Cuba and the Skeletons of USAID

August 7, 2014 | Print Print |

Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — The Associated Press (AP) news agency seems intent on making all of the United States plans in Cuba public. It first great revelation was that Alan Gross – the US citizen currently imprisoned in Havana – had smuggled communication systems so sophisticated they were used by the Pentagon and CIA.

In addition, it revealed that, to conduct these operations, Gross had been paid hundreds of thousands of Washington’s dollars, tearing apart the image of the altruistic Jewish humanitarian who risked his freedom to give his community on the island greater Internet access.

Sometime later, the agency revealed the existence of Zunzuneo, a kind of Twitter especially designed to steer Cuba’s internal political situation through cell-phone text messages. The United States reached some 40 thousand people on the island this way.

The plan consisted in sending interesting but politically innocuous information to users in order to gain in credibility among a public to whom materials aimed at impacting Cuba’s internal situation (with a view to “promoting democracy”) would later be sent.

Now AP brings up for discussion the fact the US government also infiltrated groups of young Latin Americans (from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela) into Cuba in order to bolster the opposition movement – and that they did so using health programs as cover.

One of the infiltrators was Felipe Valencia Dongo, advisor to the Minister of Education of Peru.

Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the commission that supervises USAID’s budget, declared that the façade used was “worse than irresponsible” because “the U.S. government should never sacrifice delivering basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal.”

However, the young Latin Americans were a very good deal, because they could be paid infinitesimal wages and would not become a problem for the White House if they ended up in prison. Better still, they would create conflicts between Havana and governments in the region.

Even though Cuban-American politicians consider him “soft,” Barack Obama has been one of the most actively anti-Castro presidents of recent history. He has already set a record – both global and individual – in fines applied to foreign companies that have dealings with Cuba, imposing billions of dollars in penalties on these.

His “batting average” in terms of covert operations is also impressive, though it’ll be hard for him to outdo his predecessors from the 60s, who hatched Operation Mongoose and conspiracies to commit murder and supported internal armed groups and a direct invasion.

The Obama administration looked for an alternative way of supporting and bolstering dissident activities in Cuba after Congress confirmed that the money sent to anti-Castro groups in Miami was being spent in the city to buy chocolates, leather coats and electric saws.

The government had to skip over the Cuban-American community if it wanted its resources to actually reach the dissidents. That is how the idea of hiring other US citizens and Latin Americans to smuggle communications equipment and financial resources into Cuba probably arose.

The aim of the Latin American infiltrators was to influence young Cubans and have them join the opposition.

Since his electoral campaign, it’s been clear that Obama is a man who knows how to move about cyberspace and use social networks to advance political ends. No one should be surprised that the “Arab Spring” took place and that the United States tried to use that same tactic against Havana.

The President, however, should not be blamed for the failure of this plan in Cuba. He had very few chances of succeeding from the word go. Trying to unleash a cyber-war in a country that has next to no Internet connectivity is like tasking the US Navy with the invasion of Bolivia.

What’s more, he went in without considering the changes that are taking place on both shores of the Strait of Florida: Raul Castro’s reforms and the rapprochement of some of the most important and influential Cuban-American entrepreneurs, such as Fanjul, Bacardi and Saldrigas. Today, dissidents have lost most of their influence on the island because they spend far too much time outside Cuba, be it to study journalism in Florida or going on propaganda tours around Europe.

Even Miami’s anti-Castro press acknowledges that “following the migratory reforms of Raul Castro’s government, we’ve seen a tendency towards the development of a traveling dissidence which has managed to broaden its international horizons but has seen its influence on the island reduced.”

As though that weren’t enough, the White House must now confront its own, rapidly-growing internal opposition – from Hilary Clinton, who does not support the US embargo, to those who tell the press where USAID has buried its skeletons.
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(*) Read the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    I hope Fernando reads this blog. I want him to know that Hillary Clinton’s remarks about the embargo are political and not emotional. Like Barack Obama said in 2006, it is appropriate for presidential candidates and would-be candidates to go on record opposing the embargo. That probably doesn’t translate well to Cubans who think they understand political doublespeak. It is easy to say that you oppose the embargo because to lift the embargo means a bunch of positive changes will have taken place in Cuba. Look at it this way Fernando: Saying you oppose the embargo in Washington means you want the Castros gone. Unless you hear a politician say “I support lifting the embargo WITHOUT conditions”, don’t be fooled. It really means that the US should be doing more to bring freedom and democracy to the Cuban people. Who wouldn’t support that?

    • Griffin

      You make a reasonable, if purely hypothetical point. Hillary will not be the Democratic nominee, much less the next POTUS. She is too old, of too poor health, and carries far too heavy baggage.

      Ain’t gonna happen.

  • DC1945

    I wonder if it is too late to take back BO’s Nobel Prize? Such squandered promise.

    • Griffin

      There was no good reason to give him the Nobel Peace Prize in the first place.

      Can anybody explain exactly what he did to earn it? I’m sure not even he knows.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Cubans appear to define the world as Cuba and its socialist allies – North Korea, China, Vietnam (which distrusts China), Syria, Palestine, Venezuela, Equador, Bolivia and other South Amereican countries etc. versus the USA.
    There is a very substantial part of the world that lies outside those parameters. The Cuban obsession about the USA is based upon the US embargo, much promoted by the Castro regime as a blockade and held responsible for all the regimes failures and recognisable incompetence.
    Only the USA itself and naturally Israel supported the retention of the US embargo at the United Nations and 182 countries opposed it. I say that Israel naturally opposed it because the Castro regime is a friend of Hamas which seeks the elimination of Israel and of Syria which it assisted in invading Israel with the Yum Kippur war. Just as Fidel Castro Ruz anticipated a nuclear attack on the US, he anticipated victory for Syria and its allies – including Cuba.
    There are those of us belonging to other countries than those listed above. As free democratic peoples we naturally seek that Cubans should have similar liberty and freedom to those which we are privileged to enjoy.
    Two quotes of Fidel Castro Ruz:
    1) I do not seek power and I will not accept it.
    2) Revolution now, elections later.
    Both have proven to be misleading to the point of deceit. Those of us in the countries I have described find such deceit self-serving and unsupportable by free people.
    Over the long long years, the Castro regime has locked up dissidents without trial followed eventually by intervention by the Roman Catholic Church and the shipping of the dissidents to Spain. This is the same regime that executed its opponents without trial at El Morro and Santiago under the supervision of Dr. Ernesto Guevara and Raul Castro Ruz respectively. A total of some 430 people – all Cubans!
    It is not the USA which invoked such behaviour, it is the actual history of the Castro regime.
    The obsession with the USA is both foolish and unwise and Cubans concerned with the future of Cuba should look outwards at the rest of the world that has when appropriate supported Cuba rather than the USA and which seeks a better life for Cubans, not just economic benefits arising from exploitation of the people.

  • HumbertoCapiro

    All these articles on AP about USAID are an effort by the Castro Oligarchy to cast bad light and doubt on these programs and thus more on the Alan Gross case! They want to push more the idea that Alan was in Cu ba for “regime change” and thus extort the Obama administration to exchange him for The Cuban 5 spies. The same sentiment was stated by Wilfredo Cancio Isla of Cafe Fuerte web site on a TV show Sevsec a Fondo on AmericaTeVE. Havana times uses a lot of Cafe Fuerte’s article translated into English and original in Spanish.

    http://freebeacon.com/national-security/human-rights-ngos-dispute-ap-report-on-cuba-democracy-program/

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    I do love the photograph in the article of Cubans discussing and debating the baseball results!