Monday, December 14, 2009

Who is the mystery employee detained in Cuba?

Havana sunrise

This month's detention of a U.S. contractor in Cuba is a story that has "legs," as we say in the news business. That means the story isn't going away anytime soon.
I haven't heard anything about the man's identity. All that's been reported is that he worked for a company hired by Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI. His friends, relatives and colleagues must certainly be worried about his fate.
DAI President Jim Boomgard released a statement confirming that DAI was doing Cuba-related work. The statement read, in part:
Our prime concern is for the safety, well-being, and quick return to the United States of the detained individual. We have been working closely with the State Department to ensure that the detainee's safety and well-being is given top priority. Given the delicacy of this situation, we ask for media discretion...

In 2008, DAI competed for and was awarded a contract, the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program, to help the U.S. Government implement activities in support of the rule of law and human rights, political competition, and consensus building, and to strengthen civil society in support of just and democratic governance in Cuba.

The detained individual was an employee of a program subcontractor, which was implementing a competitively issued subcontract to assist Cuban civil society organizations.
Boomgard's statement said his company's work "involves support for the peaceful activities of a broad range of nonviolent organizations through competitively awarded grants and subcontracts."

I scanned DAI's experts list to try to figure out who might be involved in the company's Cuba work. Many DAI employees have impressive credentials, including decades of experience around the world and advanced degrees from such top-notch schools as Georgetown University, Columbia University, the University of Southern California and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
One DAI expert worked in Bolivia for eight years. Another studied in Peru and speaks fluent Spanish. Others have worked throughout Latin America and include veteran former employees of the Agency for International Development.
One DAI information and technology specialist who caught my eye is Paul Goodman. His bio says he:
has three years of experience in international development, working in new business acquisition before joining ICT Services. Previously, he worked short-term assignments for media organizations including CNN, AFP, and the Peace Corps’ Press Office. He is primarily interested in new media, mobile technologies, social networking, and low-cost ICT solutions for the development context. He supports DAI's field projects and business development efforts. Mr. Goodman joined DAI in June 2006 and has a degree in international affairs from the George Washington University.
Goodman's blog posts provide detailed information on how mobile phones are being used to challenge authority and create change. He writes:
New mobile-friendly tools are being used in concert with existing technologies and behaviors to foster civic engagement, social change, and economic development. And more and more resources exist for those interested in taking advantage of this technology, like this USAID-funded report by MobileActive on mobile phones, DigiActive's support for international digital activists, and Tactical Tech's online toolkits.
Perhaps Goodman has assisted the subcontractor responsible for delivering supplies in Cuba.
Who knows. It's a mystery to me. But I'd love to know more.
If anyone has any information, feel free to chime in.

Phil Peters of the Cuban Triangle does a great job explaining the political nuances of the case.

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