Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lawmaker: Send more money to Cuban dissidents

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Tuesday accused the U.S. Agency for International Development of steering tax dollars toward programs that support the Cuban economy at the expense of aid to political prisoners and the internal opposition.
Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, spoke at a hearing about USAID funding priorities in the Western Hemisphere. She said:
...the Obama administration’s policy of concessions towards the Castro brothers has not yielded any measureable change for democracy. And I am deeply concerned about the Department of State’s and USAID’s growing funding for programs that promote the Castro brothers’ sham economic reforms, at the expense of funding for important programs that do support Cuban political prisoners and the growing internal opposition.

Though this administration likes to point Castro’s so-called economic reforms as a sign of change, the fact remains that 11 million Cubans continue to suffer under the brutally conditions of the oppressive Castro regime. And this new focus on economic reforms will do nothing more than validate the Castro regime and promote their radical anti-American propaganda. 
How does harnessing U.S. foreign assistance to promote the Castro brothers’ sham ‘economic reforms’ build the capacity for the internal opposition? And how can we prioritize the funding for Cuba to strive for a free and democratic Cuba by again funding the pro-democracy programs on the island?
I am interested in knowing more about the shift that Ros-Lehtinen says she has detected at USAID. What USAID programs is Ros-Lehtinen talking about? If I come across additional details, I will post them.
I suspect that Ros-Lehtinen's comments are directed to constituents who are upset about the funding and operational trends they see at USAID. But since USAID keeps many details of its Cuba programs secret, it's difficult for ordinary citizens to follow the story.
The result: Ros-Lehtinen comes off as a politician talking in code to a passionate, noisy and influential anti-Castro constituency.

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