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
Gonzalez's Diario Libre, another daily newspaper, failed in May 1988. The same month, Gonzalez left the City of Miami Beach holding a $12,000 bill for cleanup, paramedic, and police services for a failed Cuban Independence Day festival. Although Gonzalez predicted as many as 300,000 people would attend the three-day festival on Lincoln Road Mall, no more than 500 showed up at one time. Vendors who paid $500 apiece to set up stands said they lost money, partly because they had no water or electricity the first day.
Gonzalez blames a "racist conspiracy" hatched by "some Jewish leaders who hate Cubans and wanted the festival to fail." He did agree to pay back the money with the help of developer Gerry Sanchez, who co-signed a promissory note. Sanchez made eight monthly payments of $750 for a total of $6000, the last installment coming February 28, 1989. Despite efforts to collect, says Bob Nachlinger, director of finance for Miami Beach, "We haven't seen a dime since." Nachlinger adds that the balance of the bill is accruing twelve percent interest.
Gonzalez says he assumed Sanchez was making the payments, but considers himself responsible for the unpaid amount.
In June 1989 Gonzalez embarked on La Mogolla, purchasing broadcast time on Cadena Azul. WRHC station manager Jorge Rodriguez says Gonzalez owed no money when he was booted from Cadena Azul in October 1989. Union Radio owners Pablo and Sebastian Vega, however, were cautious about signing him on, says Pablo Fernandez, the station's operations manager. So Gonzalez worked out a deal with Jon Ausman, then-executive director of the Dade Democratic Party. Ausman signed a three-month contract on May 25, 1990, purchasing 48 hours of airtime per week at a cost of $6000. After only two months, Ausman pulled out.
"The bottom line is I got burned financially. Not just burned, I got hammered. Slaughtered," says Ausman, who explains that he invested in the show not to make money but to help the Democratic Party's cause in Dade County. "I lost $30,000 of my own money on that deal and I'm teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. I was just unaware Gonzalez was going to take me to the cleaners. What I found attractive was his talent for writing and political satire. Sure he was ripping Democrats, but he was ripping the Republicans - Gutman, Alonso, all of them - worse. Which just goes to show you that his politics may be one thing, but he's a mercenary. I was just blind to what was going to happen to me financially."
After Ausman backed out, Union Radio allowed Gonzalez to purchase six hours of daily airtime for $4000 per week, and La Mogolla cranked up again in early August. "He came to us with almost a month's pay in advance," says operations manager Fernandez. "Businesswise it was okay for us to sell him time for a month and renew the contract from month to month." Regardless, the arrangement didn't last much longer than Ausman's contract.
On October 31 La Mogolla, $12,000 behind in its rent, was canceled. The Vegas are now suing Ausman for $17,800 they say he still owes for airtime. They aren't after Gonzalez for any money, says Fernandez, because they suspect he has none. "We don't care about the $12,000, as long as he stays as far away as possible from us," Fernandez explains. "You don't know the problems we went through with him - people threatening me, people he talked about on his show showing up wanting to fight. One time [then-Hialeah Commissioner and currently Metro Commissioner] Alex Penelas even showed up wanting to fight someone."
Ausman, a political consultant and currently chair of the Leon County Democratic Party, claims he is owed $25,000 by clients who bought advertising time. He says he thinks the Vegas gave the contracts for those ads to Gonzalez, and also that Pablo Vega told him
Gonzalez had collected as much as $12,000. Fernandez confirms that money was collected but says he doesn't know how much.
Gonzalez argues that any money from the advertising contracts rightfully belongs to La Mogolla, because he was paying for the airtime during which those ads were running after Ausman left. Besides, Gonzalez contends, the Vegas, not La Mogolla employees, collected the money. (The Vegas say Gonzalez did the collecting.) "It's amazing that after taking the down payments on the contracts we had to complete, after leaving owing the station $18,000 and the employees $10,000 for two weeks he never paid us, that Ausman is still trying to claim that we should pay him for the ads we ran," says Gonzalez.
On November 5 of last year, La Mogolla moved to Radio Fe, along with Gonzalez's talk-radio/call-in program. Gonzalez agreed to pay $3000 weekly for two hours of airtime per day, Monday through Friday. But on December 25, long-time collaborator Tito Hernandez quit the show after a dispute with Gonzalez. On January 7, while Gonzalez was fielding calls on his talk show, Hernandez telephoned and sparred with the author on the air, calling him a thief and accusing him of diverting money from La Mogolla Club, the membership organization that raises funds for the show, to Diario Nacional. (An autographed picture of Hernandez that once hung in the newspaper's lobby has been taken down.)