Jorge Mas Canosa

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Jorge Mas Canosa
Jorge Mas Canosa.jpg
Born(1939-09-21)September 21, 1939
DiedNovember 23, 1997(1997-11-23) (aged 58)
Spouse(s)Irma Santos
ChildrenJorge Mas
Juan Carlos Mas
Jose Mas
Parent(s)Dr. Ramón Mas Cayado
Josefa de Carmen Canosa Aguilera

Jorge Mas Canosa (21 September 1939 – 23 November 1997) was a Cuban-American immigrant who founded the Cuban American National Foundation and MasTec, a publicly traded company. Regarded within the United States as an powerful lobbyist on Cuban and anti-Castro political positions,[1] he was labeled a "counterrevolutionary" by the Cuban Communist Party.[2]. He has received criticism for his relationship with Luis Posada Carriles.


Bust of Jorge Mas Canosa in Miami Beach, Florida

Jorge Mas Canosa was born and raised in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba on September 21, 1939. As a student, Mas Canosa fought against the regimes of both Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro. He was forced to seek exile in Miami, Florida, where he fought for regime change in Cuba and participated in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Mas Canosa married Irma Santos, his high school sweetheart from Santiago de Cuba, in Miami. They had three sons: Jorge Mas, Juan Carlos Mas, and José Mas.

Upon arrival in the United States, Mas Canosa washed dishes and delivered milk to support his family. He eventually turned a failing construction firm, Church & Tower, into the multinational corporation MasTec, at one point the largest Latino-owned business in the United States. In 1981, Mas Canosa established the non-profit Cuban American National Foundation (CANF).


Early activism[edit]

At the age of fifteen, Mas Canosa spoke out against Batista's dictatorship and was briefly imprisoned.[citation needed] Released into his father's custody, his family sent him to the Presbyterian Junior College in Maxton, North Carolina. There, Mas Canosa learned English and studied the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, which would influence his outlook in the years to come.[citation needed]

Mas Canosa returned to Santiago to study law at the University of Oriente when the Batista regime was overthrown. As soon as he decided that Castro's new government was undemocratic in nature, Mas Canosa resumed his political activism. He was forced into exile under threat of arrest and arrived in Miami in 1960,[3] where he joined the Brigade 2506 and participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. He later graduated as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, but ultimately left the army when it became clear that the US was not developing any plans to attack or invade Cuba.[1].

Relationship with Luis Posada Carriles[edit]

CIA records from the National Security archive reveal that Mas Canosa payed Luis Posada Carriles, $5000 to cover the expenses of a demolition operation in Mexico.[4] In 1985, Mas Canosa financed the escape of Luis Posada Carriles from a prison of maximum security in Venezuela, where he was imprisoned for being the intellectual author of the explosion of a Cuban airliner that resulted in the death of 73 civilians. [5]


In Miami, Mas Canosa took jobs as a milkman, stevedore and shoe salesman, while also working energetically to build up the anti-Castro movement. The New York Times reported that he had raised money to obtain weapons and research locations in the Caribbean which could be used as a base for attacks on Cuba.[1]

Iglesias & Torres[edit]

In 1969, Mas Canosa went into business with the owners of Iglesias y Torres, a floundering and overextended construction firm that constructed and serviced telephone networks in Puerto Rico.[1] Renaming the company Church & Tower, Mas Canosa obtained a $50,000 loan and became a part owner. Managing Miami operations, he used his growing reputation in the exile community to secure lines of credit and was ultimately able to optimize his workers' construction methods and increase the company's productivity. The company grew from South Miami to Ft. Lauderdale with $40 million in annual revenues in 1980. Church & Tower became the basis for a telecommunications empire that made Mas Canosa one of the richest Hispanic businessmen in the United States; his net worth was estimated at more than $100 million when he died in 1997.[1]


Following the incorporation of Mas Canosa's sons into the business became MasTec, Inc. in 1994 when Jorge Mas led a reverse acquisition by its former competitor, Burnup & Sims.[6]

Today, MasTec, Inc. (NYSE:MTZ) is a $4.2 billion revenue infrastructure construction company with approximately 15,900 employees and 470 locations.[7] MasTec is a leader in six distinct business lines. Power Generation and Industrial renewable, Natural Gas and Oil Pipeline, Electrical Transmission, Wireless, Wireline Utility Services and DirecTV install to the home. MasTec is one of the Top five largest Hispanic owned firms in the United States and was the first to reach the $1 billion revenue mark in 1998.[citation needed]

Cuban American National Foundation[edit]

In 1981, Mas Canosa, along with Raul Masvidal and Carlos Salman, established the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), at the suggestion of Richard Allen, Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, and Mario Elgarresta, a member of Allen's staff.[8] The group was founded as part of a broader strategy to sideline more moderate perspectives within the Cuban-American community, and to convert anti-Castro activism from a more militant to a more political strategy.[9]

CANF was widely described during Mas Canosa's tenure as one of the most powerful ethnic lobbying organizations in the US, and used campaign contributions to advance its policy in Washington, DC.[10][11] Carter administration officials believed that if not for Mas Canosa, the United States might have ended the Cuban embargo.[2][12]

Media involvement[edit]

Radio and television Martí[edit]

In the early 1980s, Mas Canosa urged President Ronald Reagan to create a radio station aimed at broadcasting news into Cuba. After the station (named Radio Martí, after José Martí) was created, Reagan named Mas Canosa chair of the advisory board of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which advised the president on the operation of the station.[1] Station employees later accused Mas Canosa of interfering with station content, including accusations that he had complained that the stations did not give enough coverage to his personal activities.[8]

New Republic lawsuit[edit]

Mas Canosa sued The New Republic for libel after a 1994 article in the magazine referred to him as a "mobster". The case settled out of court for $100,000, and the magazine issued an apology.[13]

Feud with Miami Herald[edit]

Mas Canosa repeatedly feuded with the Miami Herald, which he claimed had Cuban spies among its reporting staff. He accused the paper of fermenting "hate, disinformation and reckless disregard" of the Miami Cuban community.[1] In 1992, after the Herald editorialized against a bill he supported, and the newspaper's Spanish-language Nuevo Herald wrote an editorial critical of him, he organized a boycott of the newspaper and posted advertisements on city buses which announced: "I don't believe The Miami Herald".[1][14]


Mas Canosa has received criticism from prominent journalists such as Christopher Hitchens who called Mas Canosa the caudillo of the Cuban-American National Foundation.[15]


Mas Canosa died in Miami on November 23, 1997 from lung cancer, compounded by pleurisy and renal failure.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rohter, Larry (November 24, 1997). "Jorge Mas Canosa, 58, Dies; Exile Who Led Movement Against Castro". New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Few in Cuba Mourn Mas Canosa's Death". CNN. November 27, 1997. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  3. ^ Steen, Edward (January 6, 1991). "Awaiting the fall of Fidel Castro". The Canberra Times. p. 15.
  4. ^ "Plan of the Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE) to Blow Up a Cuban or Soviet Vessel in Veracruz, Mexico." Cable, July 1, 1965. National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 288.
  5. ^ Bardach, Ann Louise (July 12, 1998). "A Bomber's Tale: Taking Aim At Castro". New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  6. ^ "Company History". MasTec, Inc. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  7. ^ MasTec, Inc. (2015). 10-K Report. Retrieved from Retrieved 5 March 2016
  8. ^ a b Walsh, Daniel C. An Air War with Cuba: The United States Radio Campaign Against Castro. 2011: McFarland. p. 114. ISBN 9780786465064.CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ Haney, P. J.; Vanderbush, W. (1999). "The Role of Ethnic Interest Groups in U.S. Foreign Policy: The Case of the Cuban American National Foundation". International Studies Quarterly. 43 (2): 341. doi:10.1111/0020-8833.00123., p. 347
  10. ^ LeoGrande, William (April 11, 2013). "The Cuba Lobby". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  11. ^ Moffett, George (June 9, 1995). "Clinton Shuns Potent Anti-Castro Lobby". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Mas Canosa's Legacy". News Hour. November 24, 1997. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  13. ^ Pogebrin, Robin (September 17, 1996). "New Republic And Cuban Agree to Settle Libel Lawsuit". New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  14. ^ Alex Stepick, ed. (2003). This Land is Our Land: Immigrants and Power in Miami. University of California Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780520233980. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  15. ^ Hitchens, Christopher. For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports. May 17, 1993: Verso. p. 70. ISBN 0860914356.CS1 maint: location (link)