Monday, June 13, 2011

Freedom House to USAID: Keep your questions, keep your conditions, keep your money

USAID is asking for basic information about the operations it is funding in Cuba and one of its grantees, Freedom House, says the questions are more than onerous. Freedom House is returning a $1.7 million grant, the Herald reports, and will stick with $1.3 million it received from the State Department for other Cuba programs.

Where to begin?

First, this would seem to close the book on the debate over whether our foreign aid agency is running covert operations in Cuba. Its own grantee is saying that it can’t run its programs in secret if it doesn’t keep them secret from the government that funds them.

Second, it’s good that USAID is trying to get on top of its own operations in Cuba. The questions might not be necessary in other countries, but this is a place where one USAID operative landed in jail, and where the principal contacts in other operations have turned out to be Cuban intelligence agents. (See here and here.) Whether you like the programs or not, that amounts to a complete waste of money. Does anyone doubt that all the equipment that Alan Gross delivered was confiscated, and that his entire operation provided zero value for the U.S. tax dollars invested in it?


Anonymous said...

The present set up that is being used to get information in and out of the country in a totalitarian state like Cuba just does not make any sense.
Independent journalists have to use their real names in the by lines of their articles and to communicate with the press agencies from abroad that employ them through landlines or cell phones under the surveillance of the Cuban State security apparatus.
The apparatus then uses recordings of their phone communications or hard copies of their articles to prosecute them at will of “hostile propaganda” or of being paid enemy agents and to sentence them to long prison sentences or to subject them to public harassment from their goon squads.
A similar situation occurs with independent libraries whose addresses are publicly known.
As soon as state security learns of a new library’s existence, they begin to harass the librarians and whoever approaches their location. Then they continue to raise the ante placing all its readers under surveillance. The final step is imprisoning the librarian/s and confiscating all books and support equipment such as computers, faxes, typewriters, etc.
An even more diabolical and very common repressive tactic, is to infiltrate the independent libraries with state security agents and then to imprison the non agent personnel in the facility so that the state security agents will be co-opted to positions of leadership.
This allows state security to have access to the libraries’ list of readers and thus not only to be able to identify all those readers who frequent the libraries but those who send couriers to take out and return publications for them.
This allows them to control all the readers of such materials and to detect not only active opposition figures, but the closet ones and present day sympathizers who may one day become potential opposition recruits.
Thus the present day independent libraries provide aid to security surveillance over existing Cuban dissidents and even allows them to act proactively and to begin to track future opposition recruits before they even decide to join it.
The existing input output arrangement also makes it possible for the Cuban security services to receive indirect financial support from the US government through the transfer to them of funds received by their agents in the independent press and libraries. This constitutes a violation of existing US embargo regulations.
If the purpose of US subsidies is to get information from abroad and from the Cuban opposition to the population of the island, it is abundantly clear that the present set up is totally counterproductive.

It would only makes sense if, instead of the transmission of information, what is really desired is to dangle a group of defenseless people in front of the Cuban security services to provoke them into harassing and imprisoning them so that the Cuban government could then be accused abroad of violating human rights so as to:
1- Create an unfavorable public opinion that would help to reduce tourism to the island.
2- Prepare world public opinion for a “humanitarian” military intervention a la Libya if public protests ever break out in the island.
3- Make it appear that public opposition to the Cuban government is increasing in the island to help facilitate congressional appropriations for these purposes.
However, this policy does not contribute to the reduction of public support for the totalitarian Cuban government since the general Cuban population never has access to the information that these libraries contain or that the independent journalists report, nor becomes aware of the violation of human rights that occur when the freedom of information is violated and independent journalists and librarians are harassed and imprisoned.
Thus the long run ideological effect that is necessary for the population to demand democratic transition and market reforms is absolutely nil.

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

With respect to independent libraries, they should be abolished altogether and be replaced by stimulating the growth of the existing Cuban black market sales channels for information from abroad.
Both of these changes would require the modification of the previous methods of communication in use.
In the case of the independent journalist it would require not using land or cell phones to transmit information within the country or from the country to and from foreign countries.
For the independent libraries it would be necessary for the distribution of printed materials to be reduced considerably if not to cease altogether.
What means of communication should be used instead of phones and printed materials?
I do not believe that the internet by itself can fulfill Cuba’s needs because, although increased population access to the internet could reap additional foreign exchange for the totalitarian government, it would be very difficult for this policy to be adopted since:
1- The high price in foreign exchange that would eventually be charged for such Internet access would not permit it to become widespread.
2- When it is finally allowed it will be accompanied by effective and restrictive system of regulations that would probably include:
a- Formal prohibition to visit a series of sites.
b- Censoring software that would make it impossible to access such sites directly and difficult to do so through proxy sites.
c- Surveillance of web messages and surfing history to detect anti government messages and the violation of Internet access regulations.
Nor do I believe that satellite internet access will by itself solve the problem of providing non government supervised and controlled access to information for the Cuban population because:
1- It is too costly to be widely accessible even if it were to be subsidized by the US government.
2-Those that resort to it to avoid Cuban government supervision of their Internet messages would find themselves liable to prosecution for spying.
3- With adequate software for such purposes, already available commercially, at the Cuban government’s disposal, it would be possible to:
a- Detect and locate the transmission from Cuban territory of satellite Internet messages to the rest of the world.
b- Intercept and interpret satellite messages traveling to and from Cuba.
So an expenditure in satellite information systems would not be a way for the Cuban population to achieve freedom of information.

However, the creation of mixed networks that would combine the use of normal Internet or satellite transmissions to and from Cuba with an internal courier or sales networks for thumb drives, CD’S and DVD’S would be a much better alternative than the present inefficient and high human cost practices of using telephone communications for independent journalism and printed materials for the independent libraries.

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

The implantation of the suggested practices should make the dissemination of information from abroad within Cuba very popular and widespread.
It should also make it extremely difficult for the government to prosecute those carrying or selling non political information, since those caught selling it could always argue that they bought or reproduced it for their own enjoyment or for their friends or family members and were distributing such information at or below the cost of acquiring the media supports and were not making any profit out of such activities.
Such trade would be so widespread and in great demand that it would also make its prosecution extremely unpopular if it were to be carried out.
Thus the government would hesitate to do this or do it on a very reduced scale since it would probably decrease government support among the general population and specially among the youth.
It would also force the security services to divide its attention among the numerous distributors of such information and thus facilitate the distribution of news and political information through anonymous couriers using similar media supports.
Solutions such as this that would substitute the fixed physical independent library sites and targeted librarians of today by a movable sale force that would be incentivized to sell its wares to earn a living and that would be hard to prosecute without the government losing public support.
Such an arrangement would help to:
1- Increase the flow of non government information available to the Cuban public.
2- Finance the opposition without the direct monetary involvement of the US government.
3- Increase the involvement the Cuban American community in the support of the island's persecuted opposition.
4- Cut down on budget appropriations for such purposes.
5- Create the public awareness that will one day help to make possible the democratic transition in the long suffering island.
Let us stop the present day masochistic policy that accomplishes nothing at such a huge cost of human suffering and that only aids the Cuban security services to repress the opposition and to receive indirect subsidies from the US taxpayer.
We should not continue to provide unintelligent forms of subsidies that only allow us shoot ourselves and the Cuban democratic opposition that we favor and are trying to support, in the foot!


Anonymous said...


Del lobo, un pelo!