US State Dept. Requests More Cuba Funds

Tracey Eaton  (

HAVANA TIMES – The US State Department is asking for more than $6 million to convert its Interests Section in Havana to an embassy and $528,000 for a new program called “Cuba Outreach Initiative,” budget documents show.

tracey 2Separately, officials are requesting $15 million for civil society programs and $5 million for rule of law and human rights programs in Cuba for fiscal year 2016. That totals $20 million, the same amount authorized in fiscal 2015, which ends on Sept. 30.

Appendix 3 of the State Department’s fiscal 2016 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations states:

     The United States will continue robust democracy assistance to Cuba to support civil society and greater human rights for the Cuban people. (See page 366 of Appendix 3).

The State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, or WHA, wants $6,046,000 for its “Cuba embassy conversion,” but does not give details on how the money would be spent.
Appendix 1 of the State Department’s Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations states:

     The President’s historic announcement that the United States will open an Embassy in Havana, Cuba will place more demands on the Department’s aging facilities to engage Cuban civil society and support the increase in visitors to Cuba. If the U.S. Interests Section transitions to Embassy status, the mission will expand its presence and handle more extensive operations as the relationship with Cuba intensifies. (see page 184 of Appendix 1).

     WHA requests an increase of $6.0 million to meet the resource requirements of the President’s announcement related to Cuba. With the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the U.S. mission in Havana will expand its presence and transition to embassy status to handle more extensive operations to better enable the Department to represent U.S. interests.

The bureau also requested $528,000 for a new program called Cuba Outreach Initiative. Appendix 1 explains:

     The Department of State hopes to take advantage of changes taking place in Cuba and in U.S.-Cuba relations. As part of enhanced people-to-people programs, WHA would expand education and cultural exchange programs with Cuba, and develop contacts with new audiences and institutions, building on connections with U.S. institutions and individuals currently engaged with Cuban organizations. Therefore, WHA requests $528,000 to enhance programming outreach in Cuba. (see page 197 of Appendix 1).

Currently, records show that the Interests Section in Havana employs two people for public diplomacy activities. The Interests Section’s budget for such activities was $666,000 in fiscal 2015. Officials request $704,000 for fiscal 2016.

In other budget news:

The State Department’s Office of Cuban Affairs, with a staff of 12, requests $2,898,000, up $100,000 from 2015.
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana asks for $11,092,000, a big jump from $4,758,000 in fiscal 2015.

Appendix 3 says that the U.S. government hopes to take advantage of a “unique political window of opportunity” in the hemisphere.
The document states:

     U.S. policy towards the Western Hemisphere seeks to advance durable institutions and democratic governance, defend human rights, improve citizen security, enhance social inclusion and economic prosperity, secure a clean energy future, and build resiliency to climate change. The United States will take advantage of a unique political window of opportunity in the hemisphere to broaden the approach to Central America, reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, and press for energy reform in the Caribbean, while remaining firmly committed to partnership with the hemisphere to advance opportunity and meet shared challenges. U.S. assistance to the region responds directly to U.S. policy priorities, particularly expanded assistance for Central America. (See page 364 of Appendix 3).

     For Central America more broadly, portions of the Strategy’s security and governance objectives fall under Governing Justly and Democratically, including support for effective, transparent, and accountable institutions. Separately, the United States continues to provide support for democracy and human rights in challenging operating environments, including Cuba and Venezuela. Consistent with the President’s Cuba policy, the United States will continue to provide democracy assistance for Cuba to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information. (see page 366 of Appendix 3).

Budget documents emphasize that democracy and human rights programs in Cuba remain a top U.S. government priority.
The $20 million democracy programs will help support:

“fundamental freedoms and respect for human rights”
“humanitarian assistance to victims of political repression and their families”
programs to strengthen independent Cuban civil society and freedom of expression.

Appendix 3 gives the following background and description of the program:

     Cuba is an authoritarian state which limits civil and political rights, such as the right to assemble, freedom of expression, and labor rights. It also refuses to recognize independent nongovernmental organizations, and maintains a state monopoly over mass media. The President noted during his December 17, 2014 policy speech that the promotion of democratic principles and human rights remains the core goal of U.S. assistance to Cuba.

Economic Support Fund (ESF)    

     U.S. assistance will support civil society initiatives that promote democracy, a market-based economy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms, particularly freedoms of expression and association. Programs will provide humanitarian assistance to victims of political repression and their families, strengthen independent Cuban civil society, support the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their future and reduce their dependence on the Cuban state, and promote the flow of uncensored information to, from, and within the island.

Key Interventions:

– U.S. assistance will work with independent elements of Cuban civil society to increase the capacity for community engagement, build networks among civil society organizations, and build the leadership skills of a future generation of civil society leaders.
– U.S. assistance will work with independent civil society to further the rights and interests of Cuban citizens, and to overcome the limitations that have been imposed by the Cuban government on citizens’ civil, political, and labor rights.
– U.S. assistance will support the nascent independent private sector to reduce its dependence on the Cuban state.
– U.S.-funded programs will facilitate information sharing into and out of Cuba, as well as among civil society groups on the island, including through the use of new technology.
– U.S. assistance will support Cuban-led efforts to document human rights violations and will provide humanitarian assistance to victims of political repression and their families.

Key Program Monitoring and Evaluation Activities: Several monitoring and evaluation efforts were undertaken in FY 2013 and FY 2014:

– Conducting performance monitoring and evaluation on Cuba programs presents unique challenges. It has been difficult to rely on traditional monitoring and evaluation mechanisms due to past difficulty associated with individuals funded through U.S. government grants to travel to the island. Thus, the program has worked closely with implementing partners to ensure accurate and complete reporting of project activities; identify ways to consolidate information obtained from different sources about the services delivered by grantees and contractors; and to measure outputs and program impact through alternative means.

– USAID and the Department of State continue to work closely with grantees and contractors to ensure performance management is incorporated into both program design and program implementation by ensuring outputs and outcomes are measured as thoroughly and accurately as possible.

Use of Monitoring and Evaluation Results in Budget and Programmatic Choices: The monitoring and evaluation activities informed the following actions and decisions regarding the FY 2016 budget:

The Department of State continues to identify the most feasible and appropriate programming areas, as well as topics for future year programming most likely to achieve impact in Cuba.
In particular, supporting freedom of expression, the free flow of information, and enhanced communication among Cuban civil society actors and providing support to the emerging private sector have been identified as priority activities for current and future-year assistance funds.

The 2016 budget request for National Endowment for Democracy is $103.45 million – $31.6 million less than the previous year. Appendix 1 states:

     With this level of funding, NED will provide concrete support to activists working in the most difficult and sensitive political environments, but will need to make significant reductions across all regions.

The NED isn’t forgetting Cuba. Appendix 1 states:

     As the only dictatorship in Latin America, Cuba will remain a priority. Nicaragua will hold presidential elections in 2016, and the NED will support civil society organizations working to defend democratic institutions, processes, and values. Support for civil society in the semi-authoritarian regimes of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela will continue.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors requested $751.5 million for fiscal 2016, up from an estimated $742 in fiscal 2015.

The BBG’s request includes a proposal to “establish and supervise grants to an independent grantee organization to carry out media activities to Haiti and the Latin America region.”
And that includes Cuba.