A bottleneck at the U.S. Agency for International Development has delayed spending of as much as $70 million on Cuba democracy programs, the Miami Herald reported today.
The Herald's Juan Tamayo wrote:
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the House Appropriations committee, said Congress approved cutting USAID out of Cuba funds for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 “because there was agreement that USAID frankly needed to get its act together on the Cuba program.”
USAID’s pipeline has $60 million to $70 million in unspent funds for Cuba programs, Diaz-Balart said. He added that it has spent Cuba-tagged money on other programs and granted $3.4 million to a group with little experience, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba.
The Miami Republican has long been critical of the grant to the Miami non-profit, founded and still closely linked to the leadership of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which backs President Barack Obama.
USAID spokesperson Karl Duckworth defended the agency, citing a 2013 report that applauded USAID's management of the Cuba programs. (See "No Godiva chocolates: Sweet news for USAID.")
|José "Pepe" Hernandez|
On Feb. 9, I quoted an unnamed source blaming (or congratulating, depending on your point of view) Diaz-Balart for wresting the Cuba programs from USAID's control. (See "Source: Miami foundation has 'tremendous impact'").
A journalist colleague later told me he thought it was lousy of me to quote an anonymous source on the accusations against the congressman. I agreed that it wasn't ideal to rely on a single anonymous person for the information, but used it because I felt it was credible source. And if you follow the paper trail, it does lead to Diaz-Balart (See "Cuba out of Cuba by 2015").
USAID officials have said it's impractical to spend more on Cuba programs. This evidently has something to do with the difficulty of working in Cuba, although I haven't seen a detailed explanation of the agency's reasoning.
Hernandez told the Herald that "cutting USAID out of the $17.5 million throws away the agency’s 18 years of experience with Cuba programs launched in 1996 to support civil-society and dissident groups on the communist-ruled island."