Former Miami mayor Tomás Regalado resigns as head of Radio and TV Martí

Former Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado resigned on Friday as head of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, the federal agency in charge of Radio and TV Martí, after several scandals that shook those stations.

The United States Agency for Global Media, which oversees OCB, said it had accepted the resignation.

“His unique experience and background were called upon to extend TV and Radio Martí’s reach during a critical time in U.S.-Cuban relations,” the agency said in a statement.

“During his tenure, Regalado developed a new satellite broadcast strategy, expanded digital and social media content, and supported the creation of unique content on topics not typically covered in Cuban media, including LGBTQ rights, climate change and the contributions of the Cuban-American community,” the agency said.

After his appointment in June 2018, Regalado expanded radio programming but dismissed several workers in charge of the Martí website. A few months later, the Cuban government announced that it would expand the internet service to cellphones.

He also terminated the contracts of several independent journalists who collaborated from the island, citing budget problems.

This year, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are considering budget cuts to the $29 million budget for the Miami-based Martí stations, prompting fears among employees of more firings.

But Congress could negotiate another figure or even decide to keep the budget for next year at the same level as the current one.

“USAGM reiterated its unwavering and enthusiastic support for the missions and the journalists of Radio and TV Martí,” Steve Capus, senior adviser at the agency, told the Miami Herald. He said that regardless of the final budget decision, “the important work done at OCB will continue.”

The Herald could not reach Regalado for comment on his resignation.

The statement does not mention the problems the Martí stations have experienced in recent months.

A report about George Soros, deemed as anti-Semitic, published before Regalado took office but which recently resurfaced, provoked criticism from members of Congress and an investigation that concluded with several firings. The USAGM also commissioned an independent audit that concluded that the stations produced “bad journalism” and “ineffective propaganda.”

Agency officials told the Miami Herald the investigation into the Soros report is ongoing because some of the people involved have appealed. They also said the agency plans to appoint a “seasoned” journalist as news director for ethical standards.

“We have made it very clear that we expect everyone to adhere to industry standards of professional conduct of sound editorial practices,” Capus said. “We support the journalists here. And we have worked to ensure that they have the rules, and the editorial safety nets in place.”

In a different incident, Tomas Regalado Jr., the son of the former mayor and also a reporter at the Martí stations, is under suspension during an investigation into the alleged manipulation of images in a report about protests in Nicaragua.

“There was an investigation launched into the allegations, and that investigation is ongoing, there’s no determination yet,” Capus said. “This action regarding the director is a separate matter.”

Deputy Director Emilio Vásquez was appointed as interim director. The director of technical operations, Francisco Chong, will serve as Acting Deputy Director of OCB.

Station workers were summoned to a meeting at 11 a.m. Friday with executives of the agency headquarters in D.C. to announce the news of the resignation of Regalado.

“I think this is the biggest institutional crisis the stations have had,” said a station worker who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

The OCB has had three directors in three years. André Mendes and Malule González left office amid internal disputes. The CEO of USAGM, John Lansing, will leave the agency at the end of the month to lead NPR. He is also leaving amid another scandal regarding a senior official he appointed who was found guilty of filing fraudulent expenses.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

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