Saturday, March 29, 2008

USAID's bad news Friday

The USAID Cuba program got a new black eye as White House aide Felipe Sixto resigned because of alleged improprieties involving USAID money during his three years working at the Center for a Free Cuba, where he worked as chief of staff until last July.

Sixto resigned March 20. The White House held the story until late Friday afternoon, the time when bad news is released to minimize coverage.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, quoted by AFP, said: “Our understanding is that Mr Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds by his former employer.” Stanzel says the matter has been referred to the Justice Department.

A more informative statement came from an unidentified White House official who told the Washington Post that Sixto had “misused federal grant money for personal gain.”

USAID, as usual, provided the least information of all.

Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba gave an interview to the left-of-center blog Talking Points Memo, which reported:

Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for A Free Cuba, told me that the center “became aware of the allegations weeks ago, and we informed USAID immediately.” He said that the USAID inspector general had been investigating Sixto’s possible misuse of the funds. He said he had “no idea” how much money was missing, but that “we’re anxious to cooperate in any way shape or form to get to the very bottom of it. We expect that all funds in question will be returned to the American taxpayer.”

Miami Congressional candidate Joe Garcia issued a statement saying that the incident highlights “the fundamental flaws of a policy designed to win votes in Miami and patronize partisan supporters – not bring freedom to Cuba…millions of dollars intended to fuel a democratic change in Cuba are ending up in the hands of Bush/Diaz-Balart cronies and never makes it to the island.” Miami’s Congressional representatives addressed the issue too, and were cited in the Herald’s story:

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart said in a joint statement they were “deeply disturbed by any allegation of misuse of taxpayer funds” and urged the Department of Justice and the Inspector General of the USAID “to move thoroughly and swiftly in investigating all the facts in this matter.”

Last June, Garcia and Calzon tussled on the Miami television program Polos Opuestos, hosted by Maria Elvira Salazar. Calzon departed the set when Garcia used the verb “take” to refer to the receipt of USAID grants by Calzon’s organization.


Anonymous said...

Not surprising behavior. We all know how corupt these people are. God bless Miami, Ha.

Anonymous said...

Not much point in speculating until the specifics are made public, but my hunch is that he may have designated an entity under his control as a subgrantee and basically moonlighted as the subgrantee. Question is whether he perfomed the work in the sub-grant in addition to his day job at CFC. If yes, then this is more a case of extremely poor judgement rather than malfeasance. Remember, this young man is in his late 20s. Let's leave the demagoguery aside until the facts come out.

Fantomas said...

yo propongo coger a todos estos recibidores de ayuda y los altos ejecutivos de tv marti y radio marti les digo , ok a partir de ahora se acabo el billete aqui vamos a hacer el trabajo voluntario , a ver cuantos se apuntan por la causa. Propongo que se utilicen jovenes universitarios que cobren un decima parte o casi nada ( internships) para correr TV Marti y RadioMarti) total si eso casi no se ve en cuba. it is heavily jammed

Phil Peters said...

Anon, that could be, considering the White House spokesman’s reference to “conflict of interest.”

Yesterday’s Herald story says that the allegation is that he “misused an unspecified amount of U.S. grant money,” and “it could amount to several hundred thousands of dollars.” Today’s Herald story refers to allegations that Sixto “may have improperly obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money.” Calzon says he wants to recover the money in question, and yesterday’s story in the Post cites the White House spokesman saying that his organization “is planning to bring Sixto to court.”

Regarding demagoguery, I agree.

Fantomas, tal vez tu podrias ser director de esa nueva operacion, los contribuyentes serian muy agradecidos.

Anonymous said...

Again, they have a good comment on this at, Sticky Fingers.

Mambi_Watch said...

The video of that debate is available on You Tube at:

Miami Hotels said...

Leave all the politics outside. I was in vacation in Miami via last minute travel with my family. We got a fantastic 2 weeks of fun together.