[Marxism] US sends foreign aid to third countries to promote change in Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 23 14:18:07 MST 2006

(It's been a puzzlement how all of a sudden little groups in places
like the Czech Republic got motivated to be active promoting some
change to "democracy" in Cuba. Well, this helps explain their big
interest in the subject.)

Posted on Fri, Dec. 22, 2006 

US sends foreign aid to third countries to promote change in Cuba 

Associated Press 


MIAMI - While Cuban leader Fidel Castro's health crisis has sparked
new debate over federal funding of U.S. groups pushing for change on
the communist island, the United States has for years quietly
funneled millions of dollars to groups working in Europe to also
promote Cuban democracy.

Through the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit foundation
created by the Reagan administration in 1983, more than $200,000 has
gone to the Czech group People in Need, which nurtures independent
Cuban journalists.

The endowment gave Slovakian groups People in Peril and the Pontis
Foundation $33,000 over two years to promote independent think tanks
on the island. The Spanish magazine, Encounter of Cuban Culture, has
received $771,000 in endowment grants since 1998 to print articles by
Cuban dissidents.

Over the last two decades, the endowment has granted nearly $14
million to Cuba democracy programs, many based in the U.S., that link
Cuban dissidents to groups in Europe and Latin America. The grants
grew from $110,000 in 1986 to nearly $2.4 million last year.

Like the funds allocated to Cuban democracy groups based on American
soil through the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID,
the endowment grants have had a mixed record.

Caribbean expert Daniel Erikson said the efforts have yielded few
tangible results inside Cuba, but they have helped support local
groups in countries such as the Czech Republic, Sweden and Spain that
can put pressure on their own governments' policies toward Cuba.

"You have Cuba becoming a more salient issue in Eastern Europe and
Scandinavia when before it wasn't even on the radar screen," said
Erikson, a senior policy associate at the Washington-based think tank
the Inter-American Dialogue.

Still, in November, the United Nations General Assembly
overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba, 184-4, and
Cuba recently won a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Critics say the effort reflects the lengths to which the federal
government must go to avoid the snags of its own Cuba policy - which
makes it illegal for the U.S. government to send money directly into
the country, even to fund anti-Castro groups. But because the
endowment is a private corporation, its dollars can be sent to groups
in Cuba - even though the money originally came from the federal

"We're working at cross-purposes," said Florida International
University Vice Provost Damian Fernandez, who also heads the school's
Cuban Research Institute.

Fernandez said he would rather the U.S. find more common ground with
foreign governments on Cuba than provide aid to independent foreign

Then there is the issue of oversight. A recent report by
congressional investigators criticized the federal government's lax
control of USAID grants to U.S. based anti-Castro organizations.
Determining how the money is spent abroad is even more difficult.

"You're using people with a lower profile. You are giving funds once
removed at a distance and it has a lower silhouette," said Larry
Birns, head of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs,
which advocates an end to the embargo.

Caleb McCarry, the Bush administration's Cuba transition coordinator
at the State Department, said support for such groups, especially
those in Eastern Europe, is key to U.S.-Cuban policy.

"Organizations in countries that have undergone a transition from
communism to democracy have a great deal to offer in terms of sharing
their experience and understanding the difficulties of promoting
democracy within a police state," McCarry said.

Others argue that Eastern Europeans and Latin Americans have more
influence with Cuba because historically they've had strong relations
with the island.

The vast majority of government funding for anti-Castro programs
still goes to U.S.-based organizations located predominantly in Miami
and Washington. These groups generally seek to aid opponents of the
Cuban government, including journalists, dissidents and their
families, and they conduct research on a post-Castro Cuba, receiving
more than $65 million since 1996 from USAID, their main donor.

While some USAID money has always gone toward internationally focused
programs, that is a major part of the endowment's grants. The grants
are small, and for years the money went almost exclusively to
organizations funded or set up by U.S.-based groups. The
International Coalition for Human Rights in Cuba, which received
$865,000 between 1986 and 1993 and claimed members in Spain, Sweden
and Germany, was funded through the powerful Miami-based Cuban
American National Foundation.

More recently, a $213,000 grant helped support the Miami-based
pro-union International Group for Corporate Social Responsibility,
which was created in Spain last year and claims members from across
Europe and the Americas.

Endowment Vice President Barbara Haig said the grants to
third-country organizations are necessary since organizations in Cuba
are prohibited from accepting U.S. funds and those accused of doing
so are branded as traitors or mercenaries. She also said the European
groups had shown successful track records before they received the

"The problem of democracy in Cuba is not just a problem for America,
it's a problem all over," she added.

USAID funds are also increasingly being used for the international
efforts. The Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate is one of the
government's largest Cuba grantees, receiving more than $6 million
from USAID and the endowment.

In recent years it has opened offices in Mexico and Argentina and now
runs activities out of several other Latin American countries and
Europe using USAID funds. It has more than doubled its budget for
foreign offices from about $200,000 to nearly $500,000 between 2004
and 2005, according to federal tax forms.

It recently helped promote a protest by 100 youths outside Cuba's
embassy in Peru.

Co-Founder Orlando Gutierrez said he has repeatedly been audited by
donors and that the organization maintains strict internal controls
on how the money has been spent. He said the group has long sought to
publicize Castro's human rights violations beyond the U.S.

"When the regime was able to convince a lot of people that it was
poor little Cuba against the U.S., a lot of people would side with
Castro against the U.S. while ignoring human rights violations and
the trampling of rights inside Cuba," Gutierrez said.

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