In the ‘delicate’ region of Peten province in northern Guatemala, a small CUPE-assisted radio station serves as the “Voice of the people”, says Marcella Braggio, a trainer and supporter of Radio Libertad.
In Canada this month to visit her Italian-Canadian family, Braggio spoke of the contribution Radio Libertad has made in Peten villages, thanks to the CUPE Global Justice Fund.
The original request for Global Justice Fund support came from CUPE Local 1281 (McMaster University OPIRG, Hamilton, Ont.) in 2005. This year the RL project is up for renewal.
“We make information available to people that they probably won’t get through the mainstream media,” she said. “We provide commentary on ecosystems, mining, water and other public issues.” The programs run from country music and children’s stories to liberation theology and people’s economics, adds Braggio who has a background in community-based work with non-governmental organizations.
Founded on March 14, 2004, RL now is on the air about six hours daily, but it is as much an alternative place of learning as it is an outlet for popular broadcasting.
“A 55-year-old woman learned to use a computer at RL,” Braggio reported. “Young kids get involved at ages eight and nine to learn to do things on the kids program. They play children’s music, read stories and do riddles and interview other kids. Events are sometimes broadcast in coordination with the local schools. Last year the kids were learning to produce radio spots that would be inserted with the music.”
Working with the Peten Alliance for Life and Peace, Braggio says the CUPE contribution has meant a lot for RL. “We’ve worked miracles with the money from the Global Justice Fund. It covers our basic operating costs and helps upgrade our equipment. We have also guaranteed training with the RL team for two other stations in northern Guatemala.”
In a humid country like Guatemala, which is smaller than New Brunswick, equipment needs to be replaced more often. CUPE helps with replacement. It’s support also covers electricity and Internet costs. Also, “It gives us the mobility we need to visit communities and to go as far as El Salvador this past year,” Braggio said.
A renewal of the $8,000 Global Justice Fund grant will go to improving programming, upgrading equipment such as a new cabling system to support the new antennae, and adding more coverage of national and international events such as the March 14 international day of protest against dam building.
With CUPE’s help, RL wants to continue building a radio network in the north by providing training to other communities and helping them set up other radio outlets. There will be more training this year to get more people involved in more communities, and RL wants to consolidate the training team and involve more youth.
“One of the most important things for everyone who works at RL is that they are doing it themselves and learning to do it together. It’s been a real eyeopener,” Braggio said. “Without CUPE’s support, we wouldn’t have succeeded to the extent that we have with RL.”