Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cuban ambassador: Panama summit is a "clandestine event"

InterContinental Miramar Panama
Organizers of the {think} Cuba summit have done an excellent job keeping party crashers out of their private bash in Panama.
Employees of the InterContinental Miramar Panama, the purported summit site, said Thursday they had no knowledge of the event.
"It´s very strange," said a hotel employee after reviewing the {think} Cuba website that says the summit was scheduled for April 25-29 at the hotel. "People have been asking about the event all week."
She said she hasn´t been able to tell anyone anything about the event because she knows nothing.
Another female employee, who helps arrange events and banquets at the hotel, said she had not heard of the event, either.
The{think} Cuba website describes the event like this:
A summit of elite movement leaders convening to support Cuban activism and strengthen their individual skills as they form a consortium united for the positive development of Cuba and our world.
A California activist named Stephanie Rudat - see LinkedIn profile - organized the summit, the {think} Cuba website says.
Rudat´s profile lists her as a partner at Absot Marketing, described as "a global firm that generates, strategically implements, and maintains the digital presence of businesses, causes, and individuals in conjunction with traditional marketing efforts..."
Absot Marketing´s Panama office is on the 13th floor of the Century Tower. A receptionist sitting just inside the door at Absot said Thursday that Rudat was not in. Nor was Vanessa Fuentes, listed as the company´s founder. The receptionist said she didn´t know the status of the {think} Cuba summit, whether it had started, was underway, or had wrapped up.
The Century Tower, Panama
Rudat is a co-founder of the Alliance for Youth Movements, which received $225,690 in State Department funds to gather a group of activists and entrepreneurs in Mexico City from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16, 2009, records show.
Rudat has not responded to a request that she disclose whether her organization has received U.S. government funds to pay for - or help pay for - the {think} Cuba summit.
Also unclear is if, when or where the event took place. Event collaborators posted tweets in mid-April that seemed to show the event was underway, but perhaps at that point they were merely selecting participants.
It is certainly possible that the summit proceeded according to plan at the InterContinental, and hotel employees were told not to talk about the private event. Or the meeting could have been moved elsewhere.
"Who knows?" said Reinaldo Calviac, the Cuban ambassador in Panama. "Up until now it has been a clandestine event."
The {think} Cuba website says the summit ends Friday. The mystery surrounding the event does not.


Anti-Castro militant Orlando Bosch dead at 84

Orlando Bosch in Miami in December 2010

Anti-Castro militant Orlando Bosch died on Wednesday in Miami. He was 84. His wife, Adriana, told the Associated Press that he had been in the hospital since December.
That was just days after Bosch presented his memoirs to a Miami crowd that included Luis Posada Carriles.
Bosch and Posada Carriles - both of them former CIA operatives - have been linked to the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed that 73 people.
During the unveiling of his memoirs, Bosch denied the accusations.
Below are links to posts related to the Bosch memoirs:

Dec. 14 - Orlando Bosch: Guns in the garage
Dec. 14 - Bosch supporter: Most of planted bombs, took up arms
Dec. 13 - Orlando Bosch speaks to supporters in Miami
Dec. 13 - Slideshow of Bosch photos
Dec. 13 - Friends and family rally around Orlando Bosch
Dec. 12 - Orlando Bosch denies he's a killer
Dec. 10 - New photos of Orlando Bosch book bash
Dec. 9 - Orlando Bosch hasn't hurt a soul, his friends say

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cuban boys make the best of a rainy day

 Just like Bruce Willis in Die Hard: A Cuban boy slides along rain-soaked Paseo del Prado while firing imaginary weapons.

 Another boy builds up speed for his slide in the rain.

A teen-ager slips and falls.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

{think} Cuba update

{think} Cuba Tweets

Some tech activists may be back in the U.S. today - or headed home - after {think} Cuba business in Panama, their Tweets indicate.
Tom Serres, whose biography describes him as "an entrepreneur, techie, blogger, and strategist," wrote:
Back stateside from Panama. Feeling refreshed and ready to fuck'n CRANK it? @thinkcuba
It appears that Janessa Goldbeck is - or was - another participant. Her biography describes her as a "freelance consultant and officer candidate for the United States Marine Corps with a background in mass atrocity and genocide prevention advocacy." Today she Tweeted:
Things you do not want to hear from the guy in charge of rebooking your flight: "Are you in a big hurry to leave Panama?"
But it's not clear to me what's going on with the summit, whether this is all prep work for the event or if it's already taken place. The {think} Cuba website still shows the summit is planned for April 25 to April 29. Asi que, who knows...

April 20 screenshot from {think} Cuba website

Value of Castro memorabilia is rising

Photo illustration. Image from Cuban television.
The value of signed photos of Fidel Castro jumped by more than 800 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to Paul Fraser Collectibles.
Signed photos of El Comandante went for 325 British pounds - or $531.44 - in 2000. They were worth 2,950 pounds - or $4,823.84 - by 2010, a rise of 807 percent.
Castro's signature is one of the 40 most sought-after celebrity autographs, according to Paul Fraser Collectibles.
Four other top Fidel Castro collectibles include:
  • A February 1961 check Castro wrote to Che Guevara.
  • His gold-plated Colt handgun.
  • A letter from Castro to Hugh Hefner and other archives from his 1967 Playboy interview.
  • Celia Sanchez' account of the final days of the Cuban Revolution.
See details at New Wikicollecting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tremenda maquina: Pontiac power

A vintage Pontiac pressed into service as a taxi rumbles along a highway on the outskirts of Havana.

Monday, April 18, 2011

OFAC added 19 new travel service providers

The Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, today updated its list of travel service providers. Companies shown as newly authorized include:
  • CubaMia Travel Inc.
  • Miami Intex Travel, Inc.
  • Americamia Immigration Services, Inc.
  • LeYune Corp.
  • Blanco International Service, Inc.
  • Las Palmas de Cuba Travel, Inc.
  • Acapulco Travel & Tours Inc.
  • Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
  • Isla Azul, Inc.
  • Take Me Away Travel Agency, Inc.
  • J.C. Mar Services Corp.
  • Porvenir Travel, Inc.
  • Sol Palmeras Travel Services & Immigration, Inc.
  • Santa Clara Travel Services, Inc.
  • San Cristobal Travel, Inc.
  • Marvel Travel, Inc.
  • Alegria Travel Agency, Inc.
  • Havana Centro Travel, Inc.
  • Aztec Worldwide Airlines Inc.

Friday, April 15, 2011

{think} Cuba summit raises questions about transparency

Earlier this month, activists who organized a summit to boost the democracy movement in Cuba wrote:
We are very excited to welcome our guests from April 25th to the 29th at the wonderful InterContinental Miramar Panama for the first ever {think}CUBA gathering!
Please note that we are no longer accepting applications and all selected attendees have already been notified. If you have not received your welcome kit by April 20th, please get in touch.
That's what they told the world. Then, several participants' Tweets seemed to indicate, they quietly began their meeting this week, almost two weeks before the announced start time.
So what's going on? Did the full-fledged meeting begin or not? Was a preliminary meeting? Was it subterfuge? Did they change the date to wait until Cuba's Communist Party meetings were over? Or are {think} Cuba organizers a little unorganized?
These questions may be moot. I mean, if it's a private meeting with no government involvement, then there's no public interest.
But if organizers received U.S. government funds to help put on the bash, then one could argue that organizers should be held to a certain degree of accountability.

Photos from {think} Cuba summit

Tech expert Tom Serres posted these photos this week from the {think} Cuba summit in Panama, according to his Twitter page.
April 19 update: It is unclear whether these photos were taken at preliminary {think} Cuba meetings or at the actual event. Nor is it entirely clear when the event took place or if it really began.

Buy a satellite. Put an entire country online.

See YouTube video that explains the idea

Another Tweet, evidently from the {think} Cuba summit in Panama:

Janessa Goldbeck, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as a "Consultant at Department of Defense," said via Twitter:
Sitting in Panama with the guy behind this ridiculous but awesome idea:
Buy This Satellite is an intriguing project. Activists are trying to raise money to buy a satellite. In theory, they could then point it into any country, including Cuba.
Activists would have to supply users with low-cost modems in target countries.
The group's website says:
We believe that access to information is a human right.

Panama summit evidently is underway

Source of photo: yfrog
Austin Heap, a San Francisco tech whiz, said in a Tweet that the first day of the {think} Cuba summit "was unreal. The people of Panama have been amazing."
The summit is a gathering of elite international activists who are devising ways to help support Cuban bloggers, dissidents and others who oppose the socialist government.
Heap, who helped Iranian activists defeat government censors, is the creator of a software called Haystack and executive director of the Censorship Research Centre in San Francisco.
{think} Cuba's website said the summit would take place April 25 to 29. If Heap's Tweet is accurate, the summit has already begun.
Organizers had originally announced the event would take place April 11 to 15. Later they said it would take place April 25 to 29. The {think} Cuba website does not explain the discrepancy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mayor-elect Jim Cason: "I am grateful to all my Cuban friends"

Jim Cason poses next to Christmas lights at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana in 2005. The number 75 called attention to the 2003 jailing of 75 dissidents, journalists and democracy advocates.

Jim Cason, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, beat two City Hall insiders to become mayor of Coral Gables.
The Miami Herald, which did not endorse Cason, reported that the retired diplomat was elected over incumbent Don Slesnick and Planning and Zoning Board chair Thomas Korge.
Cason at victory party. Miami Herald photo

Cason, a fierce critic of Fidel Castro, had the support of many Cuban-Americans in South Florida, Cafe Fuerte reported.
Cafe Fuerte quoted Cason as saying:
I am grateful to all my Cuban friends, but also to all the voters. I will be a mayor dedicated full time to my job and will do everything possile to improve this city, where I plan to live for the rest of my life.
Hizzoner's salary as mayor will be $34,736 per year.

Cason, at left, poses with the Damas de Blanco in Cuba.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

U.S. gov't paid Alina Fernandez more than 20k

The U.S. government has paid Fidel Castro's daughter more than $20,000 in recent years for writing and other professional services, federal budget records show. See story at the Cuba Money Project.
Source of photo: Las Horas Perdidas

Friday, April 8, 2011

Miami lawyer was worth every penny in Posada Carriles case

Ever tenacious Arturo Hernandez was relentless in his defense of anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles and deserves much of the credit for Friday's verdict.
Posada Carriles should also thank U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone, who allowed some of the evidence against the defendant to be excluded. The judge also permitted hundreds of documents in the case to be filed under seal, so the public may never know what really went on behind closed doors unless one of the lawyers writes a tell-all book.
Prosecutors had the power and weight of the U.S. government behind them, they spent untold sums of money and still managed to lose what looked like a strong case.
One of the accusations against Posada Carriles was that he lied about how he entered the United States.
By the time the case neared its end, wire stories about the case didn't even give Posada Carriles the presumption of innocence on that point, flatly stating that the defendant didn't enter the country at the Texas border as he claimed, but journeyed to the U.S. by boat, reaching Florida.
But prosecutors failed even to convince the jury on that simple point.
Posada Carriles had his day - and weeks - in court and the jury found him not guilty. The jury has spoken, as the cliche goes.
After all this, I wonder what Posada Carriles' immigration status is. Anyone know? Will U.S. authorities decide - or have they decided - that he can stay in the U.S. legally? Or is Posada Carriles still deportable because of violations of the law outside the country?

Bardach: Jury didn't hear entire story

Ann Louise Bardach, a key witness in the perjury trial of Luis Posada Carriles, said jurors who acquitted the defendant today was not allowed to hear her entire interview with the anti-Castro militant or read articles she wrote about him.
Bardach said in a statement:
I have no opinion regarding how the jury should decide this case.
My job - and that of co-author Larry Rohter, and the editors at the New York Times - was to accurately report what we learned from Luis Posada Carriles in June 1998. And we did that.
Indeed, the Times vigorously fought this intrusion of the First Amendment for five years.
My own concerns regard the First Amendment, the vital role of the press as the Fourth Estate, and the protection of sources. That would include Mr. Posada, regardless of his guilt or innocence.
Regrettably, the courts overruled our objections and forced my testimony to authenticate redacted portions (less than half) of the tape-recorded interview of Mr. Posada, relating to three of the eleven counts. However, the Court did not allow the jury to hear the entire taped interview, or to read the actual articles published in the Times or to read either of the two books I later wrote using the Posada interview. The jury also did not have any of the notes or the scores of other interviews used in the Times series. Therefore, the jury’s verdict, whatever it might be, would have no correlation to the Times' articles.
I hope that this case will prove to be an aberration and that no other reporter need ever undergo this ordeal- which in my case lasted six days.
Although Mr. Posada was not a confidential source, dragging reporters into court sets a dangerous precedent.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Snowplowing in Havana?

U.S. lawmakers this week are wrangling over federal government finances. Past budgets contain oddities like this one:
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana paid a New York snowplowing company $97,185, but it wasn't to clear the streets.
U.S. officials hired D&M Snowplowing and Sanding Inc. to buy uniforms, a task that has nothing to do with the company's usual duties.
Federal budget documents don't explain the unusual transaction. The company's phone number - (315) 764-1377 - rang through to a machine tonight.
Records show two State Department transactions:
  • $73,640 for "RSO (Regional Security Officer) uniforms for guards" - signed Sept. 5, 2007.
  • $23,545 for "uniforms for employees" - signed July 13, 2010.
D&M Snowplowing, which shows an address of 11 Bowers Street in Massena, N.Y., has also received government contracts for snow removal (the timeline below shows the contracts).

The company received the uniform contracts under the federal government's Simplified Acquisition Procedures, or SAP. The threshold for such purchases is usually $100,000, but can rise to $5 million or higher under certain circumstances.
The Division of Corporations, State Records and Uniform Commercial Code in New York does not list a company called D&M Snowplowing and Sanding Inc.
Google Maps show what looks like a residential home at the company address, not that there's anything necessarily amiss.

11 Bowers Street

Full text of memo on $20 million for Cuba

03/31/11 - US Department of State - Congressional Notification - Western
Hemisphere Economic Support Funds Cuba

Western Hemisphere Economic Support Funds Cuba

The United States Department of State and US AID intend to obligate up to $20,000,000 in FY 2010 Economic Support Funds (ESF) for human rights and civil society initiatives in support of the Cuban people. This notification is being submitted pursuant to section 634(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and sections 7015(c) and (f), and section 7034(m)(3) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act (Div. F, P.L. 111-117), 2010.

Of the $20 million in FY 2010 ESF, $2,677,024 will be used to support human rights initiatives, $15,737,976 will be used for civil society and media programs, and $1,585,000 million will be used for program support. USAID/LAC will administer $10,647,976 of these funds, USAID/OTI will administer $2 million, State/DRL will administer $6,427,024, and State/WHA will administer $925,000.

State and US AID are committed to implementing these programs with all help measure better results in ensure these funds are due oversight and appropriate mechanisms that will support of the Cuban people. State and USAID will allocated to recipients on a competitive basis and reach a broad representation of Cuban civil society; that as few funds as possible are spent outside of Cuba; and that funds support the activities of Cubans on the island who are working for the advancement of democracy and human rights. We look forward to continuing to review these programs with Congress to assess their efficacy.

Program Descriptions:

Program Area 2.1, Rule of Law and Human Rights ($2,677,024 FY 2010 ESF):

Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracies Humanitarian Assistance
Amount: $750,000 (USADD/LAC to administer)
These funds will be used to continue to provide humanitarian support, including food stuffs and over-the-counter medicines, to Cuban political prisoners and their families. Efforts by local civil society groups that promote awareness of the plight of political prisoners will also be supported.

Implementer TBD: Human Rights Documentation
Amount: $427,024 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will provide professional support and training to human rights monitors/investigators on the island in order to strengthen the protection of human rights by collecting information, identifying problems, diagnosing the cause of problems, considering potential Cuban-led solutions, and assisting in problem-solving to help redress human rights problems and prevent future violations. Subjects on which professional training for human rights monitors/investigators could be conducted include, but are not limited to: 1) methodologies for accurately monitoring and reporting on human rights abuses; 2) coalition building and advocacy among human rights groups in Cuba; 3) protection of information; and 4) documentation
techniques, including the collection and preservation of human rights testimonies from Cubans on the island.

Implementer TBD: Disability Rights
Amount: $200,000 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will strengthen and complement Cuban-led initiatives to create the conditions that allow meaningful civic participation by persons (particularly women, youth, and marginalized groups such as Afro-Cubans) with disabilities. The program's goal will be to enable these groups to promote change in attitudes and behaviors that stigmatize persons with disabilities. A key aim of this project is to strengthen the organizational capacity of disabled people's associations and organizations that provide services to the disabled (e.g. religious institutions) to advocate for Cuba's disabled population, with special attention to how their services and events are implemented in remote areas of Cuba.

Implementer TBD: Inclusion of LGBT Community
Amount: $300,000 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will strengthen grassroots organizations and complement Cuban-led initiatives to create conditions that allow meaningful and unhindered participation by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in all aspects of Cuban society. Project activities could include, but are not limited to: 1) providing management and organizational skills training; 2) facilitating networking between LGBT associations, student groups, and other organizations; and 3) capacity building to advocate for their rights and them help host public awareness
events and produce publications on LGBT rights for public consumption.

Implementer TBD: Social Rights
Amount: $1 million (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will support greater empowerment of Cuban citizens to advocate for public policy alternatives that improve standards of living by increasing access to housing, food, education, and health care. The project will include activities focusing on community organizing, education and outreach, and accurate documentation of social rights' violations, to promote solutions to achieving greater respect for social rights. The project will also empower Cubans to identify rights that they consider important and enable them to design peaceful strategies to promote these

Program Area 2.4, Civil Society ($15,737,976 FY 2010 ESF):

Freedom House: Alternative Methods to Increase Information and Assistance
Amount: $1,699,394 (USAID/LAC to administer)
These funds will focus on increasing access to information to Cuban civil society groups through new media initiatives that include technical assistance and training. The program will also provide training to build the capacity of Cubans to effectively and professionally document human rights abuse cases on the island. Funds will be used to increase dialogue between Cubans on the island and people from other countries who have positively influenced their governments through peaceful strategies and advocacy. In addition, funds will continue to build the capacity of civic and community leaders through the development of educational information toolkits, which include software and information on current affairs, human rights treaties, and other relevant, publicly available documents.

ECHOcuba: Empowering Civil Society
Amount: $213,582 (USAID/LAC to administer)
Funds will be used to strengthen Cuban's understanding of free markets and free market systems, as well as basic business concepts. Through on-going training in these areas, the program will increase knowledge of free market principles among groups from marginalized communities. Organizational support will be provided to independent civil society groups so that they are more aware of how to advocate for their interests. Participants will also meet to discuss topics of mutual interest and needs in their communities, and determine how those needs can be addressed.

Implementer TBD: Democratic Engagement at the Community Level
Amount: $2,700,000 (USAID/LAC to administer)
The project will work at the community level to train in methodologies that identify and address local needs in a participatory manner. Once specific needs are identified, activities will be designed with the goal of facilitating meaningful engagement between citizens. The program will seek to identify and build the leadership of a future generation of Cubans who are well-equipped to advocate for community needs and to govern with accountability to citizens. This program is intended to continue elements of OTI's Outreach to New Sectors of Cuba Society program.

Implementer TBD: Empower Youth to Advance Democracy
Amount: $2,000,000 (USAID/LAC to administer)
These funds will support greater empowerment for Cuban youth to meaningfully engage in key social and civic decisions affecting their lives (e.g., freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, access to information). This program will help young Cubans to develop a range of skills important in democratic societies such as communications, decision-making, and leadership organized through a range of group activities, trainings, and seminars organized in independent social spaces. This program also aims to increase young Cubans' awareness and understanding of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and will provide strategies for advancing those rights and freedoms in peaceful, nonviolent ways.

Implementer TBD: Facilitating the Free Flow of Information
Amount: $2,000,000 (USAID/LAC to administer)
This program aims to increase the flow of uncensored information to, from, and within the island by strengthening the capacity of independent civil society groups and networks to provide information and other outreach services to the communities which they serve. Funds will promote the use of new media and social media tools and/or other appropriate technologies that allow for the free and decentralized flow of uncensored information. By encouraging a free exchange of ideas and distribution of information on a range of issues, this program will foster critical thinking skills that help inform individuals regarding events that directly impact their lives.

Creative Associates/Implementer TBD: Outreach to New Sectors of Cuba Society
Amount: $2,000,000 (USAID/DCHA/OTI or USAID/LAC to administer) These funds will support Cuba's emerging civil society by creating linkages with other civil society organizations throughout the Western hemisphere. The program focuses on connecting nascent civil society groups in Cuba with more established civil society organizations in the region, in order to provide technical assistance on community development, facilitating communication and enabling them to share experiences and lessons learned with one another. The program identifies emerging leaders and groups and creates "people-to-people" linkages between non-traditional civil society actors on the island and NGOs in the region.

Implementer TBD: Freedom of Expression - Media
Amount: $600,000 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will provide professional support, resources, and training to journalists in order to create stronger, unified and confident journalists' and bloggers' associations that can implement Cuban-led initiatives to advance freedom of expression on the island. The program's goal is to involve journalists and bloggers associations and unions in the media development process.

Implementer TBD: Freedom of Expression - Culture
Amount: $600,000 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will support greater freedom of expression on the island, especially among performing artists, visual artists, musicians, poets, and writers by increasing civic space for expressing opinions, sharing ideas, and disseminating information. Objectives are to generate increased demand not only for information per se but for freedom of expression overall.

Implementer TBD: Independent Legal Associations
Amount: $700,000 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will build capacity among independent lawyers and lawyer associations by providing resources, training, disseminating information about how to assist citizens in defending fundamental rights and freedoms. In addition, given the recent economic reforms in Cuba, the program will also work to enable independent Cuban lawyers to play a critical role on market-oriented economy issues, specifically those related to private property rights and freedom to contract.

Implementer TBD: Conflict Resolution
Amount: $300,000 (State/DRL to administer)
These funds will promote peaceful, nonviolent conflict resolution techniques and foster collaboration among Cuban civil society actors. The program will use conflict resolution as a tool to improve respect for human rights by helping people
work together to identify and manage their differences and by promoting a
consultative process to prevent conflict. The program will promote techniques (i.e., cooperative approaches, principle of impartiality, developing interest-based cooperative strategies, fostering dialogue, and role-play/scenario exercises) for solving a wide range of conflict situations, including community disputes, workplace grievances, and vulnerable populations' participation in society.

Transfer to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
Amount: $2 million (State/DRL will administer)
NED will use these funds to make grants to: 1) support independent, democratic civil society activists on the island, including journalists, unionists, teachers, women, youth and Afro-Cubans, and freedom of association and unionization efforts; 2) cultivate the analytical capacity of existing civil society actors, with an emphasis on fostering new academic and investigative reports; and 3) promote greater knowledge of and adherence to international norms laid out in regional and global multilateral institutions regarding political, civic and fundamental human rights,
including freedoms of association and expression. NED works with a broad, bi-partisan coalition of partner organizations located in the United States,
Western and Eastern Europe, and Latin America that provide direct technical, material and financial support to independent, democratic activists in Cuba. NED is also working to provide support directly to civil society partners inside Cuba, thus ensuring that the largest possible amount of assistance goes directly to democratic activists on the island.

Implementer(s) TBD: Increased Access to Information for Cubans
Amount: $925,000 (State/WHA to administer)
These funds will support increasing access to uncensored information on the island by providing new and social tools, basic information technology skills and educational programs to Cubans via distance learning courses administered in Cuba. Funds will also support the capacity-building of Cubans who provide and disseminate uncensored information, including independent journalists, bloggers, librarians and teachers. Additionally, funds will support the purchase of basic information technology supplies and for funding research on expanding the use of connection technology by Cubans on the island.

Program Area 6.2, Administration and Oversight ($1,585 million FY 2010
ESF): These funds will support program management and oversight to ensure program accountability and facilitate the implementation of Cuba programming. These amounts reflect necessary oversight funding proportional to the amount of program funds each office/agency will administer. For USAID/OTI and State/WHA, additional administration and oversight funding is not necessary to administer its portion of this program funding.
USAID/LAC: $1,285,000
State/DRL: $300,000
Total: $1,585,000

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

U.S. gov't vows most of $20 million will reach Cuba

Phil Peters at the Cuban Triangle obtained a March 31 memo showing how the State Department plans to spend $20 million that was set aside for Cuba programs in fiscal 2010. Peters, vice president of a Washington research organization called the Lexington Institute, writes:
The funds will be administered mainly by USAID, including by its Office of Transition Initiatives ($12.6 million total), while $7.3 million goes to the State Department. $2 million is to be transferred to the National Endowment for Democracy.
These funds were appropriated for fiscal year 2010, which ended six months ago.
Some grantees are identified, others are listed as “to be determined.”
The memo says:
State and USAID will ensure these funds are allocated to recipients on a competitive basis and reach a broad representation of Cuban civil society; that as few funds as possible are spent outside of Cuba; and that funds support the activities of Cubansd on the island who are working for the advancement of democracy and human rights.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Montaner: Carter trip won't sway Obama on Cuba

Jimmy Carter in Cuba in 2002. Photo: Annemarie Poyo/The Carter Center

Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner doesn't believe Jimmy Carter's trip to Cuba will cause the Obama administration to change its stance toward Cuba. In an April 2 article in the Miami Herald, he wrote:
The general perception in Washington, judging from the WikiLeaks, is that the Cuban regime is in a final phase of demoralization and erosion, and it makes no sense to do anything that halts or reverses that trend. Corruption is rampant, the children of many leaders are leaving the country discreetly and the state of mind that prevails among the mid-level cadres is that of an end-of-regime. Raúl is not unaware of this but has no way to prevent it, as long as he insists in maintaining a one-party collectivist regime that demands total obedience.
Montaner also said he believes that Cuban authorities will free American contractor Alan Gross. Montaner wrote:
Jimmy Carter went to visit Raúl Castro. The initiative was Raúl’s. He wanted to let President Obama know that everything is negotiable, including the release of Alan Gross, an American sentenced on the island to 15 years’ imprisonment for handing out computers and communications equipment so that uninformed Cubans might have access to the Internet. For the moment, he has not freed Gross, but that will happen. It’s a matter of time.
Frank Calzon, director of the Center for a Free Cuba, said on Monday he agrees with much of what Montaner wrote, but doesn't believe Gross's release is imminent.
Calzon also commented on Sen. John Kerry's call for a review of USAID programs in Cuba.
In an email to Montaner, Calzon wrote:
A lot of merit in your analysis. But keep in mind that Gross has lost 88 pounds already.
Also the Carter Center has released a trip report which I’ve been told is an outrage.
Also there is nothing unusual about Kerry’s hold. I am not sure it can be called a “legal” obstacle. Holds are placed all the time on the Hill and they are sometimes simply a way of harassment, or getting additional information, or getting something in return by a Congressional office. I bet the hold will be lifted before Gross comes home.
Carter’s visit also had something to do with the regime’s need to show the Cubans that the Revolution still matters, that it has important friends abroad who support its anti embargo campaign, and its free the five spies campaign. Raul want the Cubans to think about Carter, the spies, whatever and not about how tough things continue to get in Cuba.
Obama, the Congress, the American people have too many other very important issues on their plate. Carter is seen in many quarters as old, somewhat irrelevant and out of touch. If he had any real influence with Obama he would not waste his time, and get his nose into an issue that Obama mentioned very recently (Cuba in his speech in Santiago de Chile). Some Americans do not appreciate a former president criticizing American policy while traveling abroad and specially while visiting a regime hostile to their country. Despite what some say, Obama is not Carter. Just a few days ago Havana’s TV blasted Hillary Clinton and took great exception to Obama’s responding to the questions Yoani sent to him.
As every day and every week gets us closer to the 2012 elections the possibility of Obama making unilateral concessions. Even if he wanted to, and there are many indications that he does not want, becomes less and less.
Do not pay too much attention to what some say in Miami or elsewhere even if they are former CIA analysts or successful businessmen just back from Varadero.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Economic data from Cuba Futures conference

Here are two slideshows from the Cuba Futures conference. The photos above show slides from presentations on the Cuban economy. Below are other photos taken at the event.

Photos from Cuba Futures Conference

Professor Ted Henken helped organize a panel called "Digital Dilemmas: The Internet and Blogs in Cuba Today" at the Cuba Futures conference in New York. His blog is called El Yuma and contains a lot of useful information about blogs in Cuba.

The Cuba Futures conference was held from March 31 to April 2. Hundreds of researchers who study Cuba attended.

Writer and novelist Miguel Barnet was among those who traveled from Cuba to attend the conference.

The Empire State Building

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Justified to send high-tech gear to Cuba?

Sen. John Kerry, above right, in a hockey uniform, evidently ready to body check USAID in Cuba

During the Cuba Futures conference in New York on Friday, a Miami journalist asked me if it is ever OK for the U.S. government to send satellite phones to Cuba.
I said breaking through the information blockade in Cuba is U.S. policy, but I am not going to take a position on it.
Reporter Frances Robles later told me that was a "lame answer."
Maybe so, I told her. But my goal is to research and write about U.S. programs in Cuba, not take sides. I want to collect points of view from all sides, including both U.S. and Cuban officials, private contractors, democracy advocates, critics and more.
I was on a panel called "Digital Dilemmas: The Internet and Blogs in Cuba Today." I said it is a just cause to try to expand basic freedoms anywhere, including Cuba. There's no question about that.
But I said think it's worth examining U.S. policy. I recalled something British diplomat Paul Hare wrote - the idea of giving public diplomacy a shot. The U.S. government hasn't tried that, Hare wrote. Instead, U.S. officials have always tried to impose their will on Cuba.
I suggested that perhaps at least some of the millions of dollars that go to democracy programs might be used to explore ways to make peace with Cuba. And I brought up President Jimmy Cart's approach, which Phil Peters described Carter's approach like this:
to engage directly with top Cuban officials and at the same time to advocate for human rights.
Peters, a former State Department official, writes the Cuban Triangle blog. He reported an important piece of news on Friday: Sen. John Kerry is calling for a review of USAID democracy programs in Cuba (See Kerry's statement).
Kerry's announcement drew sharp criticism from Mauricio Claver-Carone, editor of the Capitol Hill Cubans blog.
I am going to try to find out more about what Kerry's announcement means for USAID programs in Cuba. I'll post any information here and on the Cuba Money Project.
The Cuba Futures conference ends today.