By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
And the moment has come to find out what they say on the street, with Chunguita Lengua Lisa...
SOUND: Chunguita Theme
CHUNGUITA: Ramito, sweetheart. How are you, mijo?
RAMOS: I'm here, Chunguita, waiting for you as always. What gossip - excuse me, rumor - do you have for us today?
CHUNGUITA: Fried octopus, sweetheart! [Laughs]
RAMOS: Fried octopus?
CHUNGUITA: Yes, mijo. Because, listen, lean over here.
RAMOS: What's up, Chunguita?
CHUNGUITA: It turns out that in the City of Miami, really, there is a huge octopus, mijo! What an outrage!
RAMOS: What octopus is this, Chunguita?
CHUNGUITA: All right. But come closer. This is a very sensitive matter. It turns out that there is an intimate group, six or seven, you know [laughs], that for a few years have involved themselves in all the places involving "public service." Understand? Heh, heh, heh. It's a little group that appears to be helping the community and is in all the institutions that "serve" the public, although neither you nor I have ever seen them push a stretcher at Jackson.
RAMOS: I get it, Chunguita. And what's going on with this group?
CHUNGUITA: Well, they are everywhere. They are like an octopus, Ramito. Their tentacles reach many places.
RAMOS: What places?
CHUNGUITA: Look, don't lose me. Okay, starting in the Camacol, you know. They have stuck themselves in something called the Latin Quarter Review [Board], in the Little Havana Development Authority, and in something called SABER [Spanish American Basic Education and Rehabilitation, a federally funded employment service]. Even in the blind man's home, sweetheart!
RAMOS: So what are you saying, Chunguita?
CHUNGUITA: I told you I was bringing you the octopus, Ramito.
RAMOS: Yes. But why fried octopus?
CHUNGUITA: Because La Mogolla has jumped on top of it and it's now fried, you know. La Mogolla is the voice of the public, the platform of the people, sweetheart. You've never heard of that octopus before, right?
RAMOS: Yes, that's true.
CHUNGUITA: Ay, Ramito. Just wait until the names of the characters start coming out. This is going to be worse than the burning of Rome. A whole list of rare birds that never leave the social pages are going to come out scorched, and even some who thump their chests as patriots who fight for la causa of Cuba, and who have gotten the juiciest part of a series of little deals in Miami.
RAMOS: But Chunguita, tell me who is involved in this.
CHUNGUITA: Look, muchacho. Do you want me to wake up with a mouthful of ants? Don't take me to the deep end, Ramito! Because there are millions of dollars wrapped up in this skullduggery and they'll blow away anyone for sticking their nose in. Let this cockroach feeding frenzy be discovered on its own, sweetheart, because everything is about to be known. Well, I'm going because my bag is empty. Until the next Mogolla, mijo. Bye-bye.
Ever since his days in Puerto Rico, Gonzalez has seen an "octopus" out to get him; he periodically resigned from Se Alquilan Habitaciones, accusing the station's owners of censoring the show at the behest of the government. In at least one recent case, Gonzalez's paranoia seems justified: Jorge Rodriguez, general manager and part owner of Cadena Azul, La Mogolla's first home, acknowledges that advertising accounts such as Barnett Bank complained about the program, leading to its cancellation.
At the same time, tentacles of debts, questionable deals, and alleged double-crosses stretch from San Juan to Tallahassee, detailed in court records and public documents. Many of Gonzalez's problems, his detractors say, have nothing to do with a conspiracy, but rather are the result of dubious business dealings.
"So what?" is Gonzalez's characteristic response when his financial history is questioned, a remark habitually followed by a line that has appeared in more than one of his scripts. "Donald Trump owes $300 million and you don't see anyone on his back."
In 1978 Gonzalez bought the San Juan daily El Imparcial, once the city's largest newspaper. A few months later, he sold the paper to then-Puerto Rican senate majority leader Nicolas Nogueras, whose political opponents later claimed he arranged for Gonzalez to receive government-subsidized public relations contracts in exchange for the paper. Nogueras denied having used public funds to pay his private debt, and called
Gonzalez a con artist who left him with a newspaper that was two million dollars in debt. El Imparcial folded.
Gonzalez agrees that the sale of the newspaper had nothing to do with public relations contracts, but scoffs at Nogueras's two-million-dollar claim. "He never paid me what he was supposed to for the newspaper anyway," Gonzalez recalls, and also denies Miami Herald reports that he left the Banco Cooperative de Puerto Rico with $44,000 in unpaid loans and bounced checks when he moved to Miami in 1979.
In 1982 Gonzalez was kicked out of two Little Havana theaters he was renting, and the owner sued him for not paying rent. A year later the IRS shut down El Mundo, and eleven employees sued for $60,000 in wages, interest, and lawyers' fees. Gonzalez agreed in court to settle the debt as soon as his new ventures paid off. He has yet to shell out any money, he admits, adding by way of justification, "They went around trying to damage my reputation."