Radio/TV Marti’s new ways of disseminating information

Trying to get around Havana’s censorship, the U.S Office of Cuba Broadcasting is showing off novel ways to disseminate information on the island, including USB drives made of paper and a system for sending cell phone text messages to large groups.

“With these new initiatives we are enhancing the way that people in Cuba can share information,” said OCB director Carlos Garcia-Perez, who runs the U.S. government’s Miami-based Radio and TV Martí broadcasters.

Garcia-Perez said OCB has been anticipating Cuban efforts to block the new initiatives — Havana already jams TV Martí and less effectively Radio Martí — and “we already have contingency plans for that.”

OCB showed off its new technology Thursday at a Washington gathering hosted by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, in charge of all U.S. government broadcasters, and designed to highlight how the broadcasters are trying to increase their audiences.

Among the items displayed by OCB were USB flash drives made of paper that can be more easily smuggled around the island. Cuban authorities have been confiscating the regular flash drives from dissidents and visitors arriving at Cuban airports.

“We’re pretty creative here,” García-Perez told El Nuevo Herald on Friday. “As you know, the flow of information into Cuba is a constant challenge. But we have made huge leaps to provide a free flow of information to the people.”

Radio/TV Martí already deliver their programs to Cuba by satellite and on CDs, DVDs and regular flash drives. Its main Web pages are blocked by Havana, but copies are accessible on thinly disguised facilities known as proxy servers.

The broadcasters also already reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans a month with a computerized system, developed by mass marketers, to send out text messages to millions of people from different phone numbers so that they cannot be blocked.

OCB staffers also highlighted a recently created social networking system called Piramideo — roughly making pyramids — which allows participants to create groups and sub-groups and send cell phone text messages to large numbers of people at a time.

Families and businesses can use the system to link up groups of relatives or customers, according to the OCB presentation in Washington. It could also deliver uncensored news or political messages.

Under the slogan “Connect, Announce, Have Fun,” the system’s Web page describes itself as “a social network that allows you to connect with your people. From your cell phone or our Web page … Piramideo helps you to share what happens each second with your friends, relatives, clients, employees, etc.”

Text messages sent from Cuban cell phones cost $1 but are free if sent from the Internet.

The cell phone text messages must be sent to a number in Spain, and there were reports Friday that the Cuban government had already blocked the number through its telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA.

Garcia-Perez said that the system was working as of 11:39 a.m. Friday.

Read more Cuba stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category