Jorge Mas Canosa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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. He was regarded within the US as an effective lobbyist on Cuban and anti-Castro political positions,[1] he was labeled a "counterrevolutionary" by the Cuban Communist Party.[2]


Jorge Mas Canosa was born and raised in the city of Santiago de Cuba on September 21, 1939. As a young student leader, Jorge was an advocate for democracy and freedom, fighting against the dictatorial oppression of first Batista and eventually Castro. His patriotism forced him to seek exile in Miami where he remained resolute in pursuit of a free Cuba, volunteering to serve during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In the states, he married his high school sweetheart Irma Santos and started a family of three sons: Jorge, Juan Carlos, and Jose Ramon.

His early days in the US were difficult ones as he washed dishes and delivered milk to support his family. But Jorge's humble beginnings would not be characteristic of his future. He achieved incredible success in business, turning a failing electrical construction firm, Church & Tower, into a multinational corporation, known as MasTec, which at one point was named the largest Hispanic owned business in the United States.

Throughout all of his success, Jorge's primary aspiration was always to liberate the people of Cuba from the tyranny of the Castro regime. In 1981, he moved one step closer to realizing that goal by establishing the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a non-profit organization, that since its founding has helped shape U.S. policy toward Cuba in ways that help promote a democratic and just society on the Island.

Much like the Freedom Tower, Jorge Mas Canosa became a Cuban symbol of liberty, a larger than life figure who represented the successes and hopes of generations of Cubans who had left the island but remained loyal to their home and determined to pursue its freedom. When he died in 1997, thousands of Cubans and those who were moved by his life's work gathered in Miami to attend his funeral, the largest ever held in the area.

Personal life[edit]

Mas Canosa married Irma Santos, his high school sweetheart from Santiago, in Miami, Florida. They had three sons, Jorge Mas, Juan Carlos Mas, and Jose Mas.


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] Mas Canosa then devoted himself to his business career.


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.[4]

Today, MasTec, Inc. (NYSE:MTZ) is a $4.2 billion revenue infrastructure construction company with approximately 15,900 employees and 470 locations.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8][9] Carter administration officials believed that if not for Mas Canosa, the United States might have ended the Cuban embargo.[2][10]

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.[6]

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.[11]

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][12]


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. ^ "Company History". MasTec, Inc. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  5. ^ MasTec, Inc. (2015). 10-K Report. Retrieved from Retrieved 5 March 2016
  6. ^ a b Walsh, Daniel C. An Air War with Cuba: The United States Radio Campaign Against Castro. 2011: McFarland. p. 114. ISBN 9780786465064.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Leogrande, William (April 11, 2013). "The Cuba Lobby". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  9. ^ Moffett, George (June 9, 1995). "Clinton Shuns Potent Anti-Castro Lobby". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Mas Canosa's Legacy". News Hour. November 24, 1997. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  11. ^ Pogebrin, Robin (September 17, 1996). "New Republic And Cuban Agree to Settle Libel Lawsuit". New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  12. ^ 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.