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WLRN: Cuban Five debate on Friday

 

WLRN has always prided itself on being South Florida’s communal roundtable, a place where the news and issues that most concern us can be discussed and debated in an intelligent and, above all, tolerant forum.

That’s especially true when it comes to the controversial issue of Cuba.

As a radio station, we realize that it remains a highly sensitive matter in Miami, especially within the Cuban-American community. But we also realize that the local conversation about Cuba has evolved and become more broad-minded over the past decade, and that it can accommodate opinions today that might have been too uncomfortable to engage a generation ago.

As a result, we apologize to our South Florida listeners for the decision made this week by Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, to cancel an interview with the author of a controversial new book on the so-called Cuban Five, the spies who were convicted of espionage charges here in 2001.

The book argues that the Cubans are innocent, a claim that Mr. Cooper deemed too “incendiary” for this community to hear; a judgment that I and the rest of WLRN’s management strongly disagree with.

Mr. Cooper’s decision, in fact, was made without our knowledge, and it in no way reflects — and in fact, it blatantly contradicts — who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion.

It also belies the recent launch of WLRN’s efforts to provide our listeners with more coverage of Latin American news and issues, and that includes more open forums on Cuba policy.

We want to do more than express a mea culpa, however. We want to make this right. As a result, WLRN’s news division (to which Mr. Cooper does not belong) will be interviewing Stephen Kimber, the author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, at noon Friday on its weekly Florida Roundup show. We will accord Mr. Kimber his say, but we will also ask him our own hard questions about his claims. Just as important, joining the show will be an expert to rebut those claims and that person will also be asked hard questions about the Cuban Five episode.

WLRN values the trust of its listeners above all else, and we promise to work even harder after this week’s controversy to deserve it.

John Labonia,

general manager, WLRN, Miami

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