Tuesday, March 31, 2015

$5 million for text messages, programming

The U.S. government earlier this month awarded $654,726 to the Maryland company that designed and operates Piramideo, a social network aimed at sending millions of text messages to Cuba.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors has paid Washington Software a total of $5,058,354.92 since July 1, 2011.
The BBG, which oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, hired the company to send email and text messages to Cuba.
See graphic.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Going to the mat for Charlie Hill

Jason Flores-Williams
Defense lawyer Jason Flores-Williams plans to travel to Cuba this week to meet his new client, Charlie Hill, a former New Afrika militant accused, along with two others, in the 1971 shooting of a New Mexico patrolman.
In December, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wrote a letter calling Hill a "cop killer" and member of a "terrorist group" and demanding that U.S. authorities press for his extradition from Cuba.
Flores-Williams said the governor used "every damning buzz word available to appeal to the forces of law and order, which also happens to be her political base." She politicized and prejudiced Hill's case and violated his constitutional rights, the defense lawyer said.
Flores-Williams said he's fighting on "the side of democracy justice and our constitution," but his decision to take the case has not been popular.
He said he's gotten a stream of harassing phone calls, including one from a man who said:
Why don’t you go fuck yourself you scuzzball piece of shit….
The defense lawyer replied:
Does this mean you want to retain my services?
See below for more from my interview with Flores-Williams:

Why did you decide to represent Charlie Hill? Why is his case important to you?
The forces that control the past, control the future….Susana Martinez’s letter to Holder and Kerry wasn’t just about the law, but demonizing the 1960’s and the social justice movements that have ultimately enabled a person like her to be elected Governor of our State.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

USAID's delicate secrets

USAID regrets delay
In 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a multimillion-dollar Cuba project called “Creating Networks and Empowering Communities," or CNECT.
Contractors hoping to run the program submitted proposals to USAID. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the proposals in March 2011.
Months later, USAID released a heavily redacted 33-page document that revealed little information about the project, not even the name of the winning contractor.
I appealed the ruling.
Now, four years later, USAID has denied my appeal.
Luis F. Garcia
In a March 18 letter, Luis F. Garcia, acting director for USAID's Office of Management Services, rejected my appeal and described public interest in the disclosure of such information as "minimal."
In my 2011 appeal, I wrote that USAID had refused to say who submitted the winning proposal even though the name of the contractor - Loyola University - was clearly visible in publicly available contract records.
Garcia said I failed to prove that. After reading his letter, it dawned on me: There was a second CNECT contract. And it doesn't show up in publicly available contract records.
USAID, as far as I can tell, is keeping the contractor's identity secret.
Garcia cited several reasons why the information was withheld. Documents, he said, were redacted to protect "confidential commercial information."
He said release of contractors' names could lead to the identity of employees working in Cuba and that could violate their right to privacy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

U.S. blacklist targeting Cubans shrinks

Dozens of individuals and companies once banned from doing business with the U.S. government have been removed from the blacklist, the Office of Foreign Assets Control announced Tuesday.

The list of those entities removed from the list is below:



ABDELNUR, Nury de Jesus, Panama (individual) [CUBA].

AGENCIA DE VIAJES GUAMA (a.k.a. GUAMA TOUR; a.k.a. GUAMATUR, S.A.; a.k.a. VIAJES GUAMA TOURS), Bal Harbour Shopping Center, Via Italia, Panama City, Panama [CUBA].

VIAJES GUAMA TOURS (a.k.a. AGENCIA DE VIAJES GUAMA; a.k.a. GUAMA TOUR; a.k.a. GUAMATUR, S.A.), Bal Harbour Shopping Center, Via Italia, Panama City, Panama [CUBA].