As Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said:
La sabiduría nos llega cuando ya no nos sirve de nada. Wisdom comes to us when it’s already too late.
APPEAL TO THE CONGRESS
SAVE VOICE OF AMERICA SPANISH BROADCASTS TO LATIN AMERICA
In its plans for FY2013, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has announced a major Reduction-in-Force for the essential VOA Spanish Service which broadcasts to Latin America. Over 20 employees are scheduled to be fired. We believe that the cessation of U.S. broadcasts to an extremely important region, which is strategic to U.S. interests, is a major blunder for our foreign policy.
• For over 50 years, the Voice of America has been broadcasting to this critical part of the world in our hemisphere. At its anniversary celebration last year, the VOA Spanish Service celebrated the milestones in its communications with the countries of Latin America including its immensely popular Breakfast Show, Buenos Dias America, which covers historic events, news about our country, and international events in a style accessible to both elites and working people. This show as well as others are broadcast throughout Central and South America on AM and FM affiliate stations and satellite and are also available on podcasts, the VOA website and on mobile phones. This legacy of communication, which impacts the people of an important part of the world strategic to our interests, will stop if the cuts are approved by Congress. The BBG is wrong in concentrating its resources only on the Middle East and Asia while ignoring the nations of Latin America, whose trade surpasses those of China, India and Russia all together.
• This region which had become synonymous with the words junta, banana republic and turmoil, is now emerging with a new level of political and economic maturity: exactly the audience that we want to reach. Democracy as well as economic upward mobility in many of the countries is starting to grow. However, the Hugo Chavez and Castro models of centralized control with their strong anti-Americanism and opposition to the free market are undermining the growth of democracy in Latin America especially with the constant anti-American diatribes of broadcasting agencies like TELESUR, a 24-hour TV network. The Chavez model in Venezuela is negatively affecting other countries in the region including Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Nicaragua. If America stops its communication with the emerging democracies of Latin America, the results could be most serious for U.S. national security.
• China and Iran have expanded their influence in Latin America. China has now replaced the U.S. as the major trading partner of Brazil. Both countries are opening new cultural centers throughout Latin American countries. At the beginning of the year, Iran launched a 24-hour TV network which is broadcasting an aggressive anti-American message. Most seriously for global security, Iran is getting uranium for its fuel rods from Brazil and has negotiated an agreement with Bolivia’s leftist leader, Evo Morales, to extract lithium in commercial quantities. Their political and economic ties are growing, while the U.S. does not seem to be paying attention, which could directly impact our national security. Cutting VOA Spanish broadcasts to Latin America at this critical time makes no sense.
• There are 50 million people of Latino heritage in the United States and their individual success stories in politics, business, culture, medicine and entrepreneurship in our society are an important and inspiring factor in our communications with the people of Latin America and in forging alliances with those countries. Cutting U.S. broadcasts to Latin America sends the wrong message to the Hispanic-American community, alienates Latino voters, and destroys the possibilities of communicating U.S. ideas, ideals and institutions. This would be a blow to U.S. public diplomacy in the region.
• In its budget submission for FY2013, the BBG states that its actions are part of a long-range consolidation of VOA Spanish and Radio/TV Marti. To our knowledge, there is no mechanism for consolidation of VOA Spanish and Radio Marti in the language of the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (P.L. 98-111) where the mission of Radio Marti is specifically spelled out. We do not believe that there has been any directive from Congress to change the mission of Radio/TV Marti whose broadcasts are targeted to the Cuban people. The mission of the VOA Spanish Service is codified in the VOA charter contained in P.L. 94-350. Therefore, we do not understand how and why the BBG is undertaking these actions unilaterally without consultation with or approval from the U.S. Congress.
• The most undeniable example of how vital the VOA’s Spanish Service is for the United States was the recent Summit of the Americas in Colombia. As never before, the United States was isolated while nearly 30 regional Presidents refused to sign a joint Summit Final Declaration in protest against U.S. policies towards Cuba. In fact, there is growing support for the inclusion of Cuba at the next scheduled Summit. This highlights the steady decline of U.S. influence in a region whose economic growth rates are the envy of the developed world.