One question auditors ask when looking at U.S. government democracy programs in Cuba is how much aid actually reaches the Cuban people. I touched on that question in an Oct. 29 post, Cuba Money Trail: Tale of two Miami non-profits.
I had posted IRS documents showing that the Directorio Democratico Cubano sent much less money to Cuba than the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba.
Several Spanish-language blogs picked up the debate. Some were struck by the IRS forms, which showed that the Directorio had reported spending $3,691,633 from 2007 to 2009, but apparently only $43,592 in humanitarian aid reached the island. Pedro Pablo Arencibia Cardoso, of the blog Baracutey Cubano, wrote on Nov. 14:
I cannot explain why this clearly happened for years even though there are people who must supervise the use of these funds …
That drew a reaction from Angel de Fana, who runs a third Miami non-profit, Plantados hasta la Libertad y la Democracia en Cuba.
De Fana disputed the accuracy of a statement that Baracutey Cubano attributed to him in reference to the amount of aid his organization receives. In response, Baracutey Cubano made an open call for some clarification about how Plantados spends the democracy money it receives.
With that in mind, I searched for IRS forms that Plantados has filed in recent years. I found Form 990s for three years: 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Before I get into the forms, I would like to point out that I interviewed De Fana at his Miami office before starting the Cuba Money Project.
He was about to leave for an appointment, but was a gentleman and kindly agreed to see me.
I learned that De Fana was among the 1960s-era political prisoners known as the “plantados.” The Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin described them like this in 2006:
The plantados — the immovable ones – were the Cuban political prisoners who refused prison work, indoctrination or even uniforms. As a result, they served every day of sentences as long as 30 years.
Wikipedia calls the plantados “the most stubborn political prisoners in Fidel Castro’s jails, the ones who endured the harshest punishment.”
This willingness to accept punishment – even years in prison – for one’s beliefs is certainly something to be admired and respected. And as I listened to De Fana, it was clear he has deep passion for the cause of democracy in Cuba.
De Fana, 71, told me he and others had risen up against Fidel Castro in the provinces of Escambray and Pinar del Rio. He was captured and imprisoned on Sept. 10, 1962, and spent just over 20 years in prison before he was released.
Now a resident of South Florida, De Fana said the time for armed struggle has long passed. And during the last 10 years, he said he has dedicated himself to helping political prisoners, ex-prisoners, peaceful dissidents and their relatives.
We talked about U.S. policy toward Cuba. De Fana said he has mixed feelings about the Obama administration. He is glad that U.S. officials have kept economic sanctions against Cuba in place, but believes that U.S. government support of dissidents has dropped since the Bush presidency. He said:
I’d like this administration to give more support to the internal opposition.
De Fana said he doesn’t believe negotiation with the Castro brothers is possible. Their sole purpose, he contends, is to stay in power. He said:
The concessions they’ll make are minimal.
De Fana said he believes it was an error for the U.S. Agency for International Development to hire a private contractor to send such workers as Alan Gross to Cuba. He said:
These things should be left to Cubans. Cubans have traditionally taken care of these things and they’ve done quite well.
Returning to question about how much democracy aid reaches Cuba, IRS forms show that Plantados sent nearly $800,000 in humanitarian aid to Cuba from 2008 to 2010. It seems clear that the organization makes a strong effort to ensure that a large share of its money reaches the Cuban people.
I don’t know enough about the organization to fully understand its finances, but the humanitarian aid amounts stand out. Decide for yourself. See the summaries below and download the forms – 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Plantados’ reported expenses included:
Books and publications – $31,635
Communications – $42,560
Computer expenses – $11,411
Emergency human assistance – $379,089
Films and video – $2,846
Fundraiser expenses – $23,410
Insurance – $22,225
Office expenses – $4,762
Postage and shipping – $5,238
Public relations – $851
Telephone – $4,099
Utilities – $1,965
Supplies – $3,369
Documentary production – $20,148
Contract labor – $26,000
Private contributions – $9,465
Communications – $43,746
Computer expenses – $5,368
Emergency human assistance – $231,660
Films and video – $4,163
Fundraiser expenses – $3,619
Insurance – $19,893
Office expenses – $3,803
Postage and shipping – $2,677
Public relations – $1,297
Telephone – $4,269
Utilities – $1,917
Supplies – $131
Contract labor – $27,004
Communications – $2,800
Computer expenses – $1,183
Emergency human assistance – $185,173
DVDs and cameras – $1,565
Fundraiser expenses – $506
Office expenses – $2,093
Postage and shipping – $1,138
Public relations – $425
Telephone – $3,520
Utilities – $1,191
The forms also listed compensation and benefits:
Officers and directors – $86,710
Other employees – $111,556
Officers and directors – $73,370
Other employees – $100,362
Officers and directors – $26,000
If anyone sees errors in the numbers, please let me know and I’ll correct any mistakes. I also welcome additional information from Angel de Fana, although I’m not sure he reads this website.
In his message to Baracutey Cubano, he wrote:
I, personally, don’t have any confidence in the work that the Cuba Money Project is carrying out.