Cubans desperately need a strong Radio Television Martí, says former OCB director Jeffrey Scott Shapiro


USAGM Watch Commentary

Former director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) Jeffrey Scott Shapiro published an op-ed in The Miami Herald calling on Congress and the Biden administration to restore the original $30 million budget of Radio Televisión Martí from cuts made by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Shapiro was one of President Trump’s appointees at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) which oversees OCB, the Voice of America (VOA) and several other U.S. taxpayer-funded media outlets. He is defending the OCB budget even as he and other former agency officials who had served during the Trump administration are being harshly criticized by the current acting USAGM CEO Kelu Chao and her spokesperson. “Former CEO Pack and his appointees damaged the agency’s global credibility, operations, relationships with key interagency stakeholders and grantees, and workforce morale,”Laurie Moy, the agency’s acting director of public affairs, told Government Executive in a statement.

The new USAGM management is essentially the old management which has been in charge of the ailing agency for many years with only a brief break toward the very end of the Trump administration. Critics accused some of these longtime agency and VOA managers of taking a soft approach to Cuba during the Obama administration. The Voice of America management allowed posting of a report glorifying Che Guevara without mentioning his suppression of human rights and a report praising as a defender of justice Castro’s supporter and Lenin Peace Prize winner Angela Davis.

Voice of America (VOA) produced graphic to illustrate reports on Fidel Castro’s death.
In 2016 Voice of America (VOA) produced this graphic to illustrate reports on Fidel Castro’s death.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro has been a staunch critic of the Castro regime.

Chao’s recent selection of new OCB director to take over Shapiro’s former job was met with disapproval from Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez previously strongly criticized Chao’s predecessor, Trump appointee Michael Pack.

Senator Menendez, whose parents came from Cuba, was unhappy with Chao’s choice of Sylvia Rosabal to serve as Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. In a statement released on April 7, Senator Bob Menendez said: “While I respect Ms. Rosabal’s journalism credentials, I do not think she is the right person to lead the OCB.” The Voice of America delayed for five days reporting on Senator Menendez’s criticism.

In his Miami Herald op-ed, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro does not engage in polemics with the current USAGM management although he is critical of the Obama administration’s approach to Cuba.

READ: Cubans desperately need a strong Radio Television Martí. Biden should restore its budget | Opinion. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro. Miami Herald, May 10, 2021.

Photograph: Monumento a la Brigada 2506 en La Pequeña Habana, Cortesía Jeffry Scott Shapiro, reposted from Radio Televisión Martí website.