Monday, April 18, 2011

Wikileaks, 2008: USINT in the dark about USAID activities

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana viewed the Cuba democracy programs run by USAID and the State Department’s Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau (DRL) as part of the U.S. government’s normal outreach to the Cuban public, and USINT was in the dark about the program’s activities and needed to make special efforts to receive information about grantees’ activities.

That’s part of the message of a Wikileaked 2008 cable just published by El Pais.

The August 1, 2008 cable notes that a reporting mechanism was being set up for DRL programs, and one was requested of USAID. The quarterly reports were to provide after-the-fact information on grantees’ contacts in Cuba. What is unusual about this is that a U.S. ambassador (or in this case the equivalent, the USINT chief) has authority over U.S. government personnel and activities in the country, approving everything from the visit of FAA airport inspectors to the activities of all embassy personnel from State and all other agencies, certainly including USAID activities. This cable, sent by a chief who was two weeks into his tenure, shows that an arrangement was sought long after the activities were established.

The bulk of the cable is about the challenges the U.S. diplomatic mission faces in reaching out to the Cuban public.

The cable notes that a prominent dissident refused to carry materials out of USINT in a U.S. government bag with the word CAMBIO printed on it. It attributes this to the presence of Cuban guards around the mission, but my guess would be the presence of Cuban cameras and the perennial government allegation that dissidents go to USINT to get their script or in this case, a slogan.

Acronyms: DVC for (I think) videoconferences, COM for chief of mission, GOC for government of Cuba, PD for public diplomacy.

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