Thursday, May 02, 2013

Radio Free Bahamas

 This was an unusual situation.  In the mid-1980s there was a bit of political unrest in the Bahamas. Yes, the proverbial trouble in paradise. They have no term limits so incumbents can become entrenched but intransigent targets for criticism. In this case Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling had been in power since 1973. Like many long-term incumbents, Pindling had gotten greedy. More here.

In 1983, NBC aired a report by TV journalist Brian Ross entitled "The Bahamas: A Nation For Sale."  The short version is that the Bahamanian government was allowing Colombian cocaine cartels to move drugs through the Bahamas to the U.S. A review of Pindling's personal finances found that prime minister and his wife received at least $57.3 million in cash.  You can imagine that this might normally be detrimental to his electability. His response was to limit access to the state-run radio station ZNS for his opponents.

The opposition responded by starting a weekly broadcast on WVCG-1080 AM in Coral Gables near Miami. This caucus  was called the Free National Movement. This is in some ways comparable to the use of Radio Marti to broadcast opposition political news and opinion to Cuba. The Bahamian-paid broadcasts were a part of a program hosted by Arnold ``Trinidad`` Henry, called The Caribbean Explosion. His program ran from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Saturdays. More here.

Tactically WVCG was a good station to choose. The 50,000-watt station, is more than twice as powerful as ZNS, reaches the entire Bahamas.  So when speeches were delivered by Kendal G. L. Isaacs, the Free National Movement leader, and Cecil Wallace Whitfield, the deputy leader they were heard all the way to Nassau. regarding the situation, the Sun Sentinel Newspaper wuoted a full page ad from another newspaper in the Bahamas
"Bahamians! Do you want to hear the truth about your country? Are you sick and tired of the lies and half-truths spewing from the lips and voices over Radio Station ZNS? Don`t despair. Hope is here."

The irony was that Pindling rose to power in the 1960s accusing the incumbent United Bahamian Party of gerrymandering. They were in power from 1958 and 1967. He was right of course. It is interesting to note that the use of WVCG was only the second time that Bahamians used a U.S. radio station to reach voters. In 1968 the United Bahamian Party had tried the same tactic fruitlessly with a show called Radio Free Bahamas. Despite best efforts, Sir Lynden Pindling remained in power until 1992, almost 20 years in power.  He continued to lead his party until after another catastrophic loss in 1997. He died in 2002.