Posted on Friday, 08.06.10
CUBA | USAID
Cuban-American lawmakers question program
A new USAID program for Cuba drew challenges from Cuban-Americans in
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Four Cuban-American members of Congress have asked the U.S. Agency for
International Development to clarify whether a new Cuba program will be
limited to groups approved by Havana authorities.
Their letter to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah appeared to reflect the
belief that under the Obama administration the agency will take a more
gradual approach to promoting change on the island.
USAID's new program, described in an agency Request for Applications
(RFA) dated June 18, is offering $3 million over 36 months to promote
grass-roots economic development in Cuba.
“We are writing to inquire regarding troubling language'' in the RFA,
South Florida Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln and Mario
Diaz-Balart and Albio Sires, D-N.J., wrote to Shah on July 30.
The letter points out the RFA states that “because traditionally
understood independent Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are not
permitted under Cuban law, this new program will work with Civil Society
“This language implies that because CSOs are not `legal' in Cuba, USAID
would provide funding for entities that are authorized by the Cuban
regime,'' the letter said. “Entities that are authorized under the
Cuban regime's laws are under the control of the regime.''
But the Helms-Burton law bans U.S. assistance to the Cuban government,
it noted. “Please be so kind as to provide us with a list of entities
that would qualify'' as CSGs and could receive U.S. funds without
violating the law, it added.
The RFA said the new program could benefit groups of private farmers and
privately run bed-and-breakfasts, as well as the barbershops, beauty
salons and taxi businesses recently handed over to some of their
employees by the Cuban government.
A USAID statement sent to El Nuevo Herald said the program is aimed at
“marginalized groups,'' such as those living in rural areas, ethnic and
religious minorities, orphans and vulnerable children, rural women and
people with disabilities.