Cubans in Miami oppose Democrat-backed Spanish radio deal


Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, left, speaks during a news conference with Cuban exiles about their concern over the sale of two local Spanish-language radio stations, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, at the Bay of Pigs Museum and Brigade 2506 headquarters in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Cuban exiles describe it as a clear attempt by Democrats to drown out conservative and anti-Communist voices in a Hispanic community where they have been losing ground. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


A major effort backed by Democratic fundraisers to buy up Spanish-language radio stations is drawing opposition in Miami, where Cuban exiles describe it as an attempt to stifle conservative voices in markets where Democrats have lost ground .

The Latino Media Network, a startup founded by two political strategists who worked for the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, has reached a $60 million deal to acquire 18 AM and FM stations in ten US cities from from Televisa/Univision. The agreement announced on June 3 must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

These markets are diverse – Hispanics with roots throughout Latin America listen to stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, Fresno and Las Vegas, including some Hispanic communities where the Democrats lost ground to the Republicans.

The network said it “will focus on creating content that addresses the different cultural and political nuances that impact different types of Latinos.”

But things are not going well in Miami, where Radio Mambi is popular among hardline Cuban exiles.

“You would have to be deaf and blind not to understand the motivations behind this takeover,” Irina Vilariño, co-owner of a chain of Cuban restaurants in South Florida, said at a press conference organized by a coalition called the Assembly of Cubans. Resistance.

The network has raised a total of $80 million from high-profile investors such as actress Eva Longoria, who is also a Democratic political activist, and former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas, now a critic. of former President Donald Trump. The debt at issue is funded by Lakestar Finance LLC, a company affiliated with Democratic mega-donor George Soros.

The deal was harshly criticized by Republicans in Florida, from the Cuban-American House delegation to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis. Coalition members said they were exploring legal ways to challenge the takeover.

Democrats pointed to certain broadcasts on Radio Mambi and other Spanish-language radio stations when raising concerns about misinformation, particularly after the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol. Republicans say the charges are being used to distract from Democrats’ poor performance among Hispanic voters in South Florida and Texas in the 2020 election.

Stephanie Valencia, who helped lead the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama White House, co-founded the Latino Media Network. The Latina strategist heard about four or five months ago that TelevisaUnivision was planning to sell radio stations. TelevisaUnivision said in a statement that it met with dozens of potential buyers.

“We didn’t want to miss this opportunity to get so many at once and keep them in Latino hands,” Valencia told The Associated Press, adding that other interested parties didn’t appear to have any Latino programming. .

Valencia said they wanted to ensure a smooth transition.

“We’re going to look at this from a business perspective. How do you keep the spirit of what these stations are? How do we balance journalistic integrity and ensure we create spaces for free expression? ” she says.

One of the most popular commentators, Ninoska Perez, a staunch Trump supporter, assured listeners they were told there would be no major changes.

Radio Mambi got its start in the 1980s with support from the Reagan administration and has long received federal funding to air Radio Marti’s anti-communist content in Cuba for an hour after midnight each morning. Cuba, in turn, attempts to block the station’s signal from reaching the island.

Cubans in Miami remember growing up listening to the station in the kitchen or in the car. Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez shared at the press conference that as a girl, she would hear it so much she would get mad at her dad.

“Why do I have to listen to this? Nunez said she would tell her father as he drove her to school. “He insisted. He would never let me change the dial,” Nunez said, adding that she later followed the same tradition with her own daughter.

The group has yet to file with the FCC for the transfer of broadcast licenses. A public comment period will follow. If approved, the startup would take ownership at the end of 2023, after a one-year transition period.

______ This story was first published on June 9, 2022. It was updated on June 11, 2022 to remove comments incorrectly attributed to Martha Flores, former host of a show on Radio Mambi in Miami, the one of the stations in the proposed agreement. Flores died in 2020. The comments were made by another woman. This version of the story removes those comments.

Edward K. Thompson