Saturday, December 12, 2015

Budget for Cuba programs: As clear as mud

President Barack Obama on Friday signed a bill to keep government agencies afloat until Wednesday, giving lawmakers and the White House more time to wrangle over the $1.1 trillion federal budget.
I skimmed some budget documents this morning to try to figure out what it all means for State Department programs targeting Cuba. The short version of the story is that it doesn't appear that lawmakers have decided how much to spend on democracy promotion programs in fiscal 2016, which began on Oct. 1. At least I couldn't find any public documents spelling it out.
Senate and House appropriations bills have proposed spending from $15 million to $30 million on Cuba programs in fiscal 2016, but none of the proposals have been put into law.
In June, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would had the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, the State Department and the Agency for International Development sharing $30 million in Cuba democracy funds.

A draft of the bill, aimed at setting the budget for the State Department's foreign operations, stated:
Of the funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’, $30,000,000 shall be made available to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba: Provided, That no funds shall be obligated for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship, or any other assistance that is not democracy-building as expressly authorized in the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 and the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) of 1992.
A committee report said at least $8 million of the $30 million should go to the NED.
But the bill has not passed.
A related Senate Committee on Appropriations bill called for spending $20 million on democracy promotion in Cuba.
The Senate bill also authorizes $50.5 million "for programs to promote Internet freedom globally," and says a portion of the funds would likely be used "to support Internet freedom in Cuba."
That bill hasn't passed yet, either.
The Senate bill would cut the NED's budget from $135,000,000 to $103,450,000. The bill states:
The Committee regrets the $31,550,000 reduction to the NED below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level proposed in the President’s budget request. The Committee recognizes the challenges of democratization, including efforts by authoritarian governments and nonstate actors to undermine the advancement of democracy abroad, and the spread of instability and extremist ideology across parts of Africa and the Middle East. The Committee recognizes that the NED is a more appropriate and effective means of conducting democracy programs in closed and transitioning societies than either
USAID or the Department of State, as evidenced by the complications arising from programs supported by those agencies in Egypt and Cuba.
The Committee again expects the NED, DRL, and USAID to regularly consult with one another regarding their democracy and human rights activities. However, funds appropriated under this heading shall not be subject to prior approval by the Department of State or USAID, or to administrative or managerial surcharges, and the NED should not be precluded from competitively bidding on other grant solicitations.
The President of NED shall submit a report on the uses of funds under this heading on a regional and country basis not later than 45 days after enactment of the act.
A draft of the related House bill said $30 million would be made available for democracy programs, but only if none of the money were used to promote private enterprise in Cuba.
A Senate version of the bill called for spending just $15 million, including $10 million for democracy promotion and up to $5 million for "private Cuban entrepreneurs."
The bill said the $15 million would be merged with NED funds. It doesn't explain whether the NED money also targeted Cuba.

1 comment:

Larry press said...

The rules on Cuban software are also unclear: