Cuba and the United States will soon open embassies in their two capital cities, ending 54 years of no diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Yet normal bi-national relations are unlikely anytime soon. Remaining problems include the U.S. economic blockade, land in Guantanamo the U.S. occupies for its base and prison, and the 1965 Cuban Adjustment Act affecting Cuban migration.
Additionally, U.S. attempts over many years to recruit a political opposition to Cuba’s revolutionary government are a particular sore spot for Cuban leaders. Their aim has always been is destabilization and Tracey Eaton sees them as continuing.
The former Havana bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News has long kept track of U.S. funding of this mode of intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs. His findings, obtained from official U. S. sources, appear on his blog, “On the Malecon.”
In an interview with Cuban journalist Iroel Sánchez, he surveyed the current status of U.S. “democracy promotion” programs. A summary of information emerging from the encounter testifies to tension between initiatives of the elected Obama administration and sectors of the U.S. diplomatic and intelligence bureaucracy working in conjunction with the U.S. Congress. It highlights an obstacle to future relations based on mutual respect.
Asked about current intentions of U.S. officials, Eaton said that, “I think they are going to keep on as long as the Helms-Burton Law exists that authorizes these programs.” He quoted from recent recommendations from the House Appropriations Committee: “Consistent with the President’s Cuba policy, the United States will continue to provide democracy assistance for Cuba to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information.” For Eaton, Committee members “see an opportunity” created by the Obama administration’s opening toward Cuba.
The Committee is calling for $30,000,000 to pay for “programs to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba.” At least $8,000,000 of that will be funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy, with much of the remainder going to the United States Agency for International Development.
There are recommendations for $28 million in continued funding for Radio and TV Marti broadcasting of U.S. propaganda to Cuba and almost $18 million for “Internet freedom programs” in Cuba.
The State Department in December, 2014 indicated it was making $11 million available for U. S. and foreign-partner organizations that could develop programs “aimed at boosting civil, political and labor rights in Cuba.”
Tracey Eaton sees as significant the three-year duration of U.S. government grants for these programs. Crucially, “one can have many programs functioning at the same time because some began three years ago, others two years ago, and others now.” He is describing, in effect, institutionalization of the programs.
Eaton mentioned that “from 1996 to 2012 the USAID and the State Department awarded 111 Cuba-related contracts and grants to 51 partners.” He points out that with each contract giving rise to an average of 11 sub-contractors, the Department funded 1,332 programs in all.
And, administrations in Washington have spent “$304,300,000 on Cuba-related democracy programs since 1996.” The figure covers activities extending throughout 2016. The Radio and TV Marti endeavor has consumed some $700 million. But, he adds, 85 percent of the total outlay for all programs goes toward “salaries, office expenses and travel” of organizations administering the interventionist programs.
State Department budgetary proposals for converting the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to an embassy hint at plans for the future. As part of the $11 million requested for fiscal year 2015 – up from $ 4.7 million – the State Department wants $528,000 for something called “Cuba Outreach.”
Tracey Eaton noted, finally, that “I don’t hear many people [there] asking if the United States has the right to insert itself in the internal affairs of Cuba, neither in discussions or the media…The question for me is the role of the United States in the evolution of the political system in Cuba. When there is such a lack of transparency, that’s no help to anybody.”
Photo: U.S. taxpayers, after having spent a billion dollars to keep Radio and TV Marti, which both broadcast anti-Cuban propaganda into Cuba from studios run by right-wing exiles in the U.S., learned that the broadcasts are actually listened to or watched by only a tiny sliver of the Cuban population. | Wikipedia (CC)