Monday, July 26, 2010

USAID's world of intrigue

The U.S. Agency for International Development is looking to make grants to promote grass-roots economic development in Cuba, but under a scheme that seems unlikely to work for the same reasons that landed contractor Alan Gross in jail.

The idea is contained in a request for grant applications for USAID’s “non-presence assistance program for Cuba.” This document says $3 million has been set aside for a program to “foster the development of Civil Society Groups (CSGs), especially those focused on promoting self-employment and entrepreneurial initiatives, and to pilot the establishment of Savings and Credit Groups among marginalized segments of the population.” (The meat of the document is in “Section B, Program Description.”)

In the second component, the “marginalized” Cubans would pool their savings in a lending pool and the USAID grantee would be permitted to match those savings.

This is part of USAID’s larger effort, the document explains, to provide “material support to targeted beneficiaries throughout the island to support the [U.S. government’s] foreign policy goals.”

Also: USAID “will be in frequent communication with the U.S. Interests Section, in Havana, in both soliciting and sharing information during the programmatic analysis and subsequent design of this activity.”

And USAID issues a warning: “Given the nature of the Cuban regime and the political sensitivity of the USAID Program, USAID cannot be held responsible for any injury or inconvenience suffered by individuals traveling to the island under USAID grant funding.”

Here we go again.

Starting with the positive, I like the idea that the Administration is interested in promoting economic development through credits to Cubans to support entrepreneurial activity.

But the warning to grantees would seem to indicate that the plan is to carry out the project covertly. Regardless of what one thinks about the Cuban government, the U.S. program, or its intentions, such a scheme has severe practical problems (discussed here and here regarding the Alan Gross case) and poses risks both to USAID’s operatives and those they contact in Cuba.


leftside said...

Are they serious? A program to funnel cash into the bank accounts of "targeted beneficiaries" in order to further US policy goals?? Could they have picked a program designed to susbtantiate Cuban's fears about US actions even more?

I actually thought USAID was going to learn something from the Alan Gross debacle. Apparently all they learned was a need to add a disclaimer.

Anonymous said...

please explain where it gives USAID or any other foreign entity the right to conduct such activities (add that to stated US goals) and how any government in the world would react to this? there is nothing positive here, no intention other than to meddle. It is a scheme in the most pejorative sense
The US government wouldn't allow Cuban doctors to come and help Katrina victims, but the Cuban govt is suppose to accept this sort of intrusive nonsense? Totally incomprehensible.

leftside said...

Beyond giving cash to anti-Government people and groups, the program's other big goal is to develop capitalists and entreprenuers. It is akin to Cuba and Venezuela combining to award secret grants to revolutionaries in the US trying to build socialist collectives.

Beyond that, there are thousands of actual, legitamate civil society groups in Cuba working on topics from baseball to the rights of Afro-Cubans. The groups are not "controlled" by the Cuban Government. They govern themselves. Why are these groups specifically denied participation in USAID programs?