Tomás Regalado, Radio & TV Martí, and the story of a gas guzzler

An unopened can of Coca-Cola flew over our heads. Just thrown size-D batteries lay strewn on the floor before us. Spit in disgusting colors flew through the air. Everything was a blur as we hurriedly crossed a phalanx of angry protesters who spared no words —some that I had never heard before— describing us.

I will never forget that October night in 1999 when a group of friends, my sister, and my girlfriend and I attended the Las Van Van concert in Miami. There were an equal number of people outside the venue protesting, as the almost 3,000 who came to dance and sing along to one of Cuba’s most famous bands. 

There were big differences that night, though. The group inside came to party, to dance, to enjoy a night out. Not one act of violence was reported inside. Those outside came to harass, to injure, and to ignite a riot. Entering we were subjected to detectors and searches of purses. On the street, the thugs were given the green light to do as they pleased.

It has been 20 years so I can’t exactly remember if he stood on the right, the left or in front of us, but there before us, in the front of the line, doing not much of anything, but with a kind of smirk on his face, stood a Miami city commissioner. He was flanked by members of the city’s police force. 

Commissioner Tomás Regalado did nothing to attempt and quiet the crowds outside. It never deemed on him to turn to a cop and ask him to control the marauders, not those being marauded. Tomasito stood quietly. Slumped as usual, and with that grin on his face. He seemed to be enjoying another display of Miami’s ugly side.

In 1999, Regalado was a do-nothing commissioner. That is, unless you consider membership in Miami’s aging guerrilla force a reason worthy of a seat on the Miami city commission.

His claim to fame, at the time, well there were two things… one was a radio program he’d had that famously put people to sleep. A propaganda station that informed Miami Cubans of anything and everything bad —true or not and fed to them like a drug through a vein — about Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. 

But there was also the other thing. 

Regalado claims to have been such a good commissioner he needed to be constantly in touch with his constituency. As a result he needed to fill up his car’s gas tank, with gasoline provided by the city, sometimes several times a day… Mind you, Miami is one of the smallest major cities in the country in terms of land area, covering a bit more than 55 square miles, so Tomasito must have gotten around in that car plenty.

Either that, or there were a number of cars in his family that could use some free city gas. He defended himself by claiming his auto was a gas-guzzler who got him less than 10 miles a gallon. But even then, a 15 gallon gas tank will get you 150 miles. So, I suppose, Regalado must have traveled the entire city, block by block, no less than three times around every day. 

Maybe that’s what got him elected mayor in 2009. You know, Miami’s never been known for very smart voters… 

And then when he left they called him a caretaker mayor — nobody’s exactly sure what he accomplished. They say he flew the city on autopilot while he was in charge. I call him a mayor who did little to nothing, and allowed Miami to grow into one of the poorest cities in the country with third world disparities between the rich and poor.  

But hey! His cafe-con-leche politics has worked for him. 

Regalado was termed out of office in 2017. And we thought we’d seen the last of him. But there’s a saying in Spanish that literally translated says “bad bugs never die.” You know… like a cockroach you think you’ve killed before it scurries off into the kitchen cabinet. Regalado is most definitely “un bicho malo.” 

In 2018, Regalado was named director of Radio and TV Martí, the boondoggle first started by Reagan, pushed by Jorge Mas Canosa and the Cuban American National Foundation, that has wasted nearly one billion (yes billion with a B) dollars of taxpayer money. And for what? 

Actually, you can equate the Regalado gasoline caper and the money wasted on the Martis and you’ll understand…

After a year at the helm, and this is from the Miami Herald not Progreso Weekly: “Radio and TV Marti are plagued by ‘bad journalism’ and ‘ineffective propaganda,’ according to an internal audit requested by its supervisors at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.” They also branded the station as anti-Semitic after it described billionaire George Soros as a “non-practicing Jew of flexible morals.”

And still, the U.S. Congress approved a recent annual budget of about $29 million. 

The Herald also reported that “Regalado acknowledged the results of the audit and … that ‘reforms will be put in place.’”

If you were able to see me writing this you’d probably see me shrugging. It’s what everyone else does when taxpayer dollars are stolen these days. It’s expected, I guess.

And Tomasito has made a yearly six-figure living off this corruption since entering politics. He probably doesn’t even remember the good old gas-guzzling days…