August 9, 2006

Cuba targets illegal TV dishes as US weapon

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's Communist government has signaled
a crackdown on the use of black-market satellite dishes, just
over a week after ailing leader Fidel Castro temporarily
relinquished power to his brother.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma on Wednesday warned
that the dishes, which many Cubans use to watch
Spanish-language television programs from Miami, could be used
by the U.S. government to broadcast subversive information.

"They are fertile ground for those who want to carry out
the Bush administration's plan to destroy the Cuban
revolution," said the newspaper, the official voice of the
government. Such an article in Granma usually signals that
action is on the way.

The article also decried the "avalanche" of capitalist
advertising in commercial television programs.

Since Castro provisionally relinquished power to his
brother Raul on July 31 after undergoing gastric surgery,
Cubans have been anxious for more information on his condition
and the political direction of their country.

Those who get black-market television by cable have watched
with amazement images of Miami's exile community celebrating in
the streets what they see as the end of Castro's 47-year rule.

Cuban officials say Castro, who will be 80 on Sunday, is
recovering from his operation. But neither he nor his brother
have been seen in public.

Castro said in an August 1 statement that details of his
health were a state secret due to the threat of U.S.
intervention in Cuba.

The Bush administration has stepped up pressure for
political change in Cuba by increasing broadcasts of
U.S.-funded radio and television to the island.

The transmissions are sent from a plane but the Bush
administration would like to start beaming its TV Marti
broadcasts by satellite.

Anecdotal accounts indicate there are more than 10,000
illegal dishes in use in Cuba. The owner of a dish usually
sells the service to others -- sometimes hundreds of clients --
for $10 a month via hidden cables that crisscross roofs.