Friday, September 4, 2015

USAID's Cuba programs escape budget ax

Dan Fisk. Photo: IRI
In early 2014, it appeared likely that the U.S. Agency for International Development would leave Cuba by the end of this month. But at least one USAID Cuba program has survived and will continue into 2016.
The International Republic Institute, one of three current USAID partners in Cuba, will be active on the island through September 2016, according to USAID.
Two other USAID partners - the New America Foundation and Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia - are scheduled to end their Cuba projects this month.
In February 2014, USAID had been expected to end its Cuba projects this month. But then lawmakers this year decided that they wanted USAID to continue working in Cuba as part of stepped-up efforts to promote democracy on the island.
Lawmakers also increased spending on Cuba programs to $30 million in fiscal 2016, up from $20 million, according to the latest State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.
In June, the House Appropriations Committee said USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and the State Department would share the $30 million.
The committee also ordered that "grants exceeding $1,000,000, or a period of 12 months, shall be awarded only to organizations with experience promoting democracy inside Cuba."
Dan Fisk is chief operations officer for the IRI. The group has carried out eight opinion polls Cuba.
USAID's website does not show how much money IRI will receive for its Cuba work in fiscal 2016. It doesn't describe the program, either. My hunch is that it's for some sort of digital democracy program and perhaps some more polling.

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