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US Begins Cuba Broadcasts Relayed by Military Planes - 2004-08-24

The State Department says the United States has begun relaying its Radio and TV Marti broadcasts into Cuba with military aircraft. The operations were authorized by President Bush in May as a way of overcoming Cuban jamming of the U.S.-funded stations.

The State Department says the transmissions began Saturday and that Radio and TV Marti broadcasts were relayed into Cuba for several hours by specially-equipped U.S. Air National Guard transport planes operating outside of Cuban airspace.

The unusual effort to overcome Cuban jamming of the U.S. broadcasts was authorized by President Bush in May, as part of a series of measures recommended by the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Radio Marti began in the mid-1980s and Cuba started heavily jamming both it and its counterpart TV Marti when the television station began operations in 1990.

The jamming of TV Marti has been especially effective despite extensive efforts to overcome it. State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the aim of the new effort is to provide free information to Cubans and in the process, hasten the end of the Communist government of Fidel Castro.

"Radio and TV Marti have transmitted their signals for over a decade and they are routinely jammed by the authorities in Cuba who fear the truth being known by their own people," he said. "Our view is that these broadcasts will give the Cuban people uncensored information about their country and will help serve to bring about a more rapid and peaceful transition to democracy."

President Bush adopted several other recommendations of the commission, including limiting the remittances U.S. family members may send to relatives in Cuba and limiting the number of visits family members can make to Cuba, a step that drew broad criticism in the Cuban-American community.

In another development, spokesman Ereli shrugged off Cuba's rejection of a U.S. offer of $50,000 in relief aid to help deal with damage from Hurricane Charley earlier this month. Cuba termed the U.S. gesture "humiliatingly meager" and "hypocritical."

Mr. Ereli said the United States offered the aid, through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, in a spirit of humanitarian concern, and said he hoped the Cuban government would see it that way, and act to help its people.