Cuba: government condemns satellite dishes

The Communist Party daily newspaper Granma on Wednesday also alluded to Miami news programs and talk shows, calling them a "germ-filled stew" that in recent days has carried speculation about Castro's health and the island's future. The shows are received on illegal dishes, highly popular here among those who can afford them.

It said the dishes carry "an avalanche of commercial propaganda that shows the trappings of capitalism, anti-Cuban messages, and even pornography with children, adolescents and adults," that is "distant from the cultural, educational and patriotic values that predominate our television programs."

The U.S. government this week scaled up transmissions by its TV Marti, which features anti-Castro programming. TV Marti's stated objective is to break Cuba's "information blockade" with its own current affairs shows by offering alternatives to state television programming, the only kind Cubans receive if they don't have TV satellite dishes, the AP reports.

There was no anecdotal evidence yet to indicate that a new crackdown to seize such dishes had begun. But there have been numerous such crackdowns in recent years, with the government depending on neighborhood watch committees and telecommunication workers to tip them off to antennas in residential areas.

State-run media on Wednesday ran messages of support for Castro, who turns 80 on Sunday. Youth organizations said on the front page of the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde: "We will fight and work harder every day to maintain and cultivate the values that the Revolution has sown in us."

Dozens of people gathered Wednesday afternoon in Callejon de Hamel, a picturesque public space celebrating Cuba's African roots, for a drum ceremony calling on the gods of the syncretic Santeria religion to improve Castro's health.

Earlier, about 150 medical workers gathered outside a major hospital on Wednesday to express support for Cuba's "Maximum Leader," who announced July 31 he was temporarily ceding power to his brother Raul as he recovered from intestinal surgery, the AP reports.

Neither brother has been seen in public since then. Details of Castro's condition, his ailment and the surgical procedure he underwent are being treated as a "state secret."