Ronald Reagan addresses the people of Cuba (1984)

In late 1983, United States president Ronald Reagan ordered the formation of Radio Martí, a radio station to broadcast Spanish-language programmes to the people of Cuba. Modelled on Radio Free Europe, Radio Martí‘s main objective was to undermine support for Cuban leader Fidel Castro and stimulate opposition to his rule. The station was named after José Martí, a 19th-century writer who was killed during Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. The following broadcast to the Cuban people was delivered by Reagan via Radio Martí on January 5th 1984, the 25th anniversary of the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power:

On behalf of the people of the United States, I would like to extend New Year’s greetings to the people of Cuba.

We know you’re marking an historic anniversary on your island. Twenty-five years ago, during these early January days, you were celebrating what all of us hoped was the dawn of a new era of freedom. Most Cubans welcomed the prospects for democracy and liberty which the leaders of the Cuban revolution had promised.

Such a free and democratic Cuba would have been warmly welcomed by our own people. We’re neighbours in a hemisphere that has been characterised by the quest for human freedom. Government which rests upon the consent of the governed is a cardinal principle that enshrines the dignity of every individual. We share many of the same ideals, especially a common longing for a world of peace and justice. We are both proud peoples, proud of what we’ve achieved through our own efforts.

But tragically, the promises made to you have not been kept. Since 1959 you’ve been called upon to make one sacrifice after another. And for what? Doing without has not brought you a more abundant life. It has not brought you peace… It has not won freedom for your people – freedom to speak your opinions, to travel where and when you wish, to work in independent unions and to openly proclaim your faith in God…

In the meantime, over half a million of your fellow citizens have migrated to the United States, where their talents and hard work have made a major contribution to our society. We welcomed them and we’re proud of their success. But we have to wonder: what would Cuba’s economy be like today if those people had been allowed to use their great talent, drive and energy to help you create prosperity on your island?

The most important question remains: Where is Cuba heading? If it were heading towards greater welfare and freedom for your people, that would be wonderful. But we know prisoners of conscience, convicted for their political activities, have been languishing in Cuban prisons, deprived of all freedom for nearly a quarter of a century…

You may not be aware of some of these things… That’s because you are systematically denied access to facts and opinions which do not agree with your government’s official view. But why are your leaders so unwilling to let you hear what others think and say? If the power of truth is on their side, why should they need to censor anyone’s views? Think about that…

The objective of the Radio Martí program will be simple and straightforward: tell the truth about Cuba to the Cuban people. We want you to know what you haven’t been told…

These are not pleasant questions but they deserve answers. I hope you’ll contemplate them with care. At the beginning of this new year, let us hope that the future will be kinder than the past. And may that better future begin soon for all you in Cuba.

Feliz Año Nuevo y que Dios te bendiga [Happy New Year and God bless you].

ronald reagan cuba
Radio Martí was personally authorised by Ronald Reagan, who saw it as a device for undermining Castro’s regime