WASHINGTON/MIAMI, (Reuters) – The White House has proposed turning Radio Marti, a U.S. government-controlled broadcaster created in part to undermine communist rule in Cuba, into a separate entity as Washington seeks rapprochement with Havana.
The proposal, buried in the federal budget released last month, was made some six weeks after the United States and Cuba agreed on Dec. 17 to embark on an effort to restore diplomatic ties and normalize relations after more than 50 years of enmity.
U.S. officials said the proposal was unrelated to the Cuba outreach and aimed at modernizing the broadcaster.
However, it has troubled critics of the thaw with Cuba, who view the proposed change as part of what they regard as the White House’s abandonment of the fight against the authoritarian Castro government, a congressional aide said.
More details on the proposal will be unveiled on Wednesday, when the administration releases an additional budget document.
A legacy of the U.S. Cold War effort to reach out to people living under Communism and erode support for their rulers, Radio Marti, which beams radio, TV and online news to Cuba, has been accused of anti-Castro bias and is deeply resented by Havana.
Under the plan, the Miami-based broadcaster, which is part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency, would become a separate entity along with unspecified parts of Voice of America’s (VOA) Spanish-language service.
The entity would cease to be part of the U.S. government, though it would become a “grantee” receiving federal funding.
The proposal does not specify how it would be structured beyond that it would a “private, nonprofit organization.”