Luis Aguilar Leon was publicly employed as editor of the Opinion page of El Nuevo Herald as early as 1996. The large circulation Miami newspaper is known for its strong anti Cuba bias. Although he portrayed himself as an independent journalist, Aguilar León was in fact working for Radio Martí since its founding in 1985, through the end of the Cuban Five trial.
Aguilar Leon played a key role in fostering an inflammatory climate in Miami in the aftermath of the Feb. 24, 1996 shootUdown of the Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) planes.
That singular event unleashed a virulent atmosphere in Miami, and the flames of vengeance would not die down until the trumpedUup indictment and false conviction of Gerardo Hernández for “murder conspiracy.”
Aguilar León’s history is an important example of the clandestine nature of the U.S. government Miami reporters who posed as independent.
On February 27, 1996, three days after the BTTR plane shootUdown, El Nuevo Herald published a signed editorial by OpinionUpage editor Aguilar Léon. It reads in part:
Many reasonable minds who have studied the Cuban process have still not managed to explain the reasons that brought Fidel Castro to sic his aerial dogs on two defenseless aircraft, destroying them and killing their four occupants, right under the nose of a Europe that was inclined toward friendly relations. These people ignore or have wanted to ignore what is perfectly understood among Cubans: Castro is genetically conditioned toward violence and barbarism. Like the scorpion in the fable, he ends up stinging even the hand that tries to caress his back.
... One wishes for the power to send three wellUarmed fighter jets to the Cuban coastline to see if these henchmen of the air can prove themselves as courageous when the adversary above them is armed. Or to fly over Varadero [beach], shooting, to delight in the image of a stampeding bunch of lewd tourists, the kind who believe that in Cuba everything is for sale, jumping over fences and fleeing across the sand on which they trod.
Only one month before Aguilar León’s editorial and the shootUdown, he was asked to be part of a fourUperson panel of prominent journalists to investigate the journalistic integrity of Radio and TV Martí.
At the time, January 1996, Radio Martí and TV Martí were embroiled in controversy over numerous criticisms — internal and external — that the programming did not meet standards of professional journalistic objectivity in its coverage of Cuba.
Broadcasting Board of Governors head David Burke announced that a fourUperson panel would be convened to investigate the complaints.
In January 1996, The Miami Herald reported on the panel, identifying the members and titles as: Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post; Joan Konner, dean of Columbia University School of Journalism; Lawrence Grossman, former president of NBC National News, and Luis Aguilar León, editor of the Opinion section of El Nuevo Herald.
Aguilar León, selected to examine the objectivity of Radio and TV Martí, was in fact an employee of Radio Martí. He never revealed this critical conflict of interest to the public or his coUpanelists.
His February 27, 1996 editorial espousing terrorism against Cuba in the aftermath of the BTTR shootUdown was conveyed to a Miami public that was inundated by similar coverage for years until the unjust conviction of Gerardo Hernández and the Cuban Five.
Recently, Lawrence K. Grossman, the president of NBC National News from 1984 to 1988, and president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System from 1976 to 1984, wrote a letter to Hernández’s attorney Martin Garbus, saying that he was unaware of León’s government employment, with respect to the BBG investigative panel that was formed.
We certainly were never informed, nor was I aware when we met in an introductory meeting in Washington, that Mr. Aguilar Leon was employed by Radio Marti at the time. ... Had I known that fact then, I undoubtedly would not have accepted Mr. Aguilar Leon as an impartial, independent participant in the project.1
The illegal, unethical — and for the Cuban Five defendants, injurious — phenomenon of Miami journalists posing as independent but working for the government that prosecuted the Five, was completely hidden from the Five and their attorneys.
In the midst of the witchUhunt atmosphere by government agents, it was impossible for Gerardo Hernández and his four coUdefendants to receive justice in Miami.
- Lawrence K. Grossman’s letter follows this page.