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Cuban exiles fear new Spanish-language radio owners in Miami will censor conservative voices

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance
Cuban exile leaders gathered at the Bay of Pigs Museum and Brigade 2506 headquarters in Little Havana speak out against the sale of Miami radio stations Radio Mambi and WQBA to a new, Democrat-led media group.

Cuban exile leaders gathered in Little Havana to warn a Democrat-led group buying Radio Mambí and WQBA not to turn the stations into "leftist" outlets.

Last week a group led by Democrats announced it’s buying two of Miami’s most iconic — and conservative — Spanish-language radio stations. On Wednesday, many Cuban exile leaders denounced the deal and what they call the threat of censorship of conservative voices in their community.

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AM stations WAQI, or Radio Mambí, and WQBA are institutions in Cuban Miami for their strong stance against the communist regime in Havana. So news that they’re being sold to the Latino Media Network — an investment group led by Democrats — was a jolt in much of Little Havana.

There, the exile group Assembly of the Cuban Resistance held a press conference at the Bay of Pigs Museum to warn the new owners against firing the stations’ conservative on-air personalities or marginalizing conservative programming content.

“We have grounds to be extremely concerned," said Sylvia Iriondo, head of Mothers and Women Against Repression in Cuba.

"We will resist any attempt to censor the voices of this community represented by these radio stations with all legal and legitimate means,” including boycotts and mass protests, she said.

Irina Vilariño, an exile whose father was a political prisoner in Cuba, told WLRN the sale of Radio Mambí and WQBA hurts because the stations were what welcomed her family in Miami after they fled the island in 1980.

“Growing up as a Cuban exile, it was almost a religious act to listen to Radio Mambí," Vilariño said.

"Many of our political acts were mobilized due to their concern. And I think it’s an insult to our community to want to transform it into a leftist radio station, which is in essence what they’re trying to do.”

Latino Media Network has said it does not plan to make the stations liberal outlets. Mambí, WQBA and the 16 other U.S. stations it’s buying are currently owned by TelevisaUnivision.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, a Cuban-American Republican, also attended the gathering. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis' re-election campaign released an ad this week calling the station sale part of a "Marxist scheme" led by liberal businessman-philanthropist George Soros, who is a financial backer of the new Latino Media Network venture.

The group's majority investors are Stephanie Valencia, a White House aide to former President Barack Obama, and Democratic activist Jess Morales Rocketto.

Mambí and other Spanish-language radio stations in Miami have been accused in recent years of pushing right-wing and sometimes racist disinformation, especially during the 2020 U.S. election cycle.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.