Back in 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development sent me 123 pages of documents about a mysterious foundation’s work in Cuba.
At last, the motherlode. There was just one problem: USAID had blacked out almost every trace of information that might shed light on what the Pan American Development Foundation was doing in Cuba.
That’s why I see PADF as one of the more secretive U.S. government-financed groups that operates in Cuba.
USAID awarded the group $1.5 million on July 14, 2016, for a project labeled “humanitarian assistance to Cuba.” The contract runs through July 13, 2019.
Records show USAID gave the group at least $8,976,314 for Cuba projects from 2012 to 2018.
Alan Gross, an American development worker who spent five years in jail for setting up Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuba, coordinated some of his activities with PADF before his arrest in 2009, according to court records in Havana.
Marc Wachtenheim, then chief of the group’s Cuba programs, paid Gross $5,500 so he could buy a satellite phone, laptop and cell phone, court records show.
What neither of them knew was that Cuban agents had infiltrated PADF’s operation in Cuba. One of the group’s main contacts, José Manuel Collera Vento, was an informant for Cuban State Security.
Cuban agents caught Wachtenheim on video, but did not arrest him and he returned to the U.S. without incident.
Gross wasn’t freed until December 2014.
PADF received $398,382,899 in government funds from 2011 through 2015, a 2016 tax record shows. The group gets 99.98 percent of its income from the federal government.
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