Will Trump Leave Cuba’s Dissidents without their Millions?

Fernando Ravsberg

Trump is expected to return to Miami in June to announce his administration’s Cuba policy.

HAVANA TIMES – President Trump is a box of surprises, no one knows for sure what his position will be. On May 20, he declared that “cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans” and a few days later he proposes to Congress to cut aid to dissidents.

The move went unnoticed because it was framed within the federal budget bill, where it proposes to reduce the “development aid” that the US delivers to the different countries of Latin America, from Mexico to the southern cone.

Mexico would lose almost half of the aid it receives while in the case of Cuba and Venezuela it would be totally eliminated. For the island, they spent $20 million in fiscal year 2016; While Caracas received $6.5 million.

The difference is that the “aid” to Cuba and Venezuela was directed for decades to “promote democracy”, meaning without diplomacy: to finance opposition groups, akin to Washington, that aim to achieve a change of government in the two countries.

Professor Lopez-Levy* notes that Trump’s vision distances itself from the post-war interventionist consensus and therefore also from the so-called “democracy promotion” expenditures. Instead, his focus is on more immediate security issues.

De los U$D 20 millones que Washington enviaba a la disidencia a Cuba solo llegaba un 17%, según las propias organizaciones del exilio anticastrista es a la disidencia en Cuba. Foto: Raquel Pérez

He warns, however, that this is a proposal, not the final version. It still has to pass through the Congress where the subject of Cuba will be the administration’s bargaining chip to negotiate with the Cuban-American representatives and Senators Rubio and Cruz.

On the other hand, the regional funds for specific issues remain; hence something will be devoted to the “promotion of democracy”, left to the discretion of the USAID administration, where representatives of pro-embargo positions are already present.

In any case, funding for the Cuban opposition would be substantially reduced compared to the US $20 million a year allocated to them for decades. Money that, incidentally, allowed the Havana government to refer to the dissidents as mercenaries paid by Washington.

However what actually made it to Cuba was less than $4 million. According to Pepe Hernández, leader of the anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation, “83% of the money designated to support democratic activists in Cuba has been spent in Miami or in foreign countries.”
Such was confirmed in a report by the US Congressional Comptroller General’s Office (GAO), whose investigators found that a portion of that money was used to buy leather coats, expensive brand chocolates and electric saws in Miami.

But even so, the amount that did arrive to Cuba was a considerable figure given the small number of dissidents.

A former top US diplomat in Havana surrounded by dissidents during the times when Washington placed all its hopes on them. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

The former top US diplomat on the island, Jonathan Farrar, said in a secret cable that dissidents don’t work to attract people, “their greater effort are directed at obtaining enough funding to support the main organizers and their foremost followers.”

Donald Trump’s attempt to leave Cuban dissidents without funds is the biggest threat they have ever received from the United States. However, it seems to be a continuation of Obama’s policy, which bet more on supporting entrepreneurs than the traditional opposition.

It is still too early to know if this budget will be approved but surely the internal and external anti-Castroites must be very concerned because all the organizations and many of the individuals that comprise them live off and make politics in Cuba and the US with those $20 million.

Even if the Cuban-American congress people succeed in reversing the budget cut, they would have to negotiate with the White House from a defensive position, which would give President Trump an advantage over pressure on Cuba and even more sensitive issues.

In 2015, at the UN, President Raul Castro demanded the cessation of all “subversion and destabilization programs against Cuba” as a requirement for the normalization of relations. Without the slightest fuss, his US counterpart proposes to Congress to take that step.
* Visiting Lecturer at Mills College, Oakland California and Doctorate Candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

14 thoughts on “Will Trump Leave Cuba’s Dissidents without their Millions?

  • Curt has offered his opinion, which is his right. But the accuracy of that opinion is unproven. He offers no proof of his assertion that “Many of those people are common criminals masquerading as dissidents.” You have blindly supported that claim. I don’t know what’s worse, the fool who speaks without thinking or those that follow him?

  • While we tend to think of $20 million as a lot of money, that is because we evaluate that amount in relation to ourselves personally. But in terms of a government program, cutting it back to that level emasculated the overall program. So if $20 million drops to zero it will make very little difference.

  • Well Ken, hope the interval isn’t too long. If you go back a few years ago in the archives of Havana Times you will find my opposition to the embargo because it has been utlilised by the Castro regime as a means of explaining to the people of Cuba the reasons for their failed policies, inadequacies and incompetence. But, having read the Cuban Democracry Act, I understand the original purpose. I wrote:
    “Whereas the imposition of the second current US embargo of 1960 against Cuba was understandable during the period when it was initiated, the policy clearly failed.”
    and later;
    “The terms of the embargo although directed at improving the conditions of the people of Cuba, were aimed directly at removal of the Castro family regime. By far the majority of Cubans have never seen those terms but have accepted the explanations of the regime that the embargo was directed against them as a people being unaware of the objectives of the embargo including free open elections, free media and human rights.”

  • We can be quite certain that critics of the Cuban government will be accused of receiving money from the US, so we should be prepared to deal with that accusation.
    If the US wishes to relieve the hardship of Cubans, why should their aid be limited to Cubans who have criticized their government? Why not all Cubans?

    I can think of one measure that will have a positive impact on the lives of Cubans, that is the lifting of the economic embargo.

    I will be away from my computer for a bit, so don’t think I am ignoring you.

  • Because, Carlyle…I forget your real name…I love democracy and I love America and therefore I care about anyone or anything that harms and belittles those two things. Surely, America’s Cuban policy is at the forefront of those ills merely to sate a few rich and revengeful miscreants who, as far as I can tell, could care less about how it affects America and democracy. The fact that you and others like you so vehemently resent what people like me and Curt say reveals more than you apparently think it does.

  • Thanks Rich. It’s nice to know at least some people agree with me.

  • Can you curt9954 name a single Cuban who: “live(s) much better than the average Cuban.”
    Secondly do you have any evidence that: “Many of those people are common criminals” or are you merely repeating Fidel Castro’s opinion of his fellow Cubans?

    “criminals, lumpens, anti-social elements, loafers and parasites”

    I agree that Cubans in Miami and elswhere – be it Europe, Canada or even Australia, live much better than the average Cuban, but that is not a consequence of funding by the US, it is a consequence of living in capitalist societies which offer opportunity for individual development denied in Cuba.

  • Firstly Rich Haney I favour your freedom of expression which you owe to not living in a communist society.
    Regarding the UN vote of 192 – to two abstentions (US and Israel). It remains my previously expressed opinion that the Helms-Burton Act being “both naive and heavy handed”, “led almost inevitably to the devastating and rather humiliating vote at the UN against the US embargo”.
    But as you Americans must realise, your governments since 1823 and the Monroe Doctrine have made political blunders of magnitude in the Americas – note I wrote “the Americas” for I include Canada.
    That folly is evident now in your President Trump(f) blasting NAFTA – an agreement negotiated by a Republican President, and by withdrawing from the Paris Accord on climate change.
    What I don’t understand is why you don’t utilise your energies at home, rather than repetitively criticizing your governments in these pages?

  • Does it really appear to you Rich Haney or to you Ken Hiebert that people like Rosa Martinez are receiving money for their contributions to Havana Times and if so would you be opposed to Rosa receiving an addition to her pittance of a salary as a university professor and mother of two children?
    As a non-American, I know nothing of the US supporting dissidents in Cuba. But I do know the history of communist double-think as practised so assiduosly by the KGB and its successors.
    Just think for a moment about the KGB funding of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
    At the end of the debate the question we all have to address is whether we are in favour of freedom of the individual or of suppression of individual thought and action by dictatorship. Let us not be fooled into thinking that supposedly a mere $20 million per year in support of the dissidents equates with a fraction the sum spent by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba.
    One realises that the regime supporters will cry “foul” because the Propaganda Department of the PCC is internal and the the supposed funding of dissidents is external, but who ever elected the PCC in open free elections?

  • Which of the following is the biggest scam???:
    1. $20 million USD paid by US Taxpayers for ‘promotion of democracy’ in Cuba in 2016?
    2. President Putin putting his puppet into the White House in 2016?

    Hmmmmm difficult choice huh?

  • You are to be applauded, Curt, for daring to speak the truth about U.S.-Cuba relations. America and its democracy have paid a huge price since the 1950s for a Mafia-aligned Cuban policy that includes grossly EXCUSED terrorist acts against innocent Cubans, such as all those souls aboard the civilian Cubana Flight 455 airplane or the car-bomb that silenced Miami’s anti-terrorism Cuban-American journalist Emilio Milian or the embargo imposed since 1962 that so severely harms totally innocent Cubans on the island, accounting for the LOUD 191-to-0 condemnation of the U. S. in the UN, A VOTE THAT EMBARRASSES ME AS A DEMOCRACY-LOVING AMERICAN BUT DOESN’T EMBARRASS MOSES AND SO MANY OTHERS LIKE HIM.

    As you suggest, the regime-change tax dollars that persistently flow from Washington to the dissidents in Miami and presumably in Cuba are endlessly creating “dissidents” far more interested in the easy dollars than in regime change. Sheer greed, far above ideology, has fueled America’s Cuban policy from 1898 {the Spanish-American War} but even more certainly since 1952 {the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba} and even more certainly since 1959 {when the Cuban Revolution booted the Batistiano-Mafiosi leaders to their new capital, Little Havana in Miami. Of course, Americans are not supposed to know about or at least consider such things as Cubana Flight 455, Emilio Milian, 1898, 1952 or 1959. And that is so, sadly, even in this Google age when anything can be so quickly researched.

    So, Curt, you are 100% correct and those who oppose what you said to Moses are 100% wrong, in my opinion.

  • Two questions come to mind. Who in Cuba has been receiving money? Does this include writers for Havana Times?

    Moses Patterson, below, says, “Those Cuban dissidents who can justify their need for funding because of measurable efforts to bring democracy to Cuba will continue to be funded.” How does he know that?

  • Many of those people are common criminals masquerading as dissidents. It is not up to the U.S to interfere with governments in order to provide regime change. Most of those millions go toward useless things like Radio Marti or to militant groups in Miami. The dissidents who do get the money live much better than the average Cuban.

  • Those Cuban dissidents who can justify their need for funding because of measurable efforts to bring democracy to Cuba will continue to be funded. The only difference will be their US dollars will be “off the books”. The only ones who will certainly suffer are those dissidents who had grown accustomed to the money because of their political ties to Miami and not necessarily because of their efforts toward regime change.

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