USAID and State Department operations in Cuba are semi-clandestine “political programs” that are managed unlike almost every other U.S. development program in the world, former USAID official Gerald Hyman said Friday.
Hyman said he is not surprised that USAID is reluctant to disclose information about its Cuba programs in response to Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests.
You’re not going to get the normal kinds of responses from AID or the State Department. This is like having a CIA program in the former Soviet Union. You’re not going to ask the CIA how well it’s working.
Whether the democracy-promotion programs in Cuba are “efficient” is irrelevant, Hyman told the Cuba Money Project.
These are political programs designed to get information and political stuff into Cuba. There’s no evaluation team going in there to see how they’re working.
Teams can’t assess the Cuba programs in the country because of the contentious relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, he said. Evidence of the Cold-War hostilities came in December 2009 when Cuban authorities arrested Alan Gross, an American development worker who was carrying out a democracy-promotion project on behalf of USAID.
Hyman worked for USAID from 1990 to 2007, and directed the agency’s Office of Democracy and Governance from 2002 to 2007. He did not handle Cuba programs while at USAID, but is familiar with them.
There are no open meetings about Cuba projects at the agency, and information about Cuba programs is “very closely held,” Hyman said.
These things are done by top management in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at State, and the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at AID. These things are not debated in the normal way.
Asked if USAID operated similar programs anywhere else in the world, Hyman cited Iran.
Hyman is president of the Hills Program on Governance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
On Oct. 5, Hyman wrote an article entitled, “Mission Improbable—A Big USAID Presence in Post-Castro Havana.”