[Marxism] Washington boosts aid to groups backing internal opposition

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Mar 29 12:49:24 MST 2005

Much as we can complain about false or distorted coverage of 
Cuba in the US media, there's nothing to complain about here.

Wouldn't it be great if all the human rightsers and editorial
writers who say, ad nauseam, that the 75 individuals who were
jailed for their paid collaboration with the United States
could receive a copy of this article? Wayne Smith, Gutierrez-
Menoyo and others have tried to explain repeatedly that the
US funding turns the dissidents who accept it into accomplices
of Washington's "regime change" program for the island, but the
US government seems bound and determined never to grasp this.
Thanks to Gary Marx for this important documentation. Timely,
too, as reminders for those on the left who signed letters of
protest against Cuba for defending itself in 2003.

As any responsible homeowner of a wood-based structure knows,
termites are harmful, but they can be brought under control by
judicious use of appropriate chemicals, and by tenting their
houses if all else doesn't succeed. 

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews


Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

[The gusanos are calling themselves "termites" now...]

Chicago Tribune - Mar 29, 2005

`We are the termites' to Cuba's old regime

Washington boosts aid to groups backing internal opposition

By Gary Marx
Tribune foreign correspondent

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Far from the White House and Havana, in strip
malls and nondescript buildings along South Florida's sunlit streets, a
multimillion-dollar infusion from the U.S. government has rejuvenated
Cuban-American non-profit groups providing assistance to Cuba's tiny
opposition movement.

The groups' ultimate goal, supported by the Bush administration, is to
bring political change to Cuba and end the presidency of Fidel Castro,
who has remained in power despite numerous assassination attempts and a
four-decade U.S. trade embargo.

Some of what the groups send to the island doesn't reach the dissidents
they hope to help, and some of the groups' leaders acknowledge that the
extra $14 million the administration is sending their way this year--on
top of the nearly $9 million that was appropriated--is unlikely to bring
down the Cuban government.

But that hasn't dimmed their enthusiasm for aiding what they describe as
courageous opposition figures, whom they view as Castro's Achilles' heel.

"We've sent medicines. We've sent clothing. We've sent cameras. We've
sent office supplies," said Frank Hernandez Trujillo, 63, executive
director of Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia, a Coral Gables-based group
that since 2000 has received $4.7 million from the U.S. government's
Cuba program.

Hernandez said he began shipping supplies to Castro opponents in Cuba 10
years ago, working out of his living room with six friends. He financed
the operation himself. But when U.S. funds became available in the
mid-1990s, Hernandez began writing grant proposals and by 2003 had an
annual budget of $1.3 million.

Hernandez said Cubans who speak out against the government lose their
jobs or are imprisoned, citing the 75 opposition figures incarcerated
during the Cuban government's crackdown in 2003.

"We are literally keeping many dissidents and their families alive by
providing them with materials," he said. "The psychological impact is
also important. They feel like they are not abandoned."

In addition to providing dissidents everything from dried ramen soup to
fax machines, Hernandez is producing books and CDs for underground
distribution in Cuba.

Propaganda campaign

His latest project is "GAD-TV," a television interview program meant to
counter the almost-uniformly negative Cuban government propaganda about
the United States. The program is smuggled into Cuba on DVDs, though few
Cubans have DVD players.

"We see the Cuban government as a piece of furniture that has been eaten
away by termites," he said. "If you put any kind of pressure on it, it
will crumble. We are the termites."

Five miles west of Hernandez's office on Miami's Calle Ocho is the
single-room headquarters of Accion Democratica Cubana, another
U.S.-financed group that provides mostly humanitarian assistance to
Cuban dissidents.

Juan Carlos Acosta, the organization's 46-year-old president, said he
turned to the U.S. government for financing because he couldn't raise
money in South Florida, where some Cuban-Americans do not believe
supporting dissidents is the most effective way to bring change to Cuba.

"We don't have the support of our own community," Acosta said. "We have
powerful radio stations, and most of them have a hard-line vision based
on the ideas of the 1950s and 1960s, namely that Cuba can only be free
through arms."

Acosta said he shared that view for years. A Mariel boat refugee in
1980, he said he trained in the Florida Everglades with Alpha 66, an
exile commando group that prepared for an assault on the island.

But Acosta said that by the mid-1980s he began hearing about a small
group of opposition leaders inside Cuba and decided supporting them was
the way to end "the tyranny."

In the first three months of 2004, Accion Democratica Cubana reported
sending 1,464 pounds of relief packages to Cuba, along with four
shortwave radios, two tripods, six cameras, three portable hard drives
and other items, according to U.S. government documents.

In 2003, the group spent $113,116 on humanitarian aid and supplies out
of nearly $350,000 in total expenses, according to its tax report. But
Acosta spent about $220,000 on shipping, telephone, rent and contract

Acosta said the only way to effectively communicate with dissidents in
Cuba is by phone, which can cost in excess of several dollars a minute.
He also pays professional smugglers between $12 and $15 a pound to carry
supplies into Cuba.

Other U.S.-funded groups face similar difficulties getting their product
to the island.

Rosa Berre, a former reporter for the Cuban Communist Party daily
Granma, fled Cuba with her journalist husband in 1980 and later helped
start the Coral Gables-based Web site CubaNet, which publishes articles
by Cuban writers critical of Castro.

CubaNet has received about $1.7 million in U.S. funds since 1996. But
its Web site is blocked in Cuba, so CubaNet articles are not available
even for Cubans with access to the Internet.

To get around the problem, Berre sends copies of CubaNet stories by
e-mail to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, the country's diplomatic
seat absent full relations, where they are printed and distributed to
thousands of visitors.

In Cuba, many dissidents say the U.S. assistance is crucial yet complain
that much of the help never reaches them.

"The U.S. government needs a way to have accountability for the money
that is given to the exile groups," said Manuel Vazquez Portal, a
dissident journalist in Cuba.

Adolfo Franco, an assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for
International Development, said his agency closely monitors the program,
which has spent about $36 million since its first grant in 1996. He
described the effort--which also includes grants to universities and
other organizations--as having an enormous effect in Cuba.

Official convinced of effort

"If this were insignificant and not a threat to the regime, the regime
would not waste a great deal of time denouncing these individuals, the
United States government and the entire movement," Franco said.

But a USAID-commissioned audit in 2000 by PricewaterhouseCoopers cast
doubt on the agency's ability to measure the effectiveness of the
so-called pro-democracy efforts because of the closed nature of Cuban

Even when the assistance arrives on the island it is difficult to ensure
that it is going to the intended recipients.

Resting on Joel Brito's desk in Miami is a color photograph taken in
Cuba of two smiling middle-aged women.

The woman in the foreground is Aleida Godinez Soler, a dissident labor
leader and Brito's primary contact in Cuba. Behind Godinez stood Alicia
Zamora Labrada, a dissident writer specializing in labor issues.

As executive director of an exile labor group, Brito said he sent the
two women about $9,000 in U.S. taxpayer money during a two-year period,
along with medicines and other assistance.

Then, in 2003, the two women revealed themselves as Cuban government
spies. "I talked to Godinez every day," said Brito, 41. "I couldn't
believe it."

Copyright C 2005, Chicago Tribune

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