MIAMI — Ten South Florida journalists, including three with the Miami Herald's Spanish-language sister paper, received thousands of dollars from the U.S. government for their work on radio and TV programming aimed at undermining President Fidel Castro's Communist regime, the Herald reported Friday.
Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and wrote an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, had been paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on the U.S. government's Radio and TV Marti, which promote democracy in Cuba, according to government documents obtained by the Miami Herald.
Freelancer Olga Connor, who wrote about Cuban culture for El Nuevo Herald, received about $71,000 from the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covered the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years, the Herald said.
The newspaper said Alfonso and Cancio were fired, and Connor's freelance relationship was severed.
Alfonso and Cancio declined to comment to the Herald. They and Connor did not respond to e-mails from the Associated Press seeking comment.
Jesus Diaz Jr., president of the Miami Herald Media Co. and publisher of both newspapers, said the individuals had violated a "sacred trust" between journalists and the public.
"I personally don't believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it's a government agency," Diaz said.
Miami Herald Media's general counsel and vice president of public affairs, Robert Beatty, said that the papers' employees had consistently demonstrated a high level of integrity, and that it was their responsibility to disclose any real or perceived conflicts of interest. He told the Associated Press that the payments were identified in documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
Alberto Mascaro, chief of staff of the U.S. Cuban broadcasting office, confirmed to the Associated Press that all 10 journalists had received payments but said he did not have the details.
Other journalists who received payments included Diario Las Americas' opinion page editor, Helen Aguirre Ferre, and reporter/columnist Ariel Remos. Ferre said she didn't see a conflict of interest, and Remos said he enjoyed the freedom to speak his opinion on the stations.