A billion here, a billion there…

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 … Read more

Closing books on “Cuban Twitter” program

On Nov. 30, the Agency for International Development closed out its contract with Xavier Utset, described by the Associated Press as the mastermind behind a secret “Cuban Twitter” program. Utset ran the program for Creative Associates International, then a USAID contractor. He later became an agency employee. Spending records classified Utset as an “undisclosed domestic … Read more

Nearly four years after release, Alan Gross is grateful

My Nov. 29 post about the Alan Gross case led to some lively debate on Facebook. I had raised the possibility that U.S. officials were slow to negotiate for the release of the American development worker because hardline Florida lawmakers needed a victim. Janet Ballantyne, a former honcho at the Agency for International Development, had … Read more

USAID pledges $750,000 for political prisoners in Cuba

The U.S. Agency for International Development will provide $750,000 to political prisoners in Cuba, the agency’s chief said Friday. “This will help facilitate information and help document ongoing human rights’ abuses,” USAID Administrator Mark Green said. Before joining USAID in August 2017, Green was president of the International Republic Institute in Washington, D.C. The IRI … Read more

Ex-official: Alan Gross gave hardliners a pretext for hostility

U.S. officials let an American development worker languish in a Cuban prison rather than quickly negotiate his release because they were under pressure from hardline Florida lawmakers eager to highlight Cuba as an “evil empire,” a former U.S. official said in an interview. Cuban authorities arrested Gross in 2009 for setting up illegal Wi-Fi hotspots. … Read more