U.S. Agency for International Development spending for democracy projects in Cuba dropped by 70 percent from 2014 to 2015 while the Obama administration pursued improved relations with the socialist government, records show.
Spending plunged even further in 2016, hitting a low of $1,197,303 during President Obama’s final year in office.
USAID spending for Cuba programs rose by 60 percent to $1,912,830 during Donald Trump’s first year as president and continued to grow throughout early 2020.
Spending peaked during the Trump administration at $6,973,989 in 2019 before falling to $6,383,747 in 2020, a drop of 8 percent, perhaps due to COVID-19.
What’s clear is that there was a sharp contrast in approach during Obama’s final years and Trump’s term in office. President Biden will likely make his own mark on U.S. policy toward Cuba.
The graphic below shows USAID makes most payments at the end of each quarter.
USAID reported spending $52,194,139 on Cuba projects from December 2012 to Sept. 30, 2020. That included $8,677,145 in administration, oversight, salaries and related costs. Some $43,516,994 went toward democracy promotion projects in Cuba. The total does not include tens of millions of additional dollars spent by the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and Radio & TV Martí.
To learn more about grant recipients and their projects, see this interactive graphic. You’ll see that USAID redacted the name of the recipients of $5,155,547 in funds.
USAID redacted this field in accordance with the exceptions outlined in the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016.
Congress passed the law on July 15, 2016, to
- Evaluate the performance of covered United States foreign assistance and its contribution to the policies, strategies, projects, program goals, and priorities undertaken by the Federal Government;
- Support and promote innovative programs to improve effectiveness; and
- Coordinate the monitoring and evaluation processes of Federal departments and agencies that administer covered United States foreign assistance.
The law states that federal agencies are allowed to redact names of grant recipients if disclosure “if the head of a Federal department or agency, in consultation with the Secretary of State, makes a determination that the inclusion of a required item of information online would jeopardize the health or security of an implementing partner or program beneficiary or would require the release of proprietary information of an implementing partner or program beneficiary.
“The head of the Federal department or agency shall provide such determination in writing to the appropriate congressional committees, including the basis for such determination.”
I find it interesting that democracy promotion techniques are considered trade secrets. Redactions are also allowed “if the Secretary of State makes a determination that the inclusion of a required item of information online would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States.”
USAID has been a leader among federal offices and agencies in implementing the 2016 law. For more information, see:
- Office of Management and Budget “Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA).”
- July 2019 Government Accountability Office “Foreign Assistance: Federal Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines Incorporate Most but Not All Leading Practices.”
The law requires federal agencies to “publicly report each evaluation, including an executive summary, a description of the evaluation methodology, key findings, appropriate context, including quantitative and qualitative data when available, and recommendations made in the evaluation within 90 days after the completion of the evaluation.”
I have asked USAID if any of their evaluations are available for inspection. I will post any additional information I receive.
I’ll end this meandering post with some spending trivia. Guess what day USAID was most likely to issue a Cuba-related payment from 2012 to 2020?
Tuesday was the magic day.
The least likely?