The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) has issued a thorough report (pdf, 22 pages) on the USAID Cuba program. It traces the history and original purposes of the program, and it calls for major changes in the program at a time when its funding is increasing and USAID is reportedly considering a shift away from Miami groups that have received most of its grants.
The key issue it discusses is the decision made by a USAID official in 1996, at the program’s inception, to prohibit cash assistance to people and organizations in
This decision, not required by law, has remained in place all through the Clinton and Bush Administrations. CANF wants it reversed; it says it is the “single most direct cause of the substantive failures of
By “substantive failure,” CANF mainly means the fact that a minority of USAID program funds result in resources that reach
CANF examined four grantees that received $24.5 million from USAID between 1998 and 2005 – the Center for a Free Cuba, the Directorio Democratico Cubano, the Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia, and Accion Democratica – and found that 36 percent of funds were spent on resources that reach Cuba; the rest are spent off the island, an “egregious misdirection of resources,” CANF says. The percentage of funds reaching
USAID probably sees things otherwise. One of the goals of the funding, CANF notes, is to “build solidarity with
One can debate whether political activity in third countries has any impact, or is a good use of taxpayer money, but it is within the scope of the program. The law authorizes “support for democratic and human rights groups in
The USAID program deserves to be debated, and CANF’s report and recommendations, which go far beyond the points I summarized here, deserve attention.