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The LIBRE Crisis Is Part Of A Larger, Toxic Problem In Miami's Spanish-Language Media

RACIST RHETORIC The website of the Spanish-language newsweekly Libre, which was dropped this week as a supplement in the Miami daily El Nuevo Herald because of its controversial content.
RACIST RHETORIC The website of the Spanish-language newsweekly LIBRE, which was dropped this week as a supplement in the Miami daily El Nuevo Herald because of its controversial content.

COMMENTARY Cuban and other Latino media represent Miami's majority population – and need to stop acting like echo chambers immune from scrutiny.

If you read Spanish and you haven’t read Roberto Luque Escalona’s monstrously racist essay in last week’s issue of LIBRE – do.

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See for yourself what passes for acceptable rhetoric in a distressingly sizable swath of South Florida’s Cuban and Latino media. Feel your eyes dilate as Luque smears LIBRE’s entire back page with brutish denigration of Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Democrats and even his fellow Cubans (that is, those who still live on the communist island, whom he tags as inferior to heroic exiles like himself). One of the many unhinged lowlights is his comparison of Black Lives Matter protests to Kristallnacht, when Nazis destroyed Jewish property in Germany.

The question is why LIBRE – even if it is run by Demetrio Perez, a right-wing Cuban exile and fraud felon – would publish mugs of swill like Luque’s time and again. Or why, time and again, LIBRE was a supplement in a respected Spanish-language daily like El Nuevo Herald without passing editorial review, as El Nuevo now acknowledges. And why, time and again, so many readers in the Cuban and Latino community shrugged at it all until one finally raised a red flag last week.

READ MORE: Herald Columnist's Racist Tweets Reflect South Florida Latinos' Summer of Denial

To its credit, El Nuevo Herald has now jettisoned LIBRE and is investigating how its caustic content went unnoticed for so long. But a larger problem still lingers in South Florida like a bigoted tío who haunts the family dinner table every Sunday. I’m referring to the impunity that racist and libelous material too often enjoys on the pages and airwaves of Latino media here. The media that represent the majority community, at least in Miami-Dade County.

That last part matters, because I question whether Cuban and other Latino leaders here – political, business, legal, educational – really understand the responsibilities that should come with being that majority. Like calling out the kind of prejudice and disinformation clogging so much of Spanish-language media and social media for years – but especially this year, amid a feverish conservative drive in the Latino community to label anything not in alignment with President Trump as communist, socialist and otherwise Satanic.

South Florida Latino leaders have largely abdicated their duty to call out the bigotry and disinformation that too often appears in the region's Spanish-language media.

Local leaders have largely abdicated that duty. Or did I miss a statement issued by a Cuban-American school board member…or a Venezuelan-American city councilperson…or a Colombian-American chamber of commerce member decrying what El Nuevo Herald discovered in LIBRE? Chances are I didn’t.

And chances are I won’t see any such press releases now after my colleague David Adams at Univision.com reported aboutthe conspiracy cacophony aired this week on mainstream – mainstream – Spanish-language broadcast outlets here like Actualidad Radio and Radio Mambí.


On Actualidad, Cuban-American host Augustin Acosta told his audience that the west-coast wildfires that have killed at least 35 and razed whole towns is a punishment not for years of forest mismanagement, wilderness overdevelopment or climate-change denial, but for Democrats denying God, “attacking religion and closing churches.”

On Mambí, Cuban-American hosts Lourdes d’Kendall and Nelson Rubio seem to serve up the slander as soon as the On Air light glows red. They warned listeners that because the postal workers union endorses Joe Biden, voting by mail is “dangerous;” suggested Twitter is questionably censoring material indicating Biden is a pedophile; and let a caller announce if Biden wins, folks should arms themselves to the teeth because asesinos like Black Lives Matter are coming for them. D’Kendall cooed to him: “Bless you.”

GOD'S PUNISHMENT Acutalidad Radio's Augustin Acosta
GOD'S PUNISHMENT Acutalidad Radio's Augustin Acosta

Ironically, it all reminds me most of state-run media in authoritarian socialist Venezuela – the dystopia these Miami voces scream is waiting for us if Biden and the Democrats prevail in November. Acosta and d’Kendall are right-wing kindred spirits of left-wing bullies like Mario Silva, whose talk show La Hojilla (The Razor Blade) is a pillar of the Venezuelan regime’s nefariously untruthful and bigoted propaganda.

Yes, English-language media bear this plague too. Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann can be Exhibits Red and Blue. But to repeat, Cubans and Latinos: You are no longer a minority in this corner of America. And so your media are no longer some obscure echo chamber whose reckless excesses could once fly under the radar, away from wider scrutiny.

You are the wider scrutiny here today. It’s time to start acting like you're conscious of that fact.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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