Over the past three decades, the U.S. government has spent more than $1 billion for broadcasting to Cuba and for democracy programs on the island.
On Oct. 31, the Congressional Research Service, or CRS reported:
From FY1984 through FY2018, Congress appropriated about $882 million for broadcasting to Cuba. The Trump Administration’s FY2019 request is for almost $13.7 million.
From FY1996 to FY2018, Congress appropriated some $344 million in funding for Cuba democracy efforts.
Recipients have included hundreds of different groups, from universities and nonprofits to powerful for-profit development companies that rake in millions of dollars in contracts every year. See graphic showing $280,776,694 in spending over three decades.
American officials often recruit human rights groups outside the U.S. to make it more difficult for Cuban authorities to track them. Other organizations are based in Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida. See some of the top Cuba contracts in a breakdown of $94,125,976 in spending.
Foreign groups receiving U.S. funds include, for instance:
- People in Need in the Czech Republic, $2,369,133
- Asociación Diario de Cuba in Spain, $1,622,083
- Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos in Spain, $697,185
- Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales in Mexico, $120,818
- Instituto Político Para la Libertad de Perú in Peru, $682,215
The U.S. has paid groups whose leaders have endorsed or taken part in violence against the Cuban government.
Disidente Universal de Puerto Rico, for instance, received $1,053,334. Declassified documents link its leader to the militant exile group, Coordinadora de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas, or CORU, according to CubaDebate. The group’s latest tax record was filed in 2008.
Federación Sindical de Plantas Eléctricas, Gas y Agua en el Exilio has received $368,501. Cuban media outlets have linked the group to violence against the Cuban government.
The U.S. government paid millions of dollars to groups whose names are redacted in spending records. Many millions more have gone to sprawling companies such as Development Alternatives Inc. and International Relief and Development, which do not release details on their Cuba programs.
Since 1998, the U.S. government has paid at least $47,115,638 to the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, which posts online the names of almost all its grant recipients and is more transparent than many other organizations. See graphic showing 359 recipients of NED grants.
The CRS said lawmakers and the Trump administration have clashed over how much money to set aside for Cuba democracy programs over the past two years. The CRS stated:
FY2018 Appropriations. For FY2018 appropriations, given the strong congressional record of appropriating such aid for many years, some Members of Congress strongly opposed the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut all democracy and human rights funding for Cuba. The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the FY2018 State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, H.R. 3362 (H.Rept. 115-253), would have provided $30 million in democracy assistance for Cuba but would have prohibited the obligation of funds for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship, or any other assistance that is not democracy-building as expressly authorized in the LIBERTAD Act of 1996 and the CDA of 1992. These provisions were included in the House-passed version of the FY2018 omnibus appropriations measure, H.R. 3354, approved in September 2017.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the FY2018 State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, S. 1780 (S.Rept. 115-152), would have provided $15 million for democracy programs in Cuba, with not less than $3 million to support free enterprise and private business organizations in Cuba and people-to-people educational and cultural activities.
In final action in March 2018, Congress provided $20 million for democracy programs in Cuba in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141; explanatory statement, Division K) without any of the directives in the House and Senate appropriations bills and reports noted above.
FY2019 Appropriations. For FY2019, the Trump Administration requested $10 million for democracy and civil society assistance in support of the Administration’s Cuba policy. The House Appropriations Committee’s State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, H.R. 6385, would provide $30 million to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba, with, according to the draft report to the bill, not less than $8 million for the National Endowment for Democracy; the draft report would prohibit the obligation of funds for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship, or any other assistance that is not democracy-building and stipulate that grants exceeding $1 million or to be implemented over a period of 12 months would be awarded only to organizations with experience promoting democracy inside Cuba. The Senate Appropriations version of the bill, S. 3108, would provide $15 million for democracy programs in Cuba.