HAVANA TIMES, July 17 — The US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is giving away a total of $3,650,000 tax dollars in increments no smaller than $300,000 to organizations in the US for projects that would “expand Cuban civic participation and leadership in social relationships and independent civil society groups with a view to supporting the ability of Cuban citizens to freely determine their own future.” Huh?
The deadline for applying is July 26, by coincidence, the biggest national holiday in Cuba, remembering the 1953 attack on the Moncada garrison that sparked the Cuban Revolution.
Basically the Bureau will again be giving grants to organizations in the US that will then have virtual autonomy in distributing smaller chunks (sub-awards) or to other organizations in the US who can then split the money up further and funnel what (little) is left to their Cuban “partners” on the island.
Although the original recipient must report on the sub-awards after the fact, it is important to note the plausible denial component of this granting structure. At the moment the Bureau hands over a $300,000 plus wad of US taxpayer money, it has no certainty to who the money will end up going to or how it will be spent.
However there are a few vague stipulations. Cuban partners should be “local groups; cooperatives; associations; informal groups; NGOs; student groups; and media outlets” that do not support a “member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government.”
The funds are to be used for funding “Cuban-conceived and Cuban-led projects worthy of support” that “focus on non-traditional activities” (whatever THAT means) “and “use in-kind grants to support groups that lack financial and organizational capacity.” Meanwhile, projects that have a strong academic, research, conference, or dialogue focus are unacceptable as are those involving science, technology, or health.
Below is a breakdown of how the US Government Cuba PAC will distribute its public’s money through this grant program:
The sum of $500,000 will be distributed to family members of Cuban political prisoners. Using dissident Elizardo Sanchez’ own figures, there will be about 100 political prisoners in Cuba once the releases that are currently underway are completed. That calculates to about $5,000 per prisoner in a country where a decent yearly wage is around $300.
The US government will also be scouting talent and doling out a whopping $1,500,000 to their preferred performing artists, visual artists, musicians, poets, writers, journalists, and bloggers who apparently charge to freely express themselves.
The Iraq experience has proven that buying embedded communicators is much more effective for manipulating public opinion than censorship and intimidation. One thing is certain that artists and bloggers who are sympathetic to the Cuban government will not be receiving US patronage.
Another $500,000 will be awarded to religious groups to foster freedom of religion. Never mind the fact that religions of all shades are already freely practiced on the island. An additional $500,000 is also tagged for “independent” labor unions, obviously excluding the already existing unions.
Women rate second to last with only $350,000 earmarked for supporting “on-island efforts to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of women.” One wonders, does an equivalent grant for the state of Las Vegas exist? Anyway, it would be nice if that money were to be granted to the organizations currently working on this issue in Cuba, e.g. CENESEX and the Cuban Women’s Federation, but that’s doubtful.
Lastly Santa Sam will give $300,000 to “groups and individual Cubans who request small grants for independent civil society initiatives that are Cuban-conceived and Cuban-led.” Can’t get any vaguer than that! A lot of small grants can be carved out of $300,000 and being on the US payroll is one of the best paying jobs around.
As a US taxpayer and thus contributor to this program, I would at least like some accountability. But to my dismay, when I tried to get information on last year’s award winners (yes this has been going on for years), the grants manager informed me that they do not “make the names of the organizations or the amounts they were awarded a matter of public record” because “information about the programs would jeopardize the grantees’ ability to operate safely on the island,” and to “minimize the risk that their Cuban partners on the island would be targeted for harassment or reprisal from the Cuban government.”
So, while the US government cannot see fit to extend unemployment benefits to its own struggling citizens, it is clandestinely paying Cubans to work against their own government — thus turning those accepting the money into what we in the US call “unregistered agents of a foreign government”.
But that’s OK, because when the recipients get arrested sometime down the line, the US will have new political prisoners to replace those being released nowadays with which to attack Cuba in the international public opinion arena. It’s a win-win situation!