Former Miami mayor and veteran journalist Tomás Regalado has been named the new director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversees the Radio and TV Martí stations that broadcast news and other programs to Cuba.
"My first day of work was yesterday, and today [Wednesday] a public swearing-in will be held," Regalado told el Nuevo Herald.
The former mayor said he has clear ideas about how he wants to shape the OCB stations, which were created to provide uncensored information to Cubans.
"I do not want Radio and TV Martí to be an alternative, I want it to be the main means of communication for the people of Cuba," he said.
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As the new director of the OCB, Regalado said that among his objectives are to increase the penetration of stations' signals on the island, improve the coverage of breaking news and modernize radio programming. Regalado is a veteran journalist who served as mayor of the city of Miami from 2009 to 2017.
Before accepting the post at the OCB, he hosted a Spanish-language program, Al mediodía con Tomás Regalado, on Radio Caracol 1260AM.
“I applaud the Trump administration for selecting Tomás Regalado to lead the Office of Cuba Broadcasting," Florida Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. "I have known Tomás for many years and have no doubt that TV/Radio Martí's role in ensuring the Cuban people have access to uncensored information will grow under his leadership. I look forward to working with him to directly empower the Cuban people.”
Rubio recommended Regalado for the position. His appointment, it is hoped among his supporters for the post, will help bring stability to the OCB, which has undergone management issues in recent years.
Regalado takes over the reins of the Miami-based Martí stations following the controversial departure of interim director André Mendes. Despite having received the support of Cuban employees and some exiles, Mendes resigned amid conflicts within the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — the federal agency that supervises the OCB and other stations such as the Voice of America — and allegations of pressure on the stations to provide favorable reports on the Trump administration.
Before Mendes, the stations' previous director, Malule González, also resigned in June 2017. She cited health problems as the reason for stepping down, but it came amid a campaign launched by a group of Cuban exiles and dissidents on the island who accused her of continuing to represent a policy of rapprochement with Cuba implemented under former President Barack Obama.
With Regalado as the new director, some employees at the stations, who requested anonymity, said they were concerned about possible conflicts of interest that could arise because the former mayor's son, Tomás N. “Tommy” Regalado, also works at the stations.
"I have been in government and I understand what the laws of nepotism are, the ethical conflicts," said the former mayor. "The first thing I did when I started the conversations with Washington was to request a legal opinion from the BBG. There is no conflict of interest because my son has been working there for 15 years."
Regalado also said that at the Martí stations, "there are marriages, there are parents and children," and the comments about a possible conflict of interest are "an excuse for people who may not want me to be there."
The BBG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres