Wednesday, June 3, 2015
White House tries to explain contradictions
Q And if I can just change subjects to Cuba for a moment. In Panama, the President said directly that the United States is no longer in the business of regime change in Cuba. And yet, the United States, including this administration, continues to fund both the State Department and USAID to the tune of some $264 million since ’94, with specific programs operating inside Cuba, some of which have been embarrassing, as reported by the Associated Press. Why do we continue -- why does the United States continue to fund these programs? And now, as relations are very close to being normalized, do you see those programs being ended?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jim, for specific programs that are being operated by either USAID or the State Department, I’d refer you to those two agencies. But I will say that the U.S. government will continue to invest in efforts to strengthen the engagement between our two countries, between our two governments, and even between the citizens of our two countries. And this is a critical component of the strategy that the President announced at the end of last year; that for more than five decades, the United States had pursued a strategy to try to isolate Cuba to compel them to better respect the basic universal human rights of their people. And for more than five decades, we didn’t see much improvement in that regard.
So what the President has said is let’s try a different strategy; let’s try a strategy where we strengthen the ties between the United States and Cuba; let’s create opportunities for more commerce between our two countries; let’s give more Americans the opportunity to travel to Cuba, and give the Cuban people greater exposure to the kind of values and lifestyle that we so deeply value in this country; and that by promoting that kind of engagement, we can actually place additional pressure on the Cuban government to do a better job of living up to the values and the protection of basic universal human rights that we hold so dear in this country.
Q But the USAID mission specifically says that we’ll use this money to -- with the goal of promoting a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy. That sounds as though -- that sounds like a way of saying regime change. Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what the President said is going on now?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, USAID can speak to the direct purpose of the programs that they carry out. But certainly promoting democracy and promoting respect for basic universal human rights is part of our goal.
Q But the word is transition, though. That is problematic isn’t it?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I don’t know whether it's problematic or not; you’d have to talk to USAID about their specific program. But this idea that the United States is going to go and promote our values around the world is something that we’ve been engaged in for quite some time in a variety of countries. And we’re certainly going to continue to do that in a place like Cuba that so frequently tramples those kinds of values.
Q And just finally, the Radio Marti and TV Marti, do you see any changes with that agenda, what they’ll be used for, with the hundreds of millions of dollars spent there? Now there’s a new era. Are those two still valid?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, as it relates to reforms to those programs, I’d refer you to the State Department that operates there.