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The State Department is paying a contractor more than $1 million to train 25 to 40 “emerging Cuban leaders.”
The contractor isn’t allowed to travel to Cuba to recruit participants. And U.S. officials discourage the contractor from hiring “third-country nationals” to carry out the task.
Instead, the contractor should work with “a partner organization,” the State Department said.
This arrangement puts a little more distance between the State Department and any government-financed operators who venture into Cuba. That way, if something goes wrong, it’s easier for the State Department to disavow any knowledge of the contractor’s activities.
It sounds a bit like something out of “Mission: Impossible,” right before the tape goes up in smoke:

Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to… (insert mission here). As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

The State Department program is aimed at training a new generation of leaders who would “bolster Cubans’ abilities to develop independent civil society communities and express ideas regarding human rights and democracy to peers and those outside Cuba.” See “U.S. gov’t: $1 million-plus for emerging Cuban leaders.”
The application deadline for the $1,033,086 grant was July 26. The winning contractor was expected to start the project this month or in September and finish by September 2022.
The program targets Cubans who are from 20 to 35 years old.
The State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, or WHA, announced the program on June 6.
On July 19, the bureau released a list of answers to questions from prospective contractors.
The document said:

  • Names of prospective participants must be submitted to the bureau “prior to notification for approval.”
  • Training can take place in the U.S. or a third country. The bureau refused to say if it had a preference. “Unfortunately, WHA cannot provide further guidance on the specific program design as submitted by applicants. Competitive applications will provide appropriate program design and justification for proposed activities.”
  • The contractor should train four cohorts of participants over a two- to three-year period.
  • The contractor can’t set foot on the island. “Staff of the organization may not travel to Cuba.”
  • Contractors would be expected to help participants obtain visas for travel, but the State Department “cannot guarantee visa issuance for participants.”
  • The bureau “has not specified a minimum length” for program training. “The applicant is advised to organize their proposal in the manner that best accomplishes the goals and objectives of the program.” A prospective contractor asked if the bureau preferred that the participants were engaged in training for six to 12 months or one to four weeks. The bureau replied that either one of those scenarios would satisfy program requirements. The document said the bureau “is unable to provide further advice about specific program design, but encourages all applicants to design the project they feel would best satisfy the goals and objectives of the NOFO (Notice of Funding Opportunity) and the capabilities of the applicant organization.” The bureau said the “suggested minimum” time for training is six months, “but the applicant may propose a suitable length that makes sense for the proposal.”
  • Participants must be able to speak English well enough to “successfully interact in English” if project activities take place in the U.S.
  • Participants must “commit to returning to Cuba upon completion of the project.”
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