The Biden administration is requesting $58.5 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development for 2022, a 10% increase over this year’s budget.
The proposed budget includes $20 million for democracy programs targeting Cuba, the same level of funding as 2021. Also included in the budget:
- $141 million for Colombia, down slightly from $146.3 million
- $50 million for Mexico, the same as 2021
- $50 million for Venezuela, up from $30 million, a 67% increase.
The State Department spokesman said:
After four years of neglect, the State and USAID Budget request significantly increases funding for climate initiatives, makes needed investments in global health security, enhances our support for the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights, labor rights, and rule of law, reasserts U.S. global humanitarian leadership, including rebuilding U.S. refugee resettlement, increases economic and security assistance to Central America to address the root causes of irregular migration, reinvigorates the diplomatic and development workforce, and meets our international obligations, all while supporting efforts to advance racial equity and inclusion in foreign assistance and within foreign affairs agencies.
Biden is requesting $810.396 million for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. That’s the same amount as this year.
In language that seems a tad presumptuous, a budget document cites “the historic transition of power underway in Cuba.” It states:
With the requested funding, USAGM will target programming in key markets such as China, Russia, and Iran; countries in the Middle East and Africa dealing with violent extremism; and countries where climate change, public health crises, and economic uncertainty are threatening democratic values and emboldening authoritarian regimes. USAGM will continue covering emerging political and humanitarian challenges in countries such as Myanmar, Belarus, Hong Kong, and Venezuela, as well as the historic transition of power underway in Cuba.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio & TV Martí, has 117 employees and an annual budget of about $28 million. I haven’t found any documents showing the 2022 budget request for the operation.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, former director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, or OCB, urged the Biden administration to provide $30 million for Radio & TV Martí.
“As Cuba’s economy continues to crumble and its political infrastructure weakens, it is even more necessary for the U.S. government to have a conduit to the Cuban people,” he wrote in an op-ed published in the Miami Herald.
Cutting the Radio & TV Martí budget would send “a political message that supporting the Cuban people is a low priority for the U.S. government. OCB’s effect transcends that of journalism — it reminds Cubans they are not forgotten, which should remain a priority for any American president. If Biden wants to show support for the Cuban people instead of the regime, he will empower Radio Television Martí by restoring its budget and preserving their editorial independence in Miami amid the Cuban diaspora — where it belongs.”
The Biden administration’s budget request also includes $94.043 million for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, or OTI. Funds “will address opportunities and challenges in countries in crisis, and assist in their transition toward sustainable development, peace, good governance, and democracy.”
OTI was involved in USAID’s secret base in Costa Rica, which I wrote about on May 10. See “USAID in Cuba: Code names and counter surveillance.”
The Transition Initiatives budget request “will target political crises, prevent and mitigate conflict, and address stabilization needs in countries critical to U.S. foreign policy. TI funds will support fast and flexible short-term assistance to help government and civilian partners advance peace and democracy. TI funding targets priority countries where USAID/OTI engages quickly and robustly, often where additional contingency funds are less
USAID Administrator Samantha Powers did not mention Cuba in her prepared statement to House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on May 26 and May 27. However, she pledged greater support for “democracy programming.” She said:
“As is well known, across the world, the cause of democracy is currently on its back heel. Amid the 15-year democratic decline globally documented by Freedom House, nine more countries slipped into a state of autocracy in the last five years alone, representing more than 300 million people…
“Yet for all of this, other trends and events should motivate us to step up to do more to meet this challenge. Mass pro-democracy demonstrations reached an all-time high of 37 in 2019, higher than during the Arab Spring or the end of the Cold War. The FY22 discretionary request provides an increase in overseas funding for democracy programming to meet this moment.
“First, we need to bolster our “Rapid Response” capacity to quickly seize on opportunities to bolster democracy throughout the world when there is a political opening of the sort that occurred in Sudan, or an attempt to roll back democratic progress as in Myanmar.
“Second, corruption is the Achilles’ heel of many illiberal regimes, and USAID will use our programmatic assistance and our voice to support reformers and civil society actors fighting corruption and promoting accountability.
“Third, we will help countries fight misinformation and disinformation, increasingly used by malign actors to stoke public anger against democratically-elected officials and civil society.
“Fourth, we will work to support activists and citizens subjected to digital repression by regimes that are becoming increasingly sophisticated at surveilling and censoring their populations. By the same token, we will continue to provide support for governments to align regulatory frameworks for emerging technologies with democratic values. In the service of these goals, we will work to support independent and public interest media, helping journalists and whistleblowers withstand government repression, legal harassment, disinformation, and attacks on media outlets’ financial viability…”
Powers said Biden plans to host an international Summit for Democracy “so that democratic governments can align on efforts to confront authoritarianism, fight corruption, and promote respect for human rights.”
A State Department spokesman said the proposed budget also:
- Ensures the United States is Better Prepared to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Future Biological Threats and Pandemics. The budget request expands American leadership in global health security in order to address long-term impacts of COVID-19 and to prevent, prepare for, and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate.
- Revitalizes Collaborative U.S. Leadership in Central America. It is critical to revitalize U.S. leadership in Central America and to address the root causes of irregular migration from Central America to the United States. To that end, the budget request invests $861 million in the region as a first step toward a four-year commitment of $4 billion.
- Restores America’s Standing in International Organizations. To ensure we are in a position to uphold and defend the principles and values of the international order we helped build, we must meet U.S. commitments to international peacekeeping and pay our assessed dues to international organizations on time and in full, reversing the chronic underfunding of these critical programs by the previous administration.
- Advances U.S. Humanitarian Leadership, Rebuilds U.S. Refugee Resettlement. Humanitarian needs are at historic levels as COVID-19 has exacerbated existing challenges from ongoing and new complex emergencies. The budget request provides the resources necessary to rebuild the badly damaged U.S. refugee admissions program and support up to 125,000 admissions in 2022. It provides over $10 billion in humanitarian assistance to support vulnerable people abroad, including refugees, conflict victims, and other displaced persons.
- Revitalizes the Foreign Policy Workforce to Deliver for All Americans through increases in funding for the Department’s and USAID’s greatest asset, our people. The FY 2022 request proposes funding for the largest State staffing increase in a decade, building a diplomatic and development corps that fully represents America in all its talent.