Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cuba Broadcasting: Plenty of string

Source: Federal Procurement Data System
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami paid $664,842 to "miscellaneous" foreign artists, writers and performers from Jan. 1, 2008 through April 30, 2014.
Recipients of the money are often not identified, but in some cases records show a name. OCB records in April, for instance, showed the following descriptions:

  • Purchase Order for Enrique Dausa - Stringer from Spain.
  • Prepare a Purchase Order for Felix Loarca Guzman - Stringer from Guatemala.
  • Prepare a Purchase Order for Carlos A. Cabana Cal - Stringer from Argentina.
  • Prepare a Purchase Order for Miguel Cabrera - Stringer from Chile.
  • Purchase Order for Daniel Blumenthal - Stringer from Israel.
  • Purchase Order for Pedro M Clavijo - Stringer from Russia.
  • Prepare a Purchase Order for Maria J Garcia - Stringer from Spain.
  • Purchase Order for Freddy Valverd - Stringer from Ceska Republic.
  • Purchase Order for Aymara Lorenzo - Stringer from Guatemala.

A stringer is a freelance journalist, photographer or videographer. I wonder if the OCB is using journalists from Europe, the Middle East and Latin America because they are thought to draw less attention in Cuba than stringers from Miami. Or is the use of foreign journalists an attempt to shape international opinion?

What seems clear is that the OCB is more transparent than the U.S. Agency of International Development or the State Department in reporting payments to stringers living abroad.
If you sift through records in the Federal Procurement Data System, you'll find that the OCB, which runs Radio and TV Martí, identifies many artists, writers and performers by name. They aren't categorized as "miscellaneous." They are clearly identified. And payments to them runs into the millions of dollars. (See "Cuba Money: $6.7 million for artists, performers").
The "miscellaneous" awardees represent only a small chunk of the money: $664,842 since 2008. (See 135-page PDF, which shows dates and amounts but no names). Here's a breakdown by year:
2008: $122,435
2009: $0
2010: $0
2011: $41,890
2012: $198,477
2013: $189,055
2014: $112,985
Average payments jumped from $866.71 in 2012 to $1,643.96 in 2013. They have continued to rise in 2014, averaging $2,054.27 so far this year
USAID and the State Department have probably gotten more press attention than the OCB for their payments to journalists, bloggers and others in and out of Cuba. But the OCB is an important and growing force.

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