Thursday, November 25, 2010

Q&A with editor of Cuba policy and business blog

Tony Martinez

Today I am posting additional comments and interviews about USAID programs in Cuba. Feel free to send in your comments and I will post them.
This brief Q&A is with Tony Martinez, a lawyer and editor of the United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog.

Question: With Ileana Ros-Lehtinen taking the chair of the Senate House Foreign Relations Committee, do you see a change in USAID programs in Cuba?

Martinez: Unfortunately, I do not see a change in USAID programs in Cuba under her leadership. The programs are a form of pork barrel spending as most of the money goes to different organizations in the U.S., supposedly for "Cuba programs". It will be incumbent upon those who are opposed to these programs to get on the public record and show how counter-productive they are as well as place at risk individuals who work for these groups traveling to Cuba and contrary to the best interests of United States foreign policy. Regretfully, I do not believe Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is going to stop these programs.

Question: I've read that USAID programs were stopped temporarily after the arrest of Alan Gross. Any idea of their status now?

Martinez: They are back on. Sadly, I believe Alan Gross may stay in jail for a long time, as long as these programs continue. I see the key to unlocking his freedom lies in our ending these covert and subversive programs. They do not help the Cuban people and they put our citizens at risk.

Question: Why doesn't the Obama administration act?

Martinez: Lack of political will. There is little or no political will to act on Cuba. On the contrary, the actual political will that does exist is to maintain or resist loosening restrictions. It is borne out of the ignorance the Administration has on Cuba and Latin America and the political money the pro-embargo/anti-travel crowd spends. This reality is a criticism and a wake up call to those who want to lift the travel restrictions and end the embargo. The Pro-embargo and anti-travel lobby spends one million dollars every election cycle to keep the status quo. The Pro-travel and anti-embargo lobby must politically organize and do the same or better than the opposition. Pro-travel groups spent only a few thousand dollars in political donations.

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