This past December 2011, the VOA Spanish Service celebrated the 50th anniversary of its popular broadcast, Buenos Dias America, to the countries of Central and Latin America. Several months later, as if on cue, Service members learned that in the FY2013 budget proposal, the BBG Executive Staff plans to cut their budget and potentially eliminate many positions, a proposal which would effectively destroy VOA broadcasting and most news coverage to Latin America. Some have described this move as Phase I of a long-range VOA Spanish and Radio/TV Marti consolidation, a project which has a number of legal obstacles.
The VOA Spanish Service has remained steadfast in its mission to reach the people in the countries of Latin America in the face of diminishing resources allocated to the broadcasts from the IBB/BBG over the years. Several years ago, despite the warnings of a number of experts in the field, the BBG abandoned its broadcasts in Portuguese to Brazil. If VOA Spanish reductions are now implemented, America’s communication with the 19 Spanish-speaking countries in Central and Latin America would be severely curtailed at a critical time despite some glaring facts affecting U.S. national security including:
1) The rising tide of an aggressive anti-Americanism throughout the region spearheaded by Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chavez, through his TV network TELESUR
2) One country after another falling to left-wing governments based on the Castro/Chavez models
3) The increasing involvement of China and Iran in Latin America including a new Iranian 24/7 Spanish-language TV channel
4) Defense Secretary Panetta’s recent statement that Tehran’s efforts to expand its circle of influence in South America is tantamount to exporting state-sponsored terrorism and that, as a result, Hamas and Hezbollah could expand their foothold in the region.
To most logical analysts, a crisis of these proportions in any region of the world would dictate that U.S. broadcasts be expanded and not curtailed, especially because of the potential impact on U.S. national security in this hemisphere.
Strategic planning, if it is to be truly strategic, cannot make arbitrary decisions in a vacuum especially if these decisions negatively affect national security.
The VOA Spanish Service has issued an appeal to the U.S. Congress to save its broadcasts.
Those who believe in the mission of VOA can only hope that this appeal will be heard in the U.S. Congress before the BBG flawed strategy for Latin America has a chance of being implemented.