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FOR MORE THAN three decades Radio Mambi has established itself as one of the most listened to radio stations in all of Miami. With its admirers and detractors, Mambi became a myth of Miami culture, establishing itself as the leading voice of the Cuban American community.
With its astute conservative editorial line, Radio Mambi distanced and differentiated itself from other Spanish-language media in Florida, taking as its insignia the values of freedom, the struggle against socialism, and the Castro regime. However, today this historic radio station, according to Cuban exile voices, is in danger of being silenced.
$80 million for 18 Spanish-language radio stations
Latino Media Network is a media startup that a couple of days ago announced the historic raising of $80 million to break into the country’s radio industry, focusing on the Latino audience.
Its first big move was to acquire, for $60 million, 18 radio stations belonging to the Televisa-Univision conglomerate. One of them is Radio Mambi.
According to the group’s announcement, the 18 stations are distributed among ten cities — Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, Fresno and Las Vegas — and would thus have a direct reach to 33% of American Hispanics.
The big difference between Radio Mambi and the rest of the stations acquired in the package is that the Cuban American radio station is the only one that has a strong political influence in its area of impact in South Florida. It is also the only one that has received threats from Democratic politicians, as well as raised the alarm on various traditional media outlets. The rest of the stations, for the most part, are dedicated to music, entertainment or sports, Axios reported.
Concerns about the purchase arise because of who is behind Latino Media Network: personalities, activists and companies linked to the Democratic Party and progressive organizations.
Who are behind the purchase of Radio Mambi and 17 other stations?
Jess Morales Rocketto and Stephanie Valencia are two Latina activists and businesswomen who head Latino Media Network and were responsible for raising the $80 million.
According to her resume, Valencia was an advisor to former President Barack Obama, serving in his administration in the White House Office of Public Engagement and also serving as deputy director of the Latino vote in the 2008 campaign. She also served as deputy chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker (2013-2017) and worked for several Democratic lawmakers and politicians as press secretary.
Morales Rocketto also has ties to the Democratic world. She is an alumnus of Hillary for America, Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee; she is also involved in various progressive and feminist groups in the country.
According to what the leaders of Latino Media Network told EFE, their commitment to U.S. Hispanic radio stations is centered on the “great potential” that these radios have, not only in their traditional formats, but also in the possibility of launching content on other platforms through podcasts or even material for YouTube.
Part of the idea is to diversify the content of the stations, broadening the range of topics and going beyond sports and music.
As reported by Axios, the board of directors would not only be composed of Valencia and Rocketto but also “radio entrepreneur and investor Tom Castro and social justice activist Henry R. Muñoz III,” among other recognized voices in the Latino community, such as host María Elena Salinas and Republican lobbyist Al Cárdenas, who will serve as advisors.
No ideological balance at Latino Media Network
Cárdenas, despite having been a member of the Republican Party, is now distant. The proper schism occurred during the Trump administration, with whom Cárdenas does not have good relations. His wife, the Nicaraguan Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, is a political commentator in liberal media such as CNN, Telemundo and ABC News’ The View, and was previously a Republican like her husband. She is recognized for her sharp and regular criticism of the GOP and Republican politicians such as Trump himself or the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis.
But beyond his political life, Al Cárdenas has a troubled past as a lawyer connected to Venezuela. Nine years ago, Alek Boyd — a Venezuelan journalist who has uncovered corruption cases linked to the Chavista regime — revealed on his website Infodio that the lobbyist “is the senior partner of the law firm Tew Cardenas, which advises one of the most corrupt business groups in Venezuela: Derwick Associates.
Derwick Associates is one of the shadiest firms in the history of Venezuela. Its founder, Alejandro Betancourt, is an opaque character who became a multimillionaire thanks to 11 fraudulent contracts with the Chavista regime.
Another notable fact about Latino Media Network is its main financier: Lakestar Finance, an investment entity affiliated with Soros Fund Management, a company founded by progressive tycoon George Soros.
Hollywood actress and businesswoman Eva Longoria, who is one of the investors, is also known for her staunchly anti-Trump political stance.
Although Latino Media Network has an obvious relationship with the Democratic Party and liberal organizations, Valencia and Morales Rocketto assure that the media project has no ideological leanings and that they take “community service and freedom of speech” seriously.
How did the sudden purchase of the stations come about?
The emergence of Latino Media Network was a surprise. A Latino media outlet making $80 million betting on the radio format is not exactly a predictable investment.
However, according to a Radio Mambi insider with knowledge of the negotiations, TelevisaUnivision had already been selling these stations for two years and had practically everything agreed with Salem Media Group, a powerful American radio station that provides Internet content, magazines, and books focused on conservative and Christian values.
According to the source, Salem Media “offered $46 million for these stations, and the deal with TelevisaUnivision was almost done”, but Latino Media Network showed up with more and took the stations.
NBC News reported that Latino Media Network “won the buyout deal over Salem Media Group,” but did not mention the details of its bid.
“It was a desperate move by the Democrats who, in an election year where they have everything to lose, could not afford to let a Christian-conservative broadcaster take a large part of the radio market with reach to the Latino community.”
The source said that the objective of this acquisition is not only to prevent Salem Media Group from taking these 18 stations in an election year that does not look good for the Democrats, but also to “silence” Radio Mambi, a station that has been threatened with censorship by Democratic politicians such as former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell or Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), who has publicly attacked conservative radio stations in Florida asking for the intervention of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Likewise, the source explained that the purchase of Radio Mambi does not make economic sense, “since this station operates with donations or sponsorships from conservative Cuban-Americans; and seeing that this station will already have leftist owners and will be financed by Soros, it will no longer be sustainable”.
He also pointed out that he did not understand how a “company with no experience in the media, with no equipment” acquired 18 stations for such a high price.
Although according to Latino Media Group’s explanation, the agreement with TelevisaUnivision stipulates that all stations will continue to operate with the equipment of the selling company on a temporary basis until the end of 2023.
“In the end,” Mambi’s inside source continued, “the intention is to break the radio and silence it.”
Cuban Americans worried about Radio Mambi
The Radio Mambi insider is not the only person who thinks the station may be “silenced” because of its conservative line. Much of the Cuban American community agrees.
“It [the purchase of Radio Mambi] is a hard blow to the cause of freedom in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia,” Cuban-American political scientist Julio M. Shiling, a representative voice of Cuban exile in Miami and a regular analyst on Radio Mambi as a guest, told El American.
“This is part of a move to impact Hispanic public opinion in South Florida in a sense of preventing conservative voices from being heard among Hispanics. This was already being announced with much hostility through threats of lawsuits and slanderous accusations by media outlets such as the New York Times against conservative radio stations in South Florida,” said Shiling, who affirmed that the purchase of Latino Media Network has no economic support, “since Latinos are mostly center-right” and will not be happy with a change of editorial line by their favorite station.
Antonio Calatayud, who was director of WQBA 1140 AM, also known as “La Cubanisima,” told El American that the purchase of the stations is an obvious Democratic political and electoral move that seeks to regain ground within the Hispanic electorate.
“It is obvious that the new owners are recognized activists of the Democratic Party and being this an election year, where the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives is at stake, it is logical that these stations, strategically located in the main Latino markets of the country, are being used in favor of the partisan agenda,” said the Cuban journalist and writer.
Calatayud explained that there is a possibility that Latino Media Network will not carry out an extreme renovation of Radio Mambi, but rather a gradual and measured change, trying not to lose all its audience and sponsors.
“It is possible that, in order not to risk between now and November the rich Republican advertising portfolio, the new administration will intentionally decide to drop some of the current program hosts, thus avoiding a shock policy. We shall see. What is certain is that this masterstroke of the American left has shaken public opinion in view of the upcoming national elections, where the Hispanic vote may be the determining factor”, he assured.
The former director of “La Cubanisima” also predicted an audience drain from Mambi to other conservative stations in South Florida.
“It is logical that there will be a migration of audience, for and against. More Democratic sympathy and less Republican viewership. Some other station would gain. Perhaps La Poderosa 670, which would inherit some conservative anchors and would increase its ratings, as well as some of the advertising accounts,” he said.
Even Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio also dedicated a post on Instagram to Radio Mambi after the announcement of the acquisition of Latino Media Network.
“After years of trying to censor conservative Cuban-American radio, leftist activists are buying the leading conservative station @radiomambi710am so they can silence it forever,” the senator wrote.
This year, in particular, has been a difficult one for the Democrats. With the midterm elections just around the corner, the blue party has seen one of its once strongest constituencies, the Latino vote, almost completely turn its back on it.
A poll released in May by Quinnipiac University found that only 26% of Hispanics approved of President Joe Biden’s job. In contrast, the vast majority of Hispanics, 60%, disapproved, making them the worst performing demographic group for the president.
The data is significant because, in the 2020 elections, Biden won 59% of the Hispanic vote overall, and a major mismatch within this electorate would be catastrophic for Democratic aspirations to maintain a majority in the House and Senate.
To justify Biden’s terrible numbers among Hispanics, Democratic lobbyists and activists have promoted the false narrative that the Democratic administration’s unpopularity is not due to the country’s poor economic performance, the immigration crisis, or radical progressive policies that differ from the conservative values espoused by Latinos, or Biden’s controversial foreign policy toward Latin America, but to “misinformation” in Spanish-language media.
Given this situation, it is logical that the Democrats, in their eagerness to stop the hemorrhaging of the Latino electorate, monopolize (even more) the market, the Spanish-language media; where they keep an ostentatious majority with liberal mass media such as Univision, Telemundo or CNN en Español.
Giancarlo Sopo, Cuban-American and conservative strategist, commented to El American that the Democratic Party is simply seeking to maintain its communication hegemony over the Republican Party or conservative movements, censoring any independent media that challenges such media supremacy, as is the case of Radio Mambi.
“Democrats simply want to silence any voice that might challenge their monopoly over the media,” Sopo said. “While I have serious doubts whether this new media venture of theirs will succeed, I hope conservatives will see this as an opportunity to build new cultural institutions and a reminder that while the left has lost ground with Hispanics, they have not yet been defeated.”
Latino Media Network has not yet gained control of the 18 stations and Radio Mambi, as the FCC has yet to approve the sale. However, everything seems to indicate that the conservative Latino community is going to lose, sooner or later, one of its great communicational allies in an aggressive move by the Latino Democrats.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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