October roundup

The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded a three-year, $4.3 million Cuba grant to the New America Foundation. That triggered some mild controversy because the foundation also operates the U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative, aimed at promoting engagement with Cuba.

Anya Landau French

News of the grant surprised Anya Landau French, director of the U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. She wrote:

What does it say about an institution that might house two such initiatives: one that argues against U.S. government intervention in Cuba, and one that would consider aiding such interventions? I’ve given this question a good deal of thought in the past twenty-four hours. First, one of the defining attributes about an institution like New America … is the space it has tried to cultivate for a multitude of interests and perspectives. The emphasis is on “new thinking” – yes, U.S.-Cuba policy sure could use some. Sometimes that means we thinkers bump into each other.

… on the one hand, I believe the internet and other modes of mass communication should not be kept from the public… On the other hand, I’m not sure that foreign government intervention is the best way to address this problem. …U.S. government democracy-building efforts on the island have only given the Cuban government an excuse to work to delegitimize anyone associated with them as paid ‘mercenaries’.

It seems to me that no matter how cutting edge or morally gratifying spreading the tools of internet freedom may be in this day and age, it’s a grievous mistake to dismiss the broader foreign policy context and implications in any target country, however passé that might seem. We do still live in an international system, where sovereign countries, whether we like their leaders or not, may have a thing or two to say about foreign agents intervening in domestic affairs. That’s not an apology for any regime; that’s reality.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, creator of the Capitol Hill Cubans blog, said the New American Foundation’s Open Technology Institute:

has done great work in promoting Internet connectivity and innovative telecommunication networks for civil society throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

Mauricio Claver-Carone. Photo: Fora.tv

He said the foundation:

also hosts The Havana Note blog, whose contributors include the USAID Cuba program’s most arduous critics and Castro regime apologists.
Can’t wait to hear how they feel about their newly-financed parent organization.
A fascinating hypocrisy.

Also in October:

  • The lawyer for jailed American Alan Gross said his client may have cancerous tumor on his right shoulder. Cuban authorities arrested

    Jared Genser

    Gross in December 2009 and accused him of smuggling high-tech communication gear into Cuba. His lawyer, Jared Genser, said Gross has a “potentially life-threatening medical problem,” according to an independent review of his medical records.

Gross’ wife, Judy, appealed to Cuban President Raúl Castro to let her husband seek treatment in the United States. She said in a statement:

President Castro, I beg you not to let my husband die on your watch. Your country claims to have such a wonderful health care system – yet why have your doctors misdiagnosed him and failed to order the right tests to determine what is actually happening?
Please let us have Alan diagnosed by a doctor of his choosing before it is too late.

  • USAID updated its list of organizations that carry out democracy-promotion programs in Cuba. USAID partners and Cuba grant amounts are below:
    1. Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba: $3.4 million from September 2011 to September 2014
    2. Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia: $3 million from September 2012 to September 2015
    3. International Relief and Development: $3.5 million from September 2011 to September 2014
    4. International Republican Institute: $3 million from September 2012 to September 2015
    5. Loyola University: $3 million from September 2010 to September 2013
    6. National Democratic Institute: $2.3 million from September 2011 to September 2014
    7. New America Foundation: $4.3 million from September 2012 to September 2015
    8. Pan-American Development Foundation: $3.9 million from September 2011 to September 2014

Can the United States export democracy to another country, the way it exports Coca Cola? Apparently the government, particularly, USAID, and the mass media – think so. But, some tricky issues emerge because we – the USA – the ‘city on the hill’ represent ‘exceptionalism.’

  • Phil Peters, who writes the Cuban Triangle blog, noticed two striking quotations about USAID. The first came from politics professor

    Phil Peters. Photo: La Jornada

    Nicolai N. Petro, who wrote a column about USAID democracy programs in Russia:

Civil society needs to be domestically oriented, locally funded and patriotic. Dependence on foreign money undermines those objectives.
The United States needs to wean nongovernmental organizations off their long-term dependence on U.S. taxpayers.
While many disagree…about who is behind recent protests, most want their country’s political future to be its own.

  • The second quote came from Cuban author Zoe Valdes, who wrote:

    Zoe Valdes. Photo: Paz sin Fronteras

Cuba’s freedom is not a business, and it should not be a business, but it has been one for quite some time.


Tracey Eaton was the Dallas Morning News bureau chief in Cuba from 2000 to early 2005. Before that, he headed the paper’s Mexico City bureau. Eaton, a former Fulbright scholar, has been a journalist and photographer since 1983. He travels to Havana regularly. In 2010 and again in 2011, Eaton received a Pulitzer Center grant to support his reporting in Cuba. He has been investigating U.S.-financed pro-democracy programs in Cuba.

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1 Response

  1. lazaro says:

    total amount of 26.4 million that nobody can explain for sure how they contribute to the democratization of Cuba. who cares.

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