Thursday, November 25, 2010

Scholar: USAID programs put Cubans at risk

Arturo Lopez Levy. Photo: London Metropolitan University

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a lecturer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, has written extensively about USAID programs and the detention of Alan Gross.
In a message to me, he wrote:
A central problem of USAID programs toward Cuba is that they do not demand the informed consent of the leaders the civil society organizations USAID tries to reach. When leaders of the Cuban religious communities declare they don't want any involvement whatsoever with any regime change program and condemn the Helms-Burton law, they mean what they say. But USAID doesn't take No for an answer and childishly try to circumvent the will of the leaders of the religious groups by offering contact and support to other members of the groups without even informing them of their link with Section 109 of Helms-Burton law. This put Cubans on the risk of being arrested without being aware of their collaboration with a USAID program or even in peril of being accused under law 88. Promoting Cuban civil society must begin by recognizing its autonomy and respecting it. If the leaders of the religious groups say No to these programs, the USAID officials should report to Congress that because the Helms-Burton legislation, it is not possible to run international development programs that otherwise would be perfectly possible.
For more of Lopez-Levy's perspective, see the story he wrote about Gross' detention in the Jewish Daily Forward. A longer version of the story appeared in the Washington Note.

In Encuentro en la Red, Lopez-Levy compared the programs of USAID in Vietnam and how Helms-Burton is making it impossible to develop similar programs in Cuba.