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Diego Medina and Alpha 66


The following article is by Jeff White of Radio Miami International (WRMI) and is placed here with his permission.

Miami (July 24, 1999) - One of the most colorful broadcasters in Cuban exile radio died last night. Diego Medina, producer of "The Voice of Alpha 66" and Vice-Secretary General of the exile group Alpha 66, died of complications resulting from the flu.

He was a medical doctor each weekday morning, with two clinics in Miami. Many of his patients had been seeing him since he practiced medicine in Cuba before the revolution. And each afternoon, he went to a small radio studio at the offices of Alpha 66 in Miami's Little Havana area to spend hours producing a daily one-hour radio program for broadcast to Cuba. Over the years, the Voice of Alpha 66 was heard on AM radio stations in Miami, as well as on shortwave stations audible in Cuba, including WHRI, WRMI and for a brief time on WRNO.

Dr. Medina was not a professional radio announcer or producer, but he strongly felt that one of the best ways to promote freedom in his homeland was through radio programs that could educate the population about democracy and free enterprise. Therefore, he worked tirelessly, five days each week, producing one hour of programming each day in a very rudimentary studio. Often the programs dealt with the anniversaries of important historical events in Cuba, interviews with former political prisoners, or discussions with economists about the Cuban economy. His wife, Sara Martinez Castro, is a poet, and her works were featured regularly in the program. Even Medina's 13-year-old daughter recorded short messages to the Cuban people (which she wrote herself) which were included in the show.

Other Alpha 66 personnel participated regularly in Dr. Medina's programs, most notably Andres Nazario Sargen, Secretary General of the organization. For decades, the two were inseparable partners and the two main leaders of the exile group. While Alpha 66 has often been portrayed as one of the most militant anti-Castro organizations in the U.S. (Medina said it was prohibited to even mention the organization's name on the U.S. Government station Radio Marti), Diego Medina is remembered by friends in Miami as a kind, gentle man who spoke eloquently on behalf of the Alpha organization and the Cuban exile community. "He was a very devoted general practice medical doctor," said Jeff White, general manager of Radio Miami International, which transmitted Medina's programs on several stations for nearly a decade. "He was one of those charismatic people who was well-liked by everybody. And no matter whether you agreed with his politics or not, I've never seen anyone devote more time and effort to a radio program. He was absolutely convinced about the power of shortwave radio to influence opinions. He would come into our office frequently and ask about reception reports we might have received recently from listeners in Cuba."

Dr. Medina's radio program production dates back more than two decades. He began by producing programs and broadcasting them on vacant shortwave frequencies using a small military surplus transmitter which he put in his van, and a retractable antenna on top of the van. He would drive it around to locations in the Everglades on the outskirts of Miami where he would then broadcast the programs on shortwave frequencies like 6,666 kilohertz (because of the obvious relationship to Alpha 66). "I'm not even sure whether he knew this was against the regulations in the beginning," said Jeff White. But eventually the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discovered where the transmissions were coming from, and they sent U.S. marshalls out one night to bust the station. "I remember Diego relating the story," said White. "He had finished transmitting a program, put the antenna down and was ready to leave. All of a sudden, dozens of federal marshalls with heavy weapons surrounded his van and told him to come out with his hands up. They quickly handcuffed him and asked where all of the other people were.

"'What other people?' asked Medina. 'There's nobody else here but me.' They showed him papers indicating that the federal government was suing his van for illegal radio broadcasts coming out of it. They didn't even know who was doing the broadcasts. So they impounded the van, although I think they eventually returned it to him without the transmitter."

After a few of these scrapes with the FCC, Alpha decided it would be better to buy airtime on officially-licensed stations. Radio Miami International, in its role as an airtime broker, found them time on various stations over the years. The Voice of Alpha 66 was on WHRI in Indiana during most of the 1990's, until late 1998. Afterwards, Medina continued producing programs for local AM radio in Miami, and recently on WRMI as well.

Medina's devotion to his radio programs was evident through the last day of his life. "Diego came into our office on Friday evening looking really ill," said Jeff White. "He said he had not slept the previous night due to a bad case of the flu. But he spent Friday afternoon and early evening recording radio programs with Andres Nazario, to the point where he could hardly speak. The next morning I got a call from our engineer Kiko Espinosa, who was also a good friend of Diego's, saying that Diego had died only about three or four hours after leaving our office. I was shocked, and I realized that he had devoted the last bit of energy he had to the cause that he felt so strongly about." (White Jul 24)


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