WASHINGTON - On orders from the White House, the Pentagon deployed a special airplane this week to beam the signals of Radio and TV MartÝ to Cuba, using a technology that one administration official said ‘‘breached the wall’’ of Cuban jamming efforts.
‘‘The political green light is on’’ to make the controversial U.S.-operated stations more effective at reaching Cubans, said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
An Air Force EC-130 plane conducted the transmissions between 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday, several officials said. It operated within U.S. airspace, not passing into Cuban territory.
Cuba acknowledged that the United States had altered its normal transmissions of the two stations, but said they were ineffective and hinted that the Castro government might retaliate.
‘‘Those transmissions did not constitute a technical success to be proud of. Very few [Cubans] heard the noise,’’ an editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Granma said.
‘‘The government of the United States should not forget that Cuban radio might be heard on standard frequency in many American states,’’ the editorial added.
The statement appeared to suggest that Cuba might consider boosting the power of its own radio stations, a move that could disrupt the broadcasts of commercial radio stations in South Florida.
Radio and TV MartÝ have been controversial endeavors, popular with many Cuban Americans who want Cubans on the island to receive alternative sources of information. But the two stations have been plagued by morale problems. They get little congressional oversight and are generally seen as ineffective in penetrating the jamming by the Castro regime.
Radio MartÝ began broadcasting in 1985 on medium wave and short wave. In the past several years, criticism has soared that its programming had become stale—sometimes lacking in elemental news judgment. In May 2002, Radio MartÝ delayed a broadcast of a historic speech in Havana by former President Jimmy Carter calling for political change.
On April 1, the White House replaced Radio MartÝ‘s chief, Salvador Lew, with another executive, Pedro Roig.
Among recent changes to brighten the station’s programming are broadcasts of Major League baseball games.
A White House statement said the Tuesday night broadcasts “used a transmission platform that we believe is not susceptible to Cuban jamming. We are currently evaluating the results of that transmission.’‘
The administration did not say how often it would use the EC-130 plane to beam the radio and TV signals.
‘‘We may not want to do it every day,’’ the official said. ‘‘We realize this puts some binds on the audience.’’ But he said the administration will allot the money necessary to make the signals more effective on a constant basis.
Both Radio and TV MartÝ have transmitted from the Florida Keys. The TV MartÝ signal is sent from a balloon tethered 10,000 feet above Cudjoe Key at a low angle toward Cuba that is easily blocked.
The EC-130 aircraft used in the test Tuesday is the same type of aircraft that beamed signals to Iraqis during the war, a Pentagon official said.