Friday, May 22, 2015

Radio Guantanamo Bay

It is a somewhat awkward fact for the news reels that there has been a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for more than 100 years. The centennial anniversary of the base was actually in 1998 while Bill Clinton was president. The United States first seized Guantanamo Bay and established a naval base there in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. In 1903, the United States and Cuba signed a lease granting the United States permission to use the land as a coaling and naval station.

Side Note: In 1934 The USA and Cuba signed a treaty in 1934, granting the United States a perpetual lease. It can only being voided by the US abandoning the area or by mutual agreement between the two countries. (I am pretty sure that is not legal.) Incidentally, when Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 he continued to accept those checks, but after the Bay of Pigs in 1961, he stopped cashing them. More here.

You may be aware that the US military base at Guantanamo Bay happens to have a radio station. While in past decades information on that might have been hard to come by, today it's so open that it has a Facebook page. [LINK] Of course so does the base itself. [LINK] Their page reads "AFN Guantanamo Bay, Cuba provides news, command information, and entertainment on three radio stations and seven channels of AFN clean feed television." Currently they operate three radio stations: Voiceline on 1340, the Mix on 102.1 and the Blitz on 103.1.  The Blitz is a rock station that uses the tag line "Rockin' in Fidel's Backyard." More here. The bay also has a ham radio club. More here. Their call signs begin with "KG4" unlike local Cuban ham signs with start with "CL", "CM", or "T4." 

References to the Guantanamo stations from it's early days are few. The station has been there for almost 100 years. It was referred to in Popular Radio Magazine in 1928. It also appears in Radio Magazine, (though not by name) in 1922.  That station was the Naval base navigation station NAW. It operated on 600 kHz.  A paper from the US Hydrographic Office form 1917 specifies it's towers and transmitter shack were then located "on a neck of land within Corinaso Cove behind Fisherman Point." But it also mentioned "A radio station, which is not in use, is situated on North Toro Cay, at Wireless inlet. It has three towers." you read that right: In 1917 there was already an "old" radio station at the base. That station at Wireless Inlet was the original wireless station, and may have been started by Commander Charles C. Rogers. Once source dates it to the seemingly impossible date of 1906. [SOURCE]

Regardless, US broadcasting in Cuba was just part of the local radio band for decades. In 1938, Cuba held a Regional Radio Conference. it's goal, among other topics was to better coordinate with US broadcasters to avoid interference. In 1942 the Cuban minister of Communication suspended two radio stations for interfering with the Guantanamo base radio station. In the 1950s, unionized Cuban citizens worked at the station under the Batista regime. This became as issue as union broadcasts at CMKS were critical of their treatment and pay of Cuban employees. To say that things degenerated would be an understatement.  At a Radio Conference under the ITU in 1979 Cuba swung the other direction entirely, stating that the US use of radio frequencies on the base constituted a violation of Cuba's sovereignty over the frequencies.

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