Cuba projects fly under the radar


A California company called Internews Network proudly declares that it works in far-flung spots around the world, everywhere from Tajikistan and Nepal to Albania and Vanuatu.
Cuba appears nowhere on the company’s where we work list. Yet the State Department gave the company at least $2 million for three Cuba projects in 2015 and 2016, records show.
The Cuba work appears in a financial report next to another company project called, “Driving Social Change Through Humor in China,” for which Internews received $70,778 in State Department funds.
State Department payments to Internews in 2015 and 2016 include:

  • $802,153 for a project called Protecting and Advancing Cuban Civil Society Online (PACCSO)
  • $852,851 for the Safer Wireless Applications and Networks (SWAN) Project
  • $439,829 for the Internews Initiative for Internet Progress in Cuba (I3PC)

The State Department payments came to $2,094,833, according to a 2016 financial report and a 2015 audit. That included $239,734 paid to unidentified “subrecipients.” I imagine that would include people doing work on the ground in Cuba.

The Internews work in Cuba isn’t exactly secret – I mean, I found it. But it certainly is discreet and it is just one of many Cuba projects that U.S. government agencies try to shield from public view.

There is little evidence of Internews on a federal government website listing contracts. I could only find one contract that the U.S. Agency for International Development gave to Internews for work in Haiti.

The purpose of that contract was “to conduct a rapid evaluation of the strategic communications campaign in the Northern Corridor of Haiti.” USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives managed that work. Transition Initiatives, which has also worked in Cuba, specializes in accelerating political change.

Internews describes itself as:

an international non-profit organization whose mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect and the means to make their voices heard.
Internews Network provides communities the resources to produce local news and information with integrity and independence. With global expertise and reach, Internews Network trains both media professionals and citizen journalists, introduces innovative media solutions, increases coverage of vital issues and helps establish policies needed for open access to information.
Internews Network programs create platforms for dialogue and enable informed debate, which bring about social and economic progress.
Internews Network’s commitment to research and evaluation creates effective and sustainable programs, even in the most challenging environments.
Internews Network operates internationally, with administrative centers in California, Washington, D.C. and London, as well as regional hubs in Bangkok and Nairobi. Formed in 1982, Internews Network has worked in more than 90 countries, and currently has offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and North America.

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