Monday, April 4, 2011

Here we go again, for $20 million

Here is the State Department document that presents plans for spending the next $20 million in funds for “human rights and civil society initiatives in support of the Cuban people.”

The funds will be administered mainly by USAID, including by its Office of Transition Initiatives ($12.6 million total), while $7.3 million goes to the State Department. $2 million is to be transferred to the National Endowment for Democracy.

These funds were appropriated for fiscal year 2010, which ended six months ago.

Some grantees are identified, others are listed as “to be determined.”

The funds will go to humanitarian support to political prisoners and their families and support for “local civil society groups that promote awareness” of political prisoners. Others will support efforts to strengthen a variety of groups in Cuba: independent lawyers; Cubans calling for their “social rights” to be respected; the gay community; persons with disabilities, “particularly women, youth, and marginalized groups such as Afro-Cubans” with disabilities; and others. There is $300,000 to teach peaceful conflict resolution techniques. And there is money that fosters “people-to-people” linkages to civil society groups in the region (which sounds like paying foreign nationals to travel to Cuba) and “identifies emerging leaders.”

Speaking of emerging leaders, the Cuban television program Razones de Cuba is promoting an episode that will air tonight, called “Manufacturing a leader.” The precise subject is not clear from the promo, but it is part of a series of programs that could well be called “We’ve got your number,” because they show what Cuba knows about U.S. operations in Cuban territory – and the intention is to have you believe that Cuba knows everything.

Those I have watched all reveal a Cuban agent who served as a point of contact for USAID grantees in Cuba. A recent episode showed a Cuban doctor who worked as a state security agent and is shown to be the main contact for one U.S. government grantee, the Pan American Development Foundation (see video with English subtitles; Part I and Part II) and other organizations. (An earlier episode about satellite Internet projects is summarized here.)

Put it all together, and you have two things: remarkable continuity in the Cuba democracy programs from the Bush to the Obama Administration, and a likelihood that we’ll see more grainy video on Cuban television showing meetings in homes, hotels, streets, and restaurants as Cuban intelligence follows the program’s operatives around.

In this interesting interview that Miami Herald editors conducted with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Congresswoman said that the U.S. government is “going to be very nervous” about the operation of these programs in Cuba. “Alan Gross was not the perfect person to represent the U.S. government in giving equipment to the Cuban people,” she said. “You’ve got to know what you’re dealing with…you can’t just send someone with the best intentions…you’ve got to know what you are doing and he was not the right person.”

Which makes me wonder, given “what you’re dealing with” in Cuba: Has the Obama Administration drawn any operational lessons from the track record of these programs in the past several years? Is it doing anything differently than its predecessor? And what would define “the right person” to deliver and install satellite Internet equipment on behalf of the U.S. government?


leftside said...

Washington, DC – After receiving notification that the U.S. Agency for International Development intends to spend another $20 million for "democracy promotion" programs in Cuba, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) said today that he would oppose the spending until a full review of the programs is completed. He issued the following statement:

"We all hope the Cuban people achieve greater freedom and prosperity in the future consistent with their aspirations, and I have applauded the Administration's commitment to expand people-to-people contact between our two countries. There is no evidence, however, that the `democracy promotion' programs, which have cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $150 million so far, are helping the Cuban people. Nor have they achieved much more than provoking the Cuban government to arrest a U.S. government contractor who was distributing satellite communication sets to Cuban contacts. Before this $20 million is committed, a full review of the programs should be undertaken and the Administration should consult with the Congress. The GAO, which has investigated fraud and abuse in these programs in the past, is already undertaking another investigation at my request into the legal basis and effectiveness of these operations."

Anonymous said...

no matter how it is presented, the continuation of these programs represents unwanted and illegal interference with another country's sovereignty. it makes it so easy for the Cuban side to justify their actions in response. these programs would not be tolerated in any country, yet the Americans maintain this arrogance.

RuleofWolves said...

@leftside "Is it doing anything differently than its predecessor?"

No, George W. Obama is doing nothing differently, except increasing the use of predator drones and the number of countries we are killing civilians in.