Cuban spy, you too can receive secret messages sent by Havana to its spooks in Miami, Washington and around the world.

Every week, one short wave radio station in Cuba broadcasts 97 messages coded in fax-like tones. A computer program easily available to the public changes the tones into numbers, and the Cuban spies then decode the numbers into words.

A second Cuban spy station transmits 16 messages per week in the dots and dashes of the 175-year-old Morse code – secret messages to Havana spies who may be older or less technologically savvy.

[…]The busiest Cuban station these days, and the only spy station in the world that uses the fax-like tones, has been baptized as HM01 by amateur eavesdroppers who run Web pages like Spooks List, Spynumbers, ShortwaveSchedule and Enigma2000.

It transmits 11 to 14 messages per day, a total of 96 per week, on the same schedule each week but using a dozen different short wave frequencies, said Chris Smolinski, 41, a Maryland software engineer who monitors the spy stations as a hobby.

Each message almost always has 150 five-digit groups, so that eavesdroppers cannot measure the true length of the text. And some of the 10-minute transmissions are phonies, designed to mask the real number of spies receiving them.

Anyone can hook up a radio receiver to a computer, where the DIGTRX program – widely used by ham radio aficionados to send and receive lengthy texts, turns the tones into numbers. Spies then use secret computer programs to turn numbers into text.

“HM01 is an ideal system because you don’t have to teach any to anybody. The computer does all the work,” said Smolinski.

For the less computer-savvy spooks there’s the M08a station, which broadcasts 16 messages in Morse code, developed for the telegraph in 1836, on a set weekly schedule and on many of the same frequencies as Hm01.

Read the full article on The Miami Herald website…

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Bruce Conti’s map of Cuban mediumwave locations

(Source: bamlog.com/cubalist.htm)

(Source: bamlog.com/cubalist.htm)

Many thanks to David Goren for sharing a link to this excellent map of Cuba mediumwave locations. Check out the map along with Bruce Conti’s list of frequencies, transmitter data and more at his website: http://www.bamlog.com/cubalist.htm

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Starting tonight, Radio Progreso on shortwave

Radio-Progreso-CubaAccording to Arnie Coro at Radio Havana Cuba, the Cuban medium wave broadcaster Radio Progreso will begin an “experimental” shortwave broadcast on 4,765 kHz from 00:30 till 04:00 UTC on October 1st, 2013. For those of us living in North America, this broadcast will begin at 08:30 PM EDT tonight.

I will attempt to listen and record the broadcast tonight.

Many thanks to David Goren for the tip and for Bryan Mangawhai’s original report to DX lists.

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Rijmenants’ paper sheds light on Cuban numbers stations

WFL_015I’m always amazed by the remarkable talents and extraordinary knowledge of SWLing Post readers. Dirk Rijmenants recently commented on one of our Cuban spy numbers station postings:

[T]hanks for your work on this fascinating blog.

I have additional information on how and who used these Cuban numbers stations. I composed a paper based on FBI and court documents. “Cuban Agent Communications” can by found in the Papers section of my website.

Here’s the direct link (pdf):
http://users.telenet.be/d.rijmenants/papers/cuban_agent_communications.pdf

Have fun reading!

Dirk Rijmenants
Cipher Machines & Cryptology

I’ve read Dirk’s paper, which does, indeed, shed light on the process of receiving and decoding numbers. Most of all, it exposes the vulnerability and fallacy of using anything other than one-time decryption keys and single-use pads. Why? Most of what the FBI has learned about Cuban numbers came from laptops that were used to help decrypt coded messages–an unnecessary procedure when numbers can simply be decoded on note pads that can then be burnt or destroyed.

But don’t take my word for it–download and read Dirk’s paper Cuban Agent Communications” by clicking here. Also, be sure to check out Dirk’s blog and cryptology website; I’ve bookmarked both.

Thanks for sharing your findings, Dirk!

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