The Obama Administration appears to have granted a license to a U.S. company that allows it to facilitate the transmission of Cuban government programming in the United States. It will be difficult to secure all of the details of the arrangement, however, we can glean some information from materials released by Olympusat, the U.S. company spearheading (and making money) from the effort, as well as public statements by made the regime on its latest public relations offensive.
I wrote about this matter about a year ago. And as I said back then, this is not an issue that will make the mainstream news. Not many people feel comfortable talking about Cold War-era problems. In fact, there are some youngsters these days who have no idea what the Cold War was, much less that Cuba remains a policy thorn to be resolved in the not too distant future.
So what do we know about the CubaPlay television initiative? Three things are worth mentioning.
First, the Obama Administration must have authorized a series of licenses, or one comprehensive licenses to Olympusat, or one of its subsidiaries. Why? I’ll spare our readers the legal technicalities; however, the Cuban Government is not doing this for free. They must be charging royalties for CubaPlay programs broadcast. There are many transactions incident to this effort that require prior authorization from the U.S. Government.
Second, these licenses are inconsistent with U.S. policy toward Cuba. I could list a parade of horribles here. They would all be correct. There is no reciprocity, for starters. U.S. programs are continually jammed by Cuban state security. Then there is the question of slave labor. We are, in essence, condoning oppressive labor practices. None of these artists appearing in these CubaPlay shows receive a dime for the fruits of their labor. Then there is repression of the artistic community in Cuba. If you criticize the regime, your risk jail or expulsion from the island. These latter folks will never make it onto CubaPlay programming.
Finally, Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism and a security risk to the United States, albeit an unconventional risk, much more nuanced than say, Middle Eastern terror. Academics and wonks argue incessantly on this point. All folks like me need to know is that Cuba is up to no good, and there is ample evidence of this in the public domain, of Cuba supporting countries and groups that seek to harm my country in a post-09.11.01 world. And the fact remains that we have no idea what Cuba is beaming into the United States or for what purpose. If you want to learn more about this subject, there are many good sources. Start with Chris Simmons’ page, Cuba Confidential.
We should shut this down, it is inconsistent with U.S. law and regulations. If it is going to be allowed to continue, restrictions should be put in place and Congress needs to conduct fulsome oversight. These broadcasts should be closely monitored. Royalties and other fees generated from this venture should be seized and set aside in the U.S. Treasury to pay for judgments against Cuba held by victims of Cuban terrorism or, the subject that nobody likes to talk about but will never go away: settlement of the property seizure and expropriation cases.
If we want U.S. sanctions to be more effective, any activity that provides the regime a source of income should be curtailed or eliminated. Such an approach works. Look at Iran. For Cuba this would mean, among other things, cease paying broadcast royalties for CubaPlay, only allow travel by folks visiting the island for genuine humanitarian purposes, and restricting remittances.
Allowing Cuba to broadcast in the United States in this manner amounts to political voyeurism. It puts money in Cuba’s coffers. Nothing good will come of this arrangement with CubaPlay except allow the regime to broadcast propaganda to the United States that it, and regime supporters in Congress, will use to weaken U.S. policy toward the Communist Party of Cuba.