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Cuban exiles in Miami vow to boycott if Radio Mambí is ‘silenced’ by new owners

Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez raised concerns that liberal-leaning billionaire George Soros was involved in financing the new network.
Members of M.A.R. por Cuba attend a press conference at the Brigade 2506 headquarters in Little Havana about the sale of Radio Mambi and WQBA, La Cubanisima, to the newly formed Latino Media Network, on Wednesday June 8, 2022.
Members of M.A.R. por Cuba attend a press conference at the Brigade 2506 headquarters in Little Havana about the sale of Radio Mambi and WQBA, La Cubanisima, to the newly formed Latino Media Network, on Wednesday June 8, 2022. [ PEDRO PORTAL | Miami Herald ]
Published Jun. 9

MIAMI — Promising boycotts, protests and strikes, Cuban exile leaders expressed their fear that two Miami stations, Radio Mambí and WQBA — which have traditionally advocated for Cuba’s freedom — would be silenced after being bought by Latino Media Network, a media company run by “social activists with a left-wing progressive political agenda.”

TelevisaUnivision Inc. reached an agreement to sell 18 stations, including Radio Mambí and WQBA, in different cities, to Latino Media Network (LMN), founded by Stephanie Valencia, who worked in the White House as a special assistant to the president and as director of public engagement under the Barack Obama administration, and Jess Morales Rocketto, who worked in the Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns.

The newly created LMN, which has managed to raise $80 million for its startup, also has funds from the investment firm Lakestar Finance LLC, associated with liberal-leaning billionaire George Soros.

The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, on behalf of 35 exile organizations, called a meeting on Wednesday at the Bay of Pigs Museum and headquarters of Brigade 2506, in Little Havana, to express its concern about the “silencing and the marginalization of radio stations that have historically been the voices of support for Cuba’s freedom,” according to a letter delivered to the media.

Related: Cubanos de Miami se oponen a acuerdo de radio en español de demócratas

The group of exiled leaders that included Sylvia Iriondo, from M.A.R. for Cuba; Rafael Montalvo, president of Brigade 2506; and businesswoman Irina Vilariño, who ran for a congressional seat, expressed their rejection of any form of censorship against the radio stations and the conservative views.

“We remain united to defend and safeguard the rights of the Cuban people and to express their suffering in public spaces,” said Iriondo, reading the letter from the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, which indicates that they will resort to “legal and legitimate resources available in this nation, including boycotts, strikes, and protests.”

The first step that the organizations will take will be to send “a letter of concern” to the Federal Communications Commission in the next 48 hours.

“This is a very diverse community, but united in the pain that Cuba and the people on the island suffer, is involved in a struggle for life, that’s why we want to express our concern with a letter,” said Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance.

The event featured speeches by Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, state Sen. Ileana García, state Rep. Tom Fabricio and Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo, who recalled the community service provided by the stations and the updated information on the situation of political prisoners, the Ladies in White and opponents on the island.

Brigade 2506 President Rafael Montalvo sits next to Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, as she joined a group of leaders from the Cuban exile community during a news conference at the Brigade 2506 headquarters in Little Havana to announce their opposition to the sale of Radio Mambi and WQBA, La Cubanisima, to the newly formed Latino Media Network, on Wednesday, June 08, 2022.
Brigade 2506 President Rafael Montalvo sits next to Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, as she joined a group of leaders from the Cuban exile community during a news conference at the Brigade 2506 headquarters in Little Havana to announce their opposition to the sale of Radio Mambi and WQBA, La Cubanisima, to the newly formed Latino Media Network, on Wednesday, June 08, 2022. [ PEDRO PORTAL | El Nuevo Herald ]

In her speech, Núñez said that she grew up listening to Radio Mambí, which became a benchmark in her political education.

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“Since I was a little girl, my dad insisted on turning on the radio every morning on the way to school. I used to tell him, ‘Daddy, why do I have to listen to this again?’ and he ignored me, and it’s good that he didn’t because today my 23-year-old daughter, since she was a child, has also been listening to those radio programs,” she said.

For Núñez, the sale of the radio stations could have an impact on the access that young people have to historical information on the human rights violations committed in Cuba.

“We cannot let our youth not be informed firsthand of the harm of communism. It is important for young people to know because today we are seeing a very dangerous movement,” she emphasized.

The lieutenant governor assured that George Soros would be financing LMN and the purchase of the radio stations and criticized the origin of the funds.

“We cannot let a harmful activist billionaire, who has a history of financing radical causes and candidates, buy our stations, which have been the voice of our exile,” said Núñez.

Bovo pointed out that Radio Mambí has opened the doors to Democrats, independents and Republicans, “as long as they carry the freedom of Cuba on their agenda.”

“When I was a child, I also heard in our car that each person who came was committed to the Cuban cause,” said the mayor of Hialeah, explaining that the station has also reported on violations of freedoms in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

“Radio Mambí grew to be much more than a door to the freedom of Cuba, to be the door to the freedom of many countries. They are not going to shut us up,” Bovo said.

For his part, Colombian activist Fabio Andrade said he is supporting the cause because the sale of the stations also impacts the Colombian community in South Florida.

“If they start censoring people, I think there will be demonstrations, boycotts and many issues that will influence the radio business. They can censor people who are the voice of the Cuban exile and who have been on the air for many years,” he said.

In South Florida there are more conservative Cuban stations, so why is the sale of Radio Mambí relevant? he was asked. The Colombian activist and businessman replied that it has a symbolic background.

“It’s an icon of the Hispanic radio and of the Cuban-American diaspora, of freedom. For example, if they wanted to change the Freedom Tower, they would go against our reality. The icons must be kept,” he concluded.

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