Sharing Responsibility

A story that kind of flew under the radar this weekend was the decision by the Bush administration to take resources away from Miami-based exile groups and giving them to international pro-democracy groups.
The full story is included below the fold, but before I roll it out, I have to say that the idea doesn’t strike me as a bad one. Yes, logic would dictate that Miami-based groups are more familiar with dissident groups in Cuba, and therefore should be the focus of any effort to bring aid to those brave individuals. However, their track record is mixed, as a recent GAO report indicated. Opening up the bidding to include a wider pool of applicants, including international organizations does two key things:
– Increases accountability of qualifying organizations.
– Increases international collaboration in the effort to aid dissidents.
Some may not like the fact that U.S. funds may go to groups outside the U.S. I can understand that concern, but if the money is there and ready to be used, let’s make sure it gets into the right hands and used properly and with maximum impact. We’ve been going it alone for too long. A little help is never a bad thing.

U.S. shifting funds away from Miami anti-Castro groups
The White House aims to address allegations of favoritism by sending aid to international organizations — away from South Florida’s anti-Castro groups.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is undertaking a major do-over of the controversial Cuba democracy grants, restricting the funds available for anti-Castro groups in Miami and sending more resources to non-U.S. international advocacy organizations, officials and others familiar with the programs say.
The new orientation, which has sent tremors of uncertainty among many grant recipients in South Florida, comes as the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development prepare to award a record $45.7 million in Cuba democracy grants this year — more than triple the 2007 levels.
The money aims to bring about a transition to democracy in Cuba, but the programs have long faced allegations they favor more Cuban Americans in Miami than people on the island. On Friday, a White House aide resigned amid allegations of misusing program money when he worked for one of the Cuban-American groups.
The funds are to be awarded via competitive bids and officials are urging Eastern European and Latin American groups to apply. The administration is especially eager for proposals that would provide communications technologies to activists in Cuba. Officials say Internet access, YouTube videos and cellphone text messages propelled movements to challenge governments in places like Tibet and Burma.
Access to these technologies is restricted by the communist government, although on Friday, Havana announced cellphones would be made more widely available. Earlier, the government has also said computers would be sold to all Cubans.
”We are not . . . excluding anybody from the process,” said José Cárdenas, the deputy assistant administrator for South America and Cuba at USAID, “but with the tremendously escalated resources, definitely we want new participants in the program.
”We would love to see more former East European bloc groups and individuals,” he added, “and we would love to see more private interest and activity from Latin America.”
Until now, the bulk of the grants have been funnelled through Miami groups. Critics said the programs placated Cuban-American groups but did little to bring democracy to Cuba. Havana routinely calls Cuban recipients of U.S. aid programs “mercenaries of the empire.”
A November 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office criticized USAID for providing $74 million in grants since 1996 without competitive bids. The GAO also found some instances of abuse, including using grant money to purchase game consoles and cashmere sweaters.
And on Friday, the White House announced Felipe Sixto, its top liaison with the Cuban-American community, resigned over allegations he may have improperly obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money at a previous job with the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba.
But supporters of the programs say the GAO report also found programs delivered vast quantities of communications equipment and other supplies to dissidents on the island. The increase in resources for Cuban democracy grants was easily approved by Congress last year.
Officials say Miami-based organizations will now need to show they can provide training, equipment and other resources to groups on the island. ”We want to see an impact in Cuba not somewhere in the United States,” said one official who helped craft the new guidelines and agreed to speak candidly provided he was not quoted by name.
The goal is to empower Cubans to operate independently of the communist system, which controls everything from access to the mass media to jobs. With Fidel Castro retired, his brother and successor Raúl Castro has taken some timid steps toward debate and reforms, though Cárdenas said the country was still ”tightly controlled” by the government.
U.S. officials say Washington-based advocacy organizations like Freedom House, International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will also be favored by the new guidelines because they have longstanding links with foreign pro-democracy groups.
Some money already has been provided to groups like the Czech advocacy group People In Need.
European and Latin American activists have an easier time entering Cuba than U.S. citizens.
Paul Fagan, the head of IRI’s Latin American programs, says his group often uses Latin Americans to conduct training seminars for Cuban activists, and is looking to set up Cuba programs with Baltic states like Latvia.
According to 2008 State Department budget documents, $33.7 million is to support civil society groups in Cuba, $5 million will support ”rule of law and human rights” and $7 million is for “political competition and consensus-building.”
The change in orientation has caused uncertainty among grant recipients in Miami, especially among academic programs that do not deal directly with civil society groups in Cuba.
Jaime Suchlicki says he will keep running his Cuba Transition Project, a unit of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, regardless of what the U.S. government does.
”CTP is not going to end, whether we get funding or not,” said Suchlicki, a historian and longtime head of the institute.
USAID provided $500,000 annually to fund seven researchers focusing on a post-Castro Cuba. Late last year, USAID said the program would not be renewed, though Suchlicki plans to reapply for a grant this year.
Frank Calzón, the head of the Center for a Free Cuba, said his USAID program ended recently but he had enough funds to keep going until the guidelines become clear. The center provides assistance and equipment to dissidents on the island, and works with international human rights organizations and foreign governments to raise awareness on abuses in Cuba.
Calzón said programs are evolving over time.
”There are other tools, there are other instruments,” he said. “Now, there are people in Europe, in Latin America who want to help the Cuban people by sending books, by going to the island.”

24 thoughts on “Sharing Responsibility”

  1. Robert dijo
    “However, their track record is mixed”
    No, their track record has been awful
    Vamos a hablar sin miedo y meter a todos estos HP en la carcel a los sixto y a todos los que lo rodean que andan en negocios turbios , con salarios de 100a 200k , Radio and TV Marti executives and the likes vividores , cuentistas
    NO ME GUSTA PARA NADA EL FRANK CALZON.. no me inspira confianza para nada con esa cara y actitud

  2. Abajo,
    You can continue to be one of those that porpgates the myth, for example, that Radio Marti isnt heard in Cuba. But fact of the matter is that is, and widely so.
    And if you knew anything abot anything regarding these monies, youd know that the system where most of the cash would not make it actually into Cuba was put in place by the Clinton administration. There are many people, in Miami, DC, NY and everywhere else, especially in government, currently working to get this sytem changed to allow for most of the moneys to be sent directly to Cuba.

  3. The change that is needed Val is to REMOVE the same people that have been in charge of receiving this grants for the last 30 years or more.
    The Cuban Gov have spent millions of dollars to prevent those two stations to reach correctly every cuban home. Please don not lecture me in regards if TV marti is seen or not in cuba . I know and have spoken with peeple inside of Cuba that the signal is super weak , can only be seen near the coast ,for 30 minutes or less plus the programme that they show SUCKS ..DAN GANAS DE VOMITAR..eSTO DICHO POR GENTE DE CUBA. Si a ti te han dicho que se ve te han engañado..y te estan cogiendo de pendejo
    Yo Quiero que vaya el 80 porciento de los materiales a Cuba y 20 % o less se quede en gastos administrativos in the states. Menos mal que el gobierno americano ya se esta dando cuenta de los cuantiosos robos de estas pseudo organizaciones y los malos manejos de sus directores , Ya sixto acepto culpa. lo haran los demas?

  4. I think this is both a good thing and a bad.
    Good that there will be more accountability of money which is meant for Cuba’s freedom. If indeed it is true that “administrators” are making a lucrative living from heading these organizations then they need to get cut off and even prosecuted. (including abuses such as cahmere sweaters and game consoles)
    The bad is the timing. At a time of greatest weakness for the political situation in Cuba the last thing we needed was for potential scandals to break out. But I would rather have a clean house than a fake one. If some of these folks are just fat cats then they need to go. I am for accountability. I do stress IF.

  5. Pototo, are you saying that the administrators should work for nothing? Last I checked, non-profit administrators, are paid a competitive wage just like everyone else.

  6. Ziva,
    Please quote me where I said the administrators should work for nothing. What I said was abuse as well as the fact that an organization dedicated to the freedom of Cuba operating on government grants with monies intended for use in Cuba should not be the source of a lucrative income. An average pay? Sure. A grossly large income? NO!

  7. BTW are the books open? That is very important. Also I do have a question. Just how much are the “administrators” making? That should simplify matters.

  8. Pototo I was just asking, do you know how much they are paid? Because I don’t, and it was my understanding that the cashmere sweaters and game consoles went to Cuba and may have had a legitimate purpose. What I’m saying is I’m not sure I trust whoever compiled those GOA reports to be fair to the exile community.

  9. Just may have answered my own question. But since the source is corral I have to take it witha grain of salt.
    “–Even though OCB employed 149 people as of January — with an average annual salary of $79,795 and with 18 of them earning six-figure salaries — it spent more than $2 million of its budget to hire about 200 contractors to host shows or provide other services, such as technical support. Among those benefiting from a lucrative contract is a convicted felon who is a longtime friend of Roig.
    Contractors include at least 49 journalists and commentators also working for South Florida Spanish-language media — among them Channel 41, Telemundo, Univision and, until recently, El Nuevo Herald. In all, OCB spent $11 million on contractors since 2001.”
    Six figures is obscene to me. And those $79k averages back then do seem a bit high.

  10. My personal view is:
    First to say Frank Calzon does good work, so good some years back he was beaten up by Castro thugs in Geneva. Maria Werlau and a good number of others do excellent work as well. And one can be sure there are many others, that I do not know because I am very far from Miami.
    Recently I have noticed a recent trend to incorporate the far left from academia, pushing themes as far out as “Raul is good guy, a moderate (gasp!) he really wants reform.” Then gathering groups (sociedades de admiracion mutua) who go on to promote their kin, and try to reach control to promote “dialogue” (read as surrender to whims and goals of the nomenclature in Cuba).
    In my view what needs to be done is weed-out those who do not wish to promote democracy in Cuba, and some of those with aggressive and exclusive personal promotion agendas “arboles que no dejan que otros crecen en su sombra.”
    Thus, there are lots of very good and effective anti-Castro pro-democracy people in Miami, who are not seduced by the siren songs of the left … these are needed and should be retained.
    Empire builders are useful, their energies can do magnificent things, but their power should be constrained so the do not stunt the work of others.
    Often there is a wish to “unify” while the Cuban genius is the dispersed attack, the sudden rapid hit and run which if employed will defeat the present Cuban government with “a death of a thousand cuts.” This gives the Cuban government agents too many targets to attack or infiltrated them effectively.
    Larry Daley (Garcia-I~niguez Enamorado Ramirez)

  11. According to Public Service average salary for a government affairs exec is $100,400
    plus bonus of $9,119. So six figures is within the norm. If the data was reported by Corral, you can bet it was skewed to make the C/A community look bad.

  12. Ziva,
    But this is about a cause not a career. Can we not make sacrifices for a free Cuba? No one is saying do it for minimum wage. But just because another NPO exec makes $120k doesn’t mean ours do. It does raise questions. Its about a FREE Cuba, not a easy living. There is nothing wrong with making a great living in a free Cuba. There is something wrong with making a great living in the quest for a free Cuba. But thats is just my position.

  13. Pototo, I agree with you, I would, I know you, and others would happily do it for room and board or as volunteers. The point I was making it that those citing Rangel’s GOA report were selective in choosing the targets for their criticism, and did so to discredit the community and promote their own agenda. In addition, I just do not believe that the infiltrated State Department, or with few exceptions, International “Democracy” groups really care about freedom for Cuba. It is my opinion that anyone who is corrupt should be weeded out, but that Cubans should be the ones selected to work for a free Cuba. I just don’t believe that others are going to do right by Cuba, and I hate to think of the money winding up in castro’s coffers.

  14. I just to have to say, that as much as I love and miss Cuba–I think that the focus should not be on where this money is going, but on the fact it is going AT ALL. I can’t turn on the news without seening how we, the people that live in the United States, are in a financial crisis. I am sorry, but Cuba to me in this regard represents a black, money-sucking pit. Money goes in and nothing comes out. There has been very minimal change on the island and money is not going to make it happen faster (as it has bee apparent all these years).
    At this time in the American economy, I think the funding for these types of programs should be cut back drastically. I want everyone on this blog to consider this question honestly: considering the state of the economy, our failing education policies and the fact that millions are without health care, do you think Cuba DESERVES this money?
    What can we, again, the people that live in the U.S. get out of it (other than some sort of moral satisfaction)?
    Again, I love Cuba, but the reality is that I no longer live in Cuba (and neither do you) and as people living here, in the U.S., facing a tough situation, we have get our priorities straight.

  15. I could not disagree with you more. The financial crisis here in the US is due to irresponsible spending on the government and personal level. I for one think that an investment in freedom is a far better investment than all the teat sucking social programs that have gotten the US in this mess. To ignore Cuba and yet spend billions on illegals as well as on many freeloaders is wrong.
    The problem isn’t a lack of money. The problem is how the money is being spent and spending money in helping liberate Cuba is a moral responsibility as the US contributed to Cuba’s position in their inactions during the Bay of Pigs as well now not allowing Cuban patriots to attempt to overthrow the castro regime with things such as the Patriot Act. No I do not blame the US for all of Cuba’s ills. Most of it is due to some of our very families who did nothing when they could have. But if tehre will be cuts it should be on the wasteful schools systems as well as the wasteful social programs. That will save a bunch.

  16. This is pretty much the same channels used to funnel men, material & equipment to Poland &
    Eastern Europe; back during the Soviet era. A lefty reporter and conveyor of conspiracy theories
    (such as the assasination of John Paul 1)David Yallop, dwelled on the fact of the Vatican Bank/Sindona scandal as a way to discredit what were then beginning approaches to Lech Walesa’s
    Solidarity. The problem is the dissidents are much more diffuse in Cuba, than in Eastern Europe.
    Seriously, Abajo Raul (now I guess) what do you want the U.S Govt to do; or to allow. Do you want
    an invasion like Panama, or Iraq; to get rid of the Biran oligarchy and their minions. Realis-tically do you see that happening either then or now. Could we mount an operation like Escambray or the Contras; maybe if there was a rebellion among FAR personnel. Or do you really want diplomatic relations with the regime.

  17. Realistically, to start, why not a temporary elected government in absentia, that is recognized, and for the US to end their collaboration with the dictatorship, i.e., toss the
    “Soviet” agreement and give Cuban exiles the freedom to fight for the liberation of their homeland.

  18. Ziva,
    Now you are talking! In all seriousness you have stated what we truly need. Short of that and we will never see a free Cuba. Unless this dangling of unaffordable toys gets the Cubans on the island riled enough to do something Cuba will never be free any other way.

  19. I love how you think that “wasteful government spending” means putting money put into social programs and NOT sending it abroad into wasteful pits of moral righteousness.
    It’s mind boggling that you’d rather send money to an island that doesn’t deserve it, what do they (the current people on the island) contribute to us? At least the so-called illegals, which let me remind you, which would include all of us if it wasn’t for the policies favoring Cubans, actually contribute to the economy!
    So let the Americans give up on the youth of ITS nation and the health of ITS people, because of admittedly failed policies? Do you forget that are tons of Cuban-Americans along with everyone else, that needs help also? Remember, ser culto para ser libres? That it’s universal.

  20. CubaLinda, I wonder why you chose this moniker, considering your obivious disdain for Cuba. First of all, Americans don’t need handouts from the government. Any American, or resident in this country can get ahead through hard work, and that includes obtaining healthcare coverage for their children. There is no constitutional guarantee of income. USAID is part of foreign policy, and if you think that we shouldn’t be doing every thing possible to promote democracy in Cuba, then you are obviously uninformed. As for your comment about Cuban’s “deserving” our help, I’d suggest that you keep your low opinion of Cubans to yourself, seeing as how you’re in a Cuban home here, and remarks like that are insulting to your hosts. So consider yourself warned, if you insult us, I’ll ban you.

  21. Ziva I know that
    this link is to respond to the comment below made by val on this post
    You can continue to be one of those that porpgates the myth, for example, that Radio Marti isnt heard in Cuba. But fact of the matter is that is, and widely so.
    And if you knew anything abot anything regarding these monies, youd know that the system where most of the cash would not make it actually into Cuba was put in place by the Clinton administration. There are many people, in Miami, DC, NY and everywhere else, especially in government, currently working to get this sytem changed to allow for most of the moneys to be sent directly to Cuba.
    Posted by Val Prieto at March 31, 2008 01:42 PM

Comments are closed.