While doing research, I also ran into a well-known story involving Maria Elvira Salazar, which may be viewed as another unethical practice on her part. When the famous debate between Jorge Mas Canosa (from the Cuban American National Foundation) and Ricardo Alarcon (from the Cuban government) took place in 1996, Maria Elvira Salazar was one of the moderators for the nationally televised debate.
That old story came up Thurday (May 24, 2007) during the Juan Amador and Pedro Rodriguez Medina debate on Polos Opuestos. Salazar insists that her only crime, which she believes she is being punished for, was setting up that debate between Mas Canosa and Alarcon. Medina brought up the accusation that Alarcon was actually tricked by Salazar into participating in the debate. During that discussion with Medina, Salazar never directly denied the accusation. Aside from this, there's more evidence that may show that Salazar did in fact trick Alarcon.
According to a September 6, 1996, Miami Herald article by Juan Tamayo, "Maria Elvira Salazar, a Miami-born Cuban American who often reports on Cuban issues, was given the task of winning Alarcon's participation." Tamayo also pointed out that "Cuban officials have met with exile critics in the past, but only with relative moderates and only behind closed doors."
Appropriately, Tamayo pondered a mystery after the debate took place:
"Still unclear was why Alarcon took part in an event that might be perceived as recognizing Mas Canosa as a legitimate opposition leader and not the thuggish right-winger Havana always paints."
Jorge Mas Canosa, as the former Chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, was always described as part of the "Miami mafia" by the Cuban government. He was blamed for involvement in the 1990 release of Orlando Bosch and the signing of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, to name a few notable events. Had the Cuban government in 1996 all of a sudden changed its position with Mas Canosa?
In an August 24, 1996, Miami Herald article by Armando Correa, Salazar is quoted as saying: "It's the first time [Mas Canosa and Alarcon] have agreed to a face-off." But, after the debate was shown on television in the US, Alarcon was publicly stating that "he was originally asked to be part of a broad range of individuals who would comment on a Dan Rather interview of Fidel Castro," not participate in a debate. In July of that year, CBS had run an hour-long documentary about Cuba, hosted by Dan Rather. According to Correa, "The [Cuban American National Foundation] agreed to take part in the debate on condition that it be broadcast unedited, as a response to a recent interview CBS' Dan Rather had with Castro. The foundation described that program as 'apologetic.'" The documentary was repeated preceding the Mas Canosa and Alarcon debate.
Could Salazar and CANF have tricked Alarcon in response to the CBS documentary? If both Mas Canosa and Alarcon had agreed to the debate according to Salazar in 1996, then why didn't she tell Medina that? On the other hand, Salazar never denied the accusation that she had tricked Alarcon , and instead chose to deflect the issue by asking Medina if she had made an error in bringing the two men to debate.
No question that debate is good, but in this case, did the end justify the means? If this is the question that Salazar wants us to ponder, then she is suggesting that she did in fact trick Ricardo Alarcon into debating Jorge Mas Canosa. This scenario would lend support to Alarcon's accusations after the debate was aired, and point to why Salazar has now been banned from reporting inside Cuba.
Maria Elvira Salazar's journalistic ethics is not solely tainted with this event. When Salazar landed her famous interview with Augusto Pinochet in 2003, the Miami Herald wrote that "Salazar pressed him and his family for years, even sneaking into Pinochet's house in London with his grandson when [Pinochet] was under house arrest there in 1999."
It seems that Salazar has no problems bending the rules of ethics when it comes to getting that big interview or debate. A Vista Magazine interview quotes Salazar saying:
"I try to be non-biased. I give equal time to different opinions. I give my opinion, here and there. Then, I create the fight. I’m good at that, at creating the confrontation. The secret lies in choosing the right guests."
Polos Opuestos in no measure provides "equal time." Debates like Garcia vs Calzon, or Amador vs Medina, are few and far between on her show, which dedicates the majority of its programming to anti-Castro guests, and the anti-Castro cause.
How unfortunate to see that her "secret" also involves flaunting ethical principles every now and then.
[Part 1] [Part 2]