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Salvador Lew’s rocky reign as director of the federally funded Radio Marti just got a bit rockier. The Miami-based station, which is an arm of the International Broadcasting Bureau, is now being sued by one of its few black Cuban-American hosts for alleged racial discrimination. In a lawsuit filed this month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Enrique Patterson, who hosts a political satire program, claims that his pay was cut while white radio hosts with comparable duties were being paid more than twice as much. Patterson, who is Cuban born, alleges in his complaint that “his race is a motivating factor and determinative factor in the disparate treatment that he is suffering.” He’s suing for unspecified damages under two federal civil rights statutes, claiming he is due lost wages, pay commensurate to other hosts at the station, damages for pain and suffering, attorney fees and court costs. His attorney, Nicolas A. Manzini of Manzini & Associates in Miami, says Patterson is the only black host now working for Radio Marti. Natividad Torres, who discussed Afro-Cuban issues on a monthly program called “Mesa Redonda,” was taken off the air a few months ago. According to Manzini, a similar program called “Ache” is now on the air with a white host. “She’s been essentially eliminated with a white person taking her place,” Manzini says. “She is thinking of also bringing a lawsuit.” She is no longer on the air. Lew is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit brought by Patterson. But in correspondence before its filing, Manzini and another lawyer complained to Lew that Patterson had been mistreated. The attorneys wrote to Lew twice challenging the pay reduction and raising the issue of racial discrimination. They say they received no response from the station director. In the second letter, on March 26, Manzini, Patterson’s lawyer, wrote: “This [pay] disparity has no other plausible explanation but that it is racially based because Mr. Patterson is black.” Neither Lew nor other Radio Marti officials in Miami returned calls seeking comment. Since Lew was appointed by President Bush last July as director of the federal government’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting — which runs Radio Marti and TV Marti — he’s been dogged by controversy. Four women have filed sexual discrimination complaints against Lew with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the government agency that oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Lew also has been criticized by other station employees for allegedly engaging in cronyism by hiring friends for well-paid jobs. In addition, he’s been accused of unwisely depleting the station’s annual personnel budget to pay for free-lancers, and has been criticized in Washington for the station’s hard-line political position toward the Cuban government. The 73-year-old Lew, who achieved fame for breaking the news story in 1962 that the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba, has defended himself by saying his moves are part of an effort to overhaul a broadcast operation in need of reform. In August 2001, a federal study concluded that Radio Marti’s audience in Cuba had fallen to an all-time low of 5 percent. Lately, Patterson has been one of Lew’s most vocal critics. “He acts like a mayor in Cuba,” Patterson told The Miami Herald in March. “Anyone who is his friend has a job.” According to Patterson’s complaint, in early January, without any explanation, he was given an amended contract that reduced his pay from $100 to $85 per half-hour. At the same time, other program hosts had their pay hiked to $200 per half-hour. Patterson, a high school teacher in Miami-Dade County, could not be reached for comment. Despite the lawsuit and his criticism of Lew, Patterson’s program continues to be broadcast.

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