Cubans turning on their television sets in recent days have picked up programming rarely seen on this communist-run island: U.S. President George W. Bush defending his Iraq policy, American cartoons, news programs from Tampa Bay, Florida.
No, this isn’t a U.S. government propaganda effort.
It’s a regular atmospheric phenomenon that occurs for several days or weeks at the start of each summer, allowing Cubans in some coastal areas—especially those living in tall buildings—to tune in to regular TV and radio programming from Florida, 90 miles (about 145 kilometers) to the north.
“They’re coming in a lot,” Luis Batista said of the American signals picked up by his television set in the Alamar neighborhood east of Havana. “The clarity is magnificent, the transmission constant.”
Batista said his family starting detecting the American signals last week, offering an option to Cuba’s state-run political discussion shows and homegrown soap operas.
So strong are the signals now that the government mentioned them on the local news.
“During determined short periods of the year, the layers (of the atmosphere) undergo changes that converts them into an ideal conductor” for the American signals, a news announcer said on Tuesday.
Those changes allowed some Cubans, for example, to watch Bush’s full speech this week on Iraq—although many didn’t understand what he was saying.
Others have tuned in the local news from Tampa Bay, the Tuesday night Miss Universe contest, American sports events.
Although much of the programming has been in English, viewers also have picked up some Spanish language broadcasts, allowing them to watch the hugely popular Sabado Gigante variety show on Saturday.
Just as popular as the shows have been the television commercials—unknown in this socialist society—advertising everything from shampoo to kitchen knives.