DeFede

Radio Marti: Ethics in Exile

"I did not support Radio Marti's hiring of Mr. Alles," Sherman stated in his affidavit. "For the vacant news director job in late 1990, I had recruited two Cuban-American journalists in Miami of very considerable experience and Cuba expertise: Daniel Morcate, then of Univision, and Pablo Alfonso, of the Miami Herald. I proposed these two names to [Radio Marti acting director] Mr. [Rolando] Bonachea, who said he checked with 'people' in Miami and that neither Mr. Morcate nor Mr. Alfonso was suitable."

Bruce Boyd, the personnel director at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), referred to Alles as "a perennial applicant" who had regularly been rejected as unsuitable for employment at Radio Marti while Ernesto Betancourt was director of the station. "However, in early 1991, Bonachea, as the acting director of Radio Marti, told me to bring Alles in and interview him," Boyd recalled in his affidavit to investigators. "During my interview with Alles, he could not respond to my questions because he could not understand English. After the interview, I told Bonachea and Bruce Sherman, deputy director of Radio Marti, that my interview with Alles was 'the most bizarre interview I've ever conducted.' Further, I told them that I didn't see how we could consider Alles as a serious candidate for news director because his limited English ability would prevent him from being able to perform the duties of that position. Specifically, as the news director, Alles would have to interact with other organizations both within and outside USIA. Based on my interview with Alles, I knew that he would not be able to communicate in English regarding even routine matters."

Over the objections of both Boyd and Sherman, Bonachea hired Alles as deputy news director, and then within a few months elevated him to the position of news director, despite the longstanding USIA requirement that Radio Marti's news director be fluent in English. Boyd even recalled having to fill out Alles's application because Alles couldn't adequately write or read English. (Neither Rolando Bonachea nor Augustin Alles could be reached for comment. Beth Knisley, chief of media relations at the USIA's Bureau of Broadcasting, says that both men are under a "gag order" from superiors not to speak to the press while the inspector general's investigation is open.)

Another problem with Alles, according to Sherman's testimony, was his refusal to follow USIA guidelines pertaining to the sourcing of stories. The station's policy required that at least two sources must verify information contained in a story before it could be broadcast. "What this meant in practice was that Mr. Alles condoned and practiced using single sources for many hard-to-document assertions involving Cuban internal matters, assertions, as it turned out, that were largely very critical of the Castro regime," Sherman stated. "Would anyone challenge him on properly substantiating Radio Marti news stories, Mr. Alles would inevitably turn the concern over following rules into an allegation that his critics, myself especially, were too soft on Castro or were even Castro sympathizers.

"The matter of sources for news stories was just one of many issues, however. As troubling as any was Mr. Alles's close association to Mr. Mas, and the control the latter exerted over Radio Marti's news coverage through Mr. Alles." Sherman went on to note that "Mr. Mas would often call Mr. Alles directly to request news coverage of Mr. Mas's own activities or those of the Cuban American National Foundation."

Recounting one such incident to investigators, Sherman stated, "On March 4, 1992, Mr. Alles called me at home at 10:00 p.m. to say Mr. Mas had just called him to relate that, during a campaign stop in Miami by President Bush, the president had singled out Mr. Mas in the crowd for mention. Mr. Alles told me Mr. Mas had asked him to provide immediate coverage of this event that same evening. Mr. Alles complied. On March 5, 1992, Mr. Mas called Mr. Alles to verify the coverage he had requested the night before.

"On March 6, 1992, Mr. Alles disregarded my specific guidance on further coverage of the Bush campaign stop. My guidance was to focus on President Bush's statements on U.S. policy towards Cuba and not to give yet additional air time to Mr. Bush's recognition of Mr. Mas. In spite of this, Mr. Alles sought out a further interview with Mr. Mas to have him, among other things, stress President Bush having recognized him among the crowd at the campaign event."

In addition to demanding coverage of himself, Sherman charged, Mas Canosa would also express his ire over stories about people and events that seemed to contradict his view of what U.S. policy toward Cuba should be. "On February 11, 1992, OCB [Office of Cuba Broadcasting] receptionist Mary Jane Clark interrupted the daily editorial meeting to say that Mr. Mas was on the telephone and wanted to speak to Mr. Bonachea immediately," Sherman recalled. "Mr. Bonachea told me afterwards that Mr. Mas was extremely upset over Radio Marti's coverage of the Letter of Good Faith Towards the People of Cuba. On February 12, 1992, Mr. Bonachea told me Mr. Mas had called him the evening before to complain again very vehemently about Radio Marti's coverage of the Letter of Good Faith Towards the People of Cuba. The letter was a statement by three of Cuba's leading dissidents, calling on the governments of both Cuba and the United States to enter into a dialogue to overcome the impasse between the two countries and to help provide for Cuba's own economic and political recovery. (Dialogue with the Castro government is anathema to certain conservative Cuban-Americans like Mr. Mas.)

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