A Miami-based group that takes a hardline in opposition to Castro government has funded a television campaign calling on Florida residents to call the White House and urge President Donald Trump to name a new director of the U.S. broadcasting operation directed at the Cuban people.
The Inspire America Foundation—which supports Cuban dissidents and pro-democracy groups while conducting polls and preparing policy proposals—is running the ads on America Teve, a Spanish-language TV station in Miami.
The ad begins with a speech by former President Ronald Reagan in which he announces his support for the establishment of Radio Marti, arguing that the "greatest threat to dictators like Fidel Castro is the truth."
The ad goes on to stress the importance of the Radio and TV Marti's mission as the Castro regime hands off the reins to a non-Castro leader in an election next month, the first time in six decades the communist island nation will have a non-Castro as its leader.
"At a time like this, when the regime is seeking to impose an heir, we have a collective obligation to call the White House and ask for the immediate appointment of a new director for Radio and TV Marti who can fulfill the dram of Jorge Mas Canosa and Ronald Reagan," an announcer urges in the ad.
"Nowadays, it is technologically possible to have a new and redesigned Radio & TV Marti, which can reach the people and which the dictatorship cannot block. It is up to us, as citizens, to request it."
Reagan named Mas Canosa, a Cuban immigrant to the United States and an ardent opponent of the Castros, as the first head of the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which runs the Radio and TV Marti.
Marcell Felipe, who runs Inspire America and serves as a lawyer for America Teve, recently told the Washington Free Beacon that Radio and TV Marti's mission has drifted during the Obama administration, when its coverage shifted sharply in favor of President Barack Obama's diplomatic thaw with Cuba and away from coverage of Cuban dissidents or negative stories about the Castros.
In addition to new leadership at Radio and TV Marti, Felipe called on Trump to install new leaders at the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America, the umbrella organization for Radio and TV Marti.
Felipe complained that the current leadership at BBG and VOA supported severe cuts in funding and staffing to Radio and TV Marti this year, a continuation of a policy first initiated during the Obama years. The last year of the Obama administration the State Department asked Congress to zero out funding for programs related to Cuba and slashed money for Venezuela democracy programs. The GOP-controlled Congress rejected the budget recommendation and restored most of the OCB’s budget that year.
"What needs to be done is personnel changes – that’s where the growing frustration is now, and it’s about to burst," Felipe said in an interview.
A BBG source said several of President Obama's political appointees who remain in top positions at the BBG and the Voice of America are "on edge" fearing that Trump will fill the posts with his own people and their departures are "imminent."
Television ads Inspire America funded last year helped lead a Miami-based campaign that resulted in the resignation of the Obama-appointed head of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting Maria "Malule" Gonzalez.
"Every pressure cooker needs an escape valve. With my resignation, I am only trying to put an end to the speculations and false accusations by some sectors that are interested in taking over this job," she told el Nuevo Herald.
"The campaign is not the only reason for my resignation," she added. "It's [also] a matter of making way for whoever the [Trump] administration wants to put in this job."
A spokeswoman for the VOA referred questions to an OCB spokesman who did not respond.
As of Friday, the Trump administration had not named any political appointees to top leadership positions at the BBG, VOA or OCB.
The BBG.gov website lists Andre Mendes as the acting director of the OCB.
Update March 20, 2:15 p.m.: This post has been updated to clarify Trump administration appointments.