Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cuban democracy programs

Support for U.S. programs that help Cuba running on empty

The U.S. government's Cuba democracy programs are all but paralyzed, facing political, safety and bureaucratic hurdles that critics and backers agree could end up halting their more aggressive features.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which doles out much of the money, has not requested new funding proposals since March, and groups that run the programs complain they have little money left.

Powerful Democrats in Congress are vowing to block the more "provocative" programs, and the Obama administration is hinting it may halt a key part of the programs that Cuba brands as "subversive."

"If this continues in the same way, the whole pro-democracy program is going to be dead," said Frank Calzon, whose Center for a Free Cuba in suburban Washington stopped receiving U.S. funds last year.

Launched during the Clinton administration, the Cuba Democracy Assistance program was expanded under President George W. Bush and Congress in 2008 approved $40 million for the two-year period that ends Sept. 30.

It should come as no surprise that the first (and only) spending program cut so far is support for anti-communist anti-Castro pro-democracy groups by distributing books, shortwave radios, computers, satellite TV receivers and cellphones to dissidents, independent journalists and other peaceful civil society groups.

This is not some crazy wingnut program - - it is a non-violent non-military small scale operation started by Bill Clinton, based on the assumptions that the free flow of information is a basic human right and that America will win any free and fair intellectual debate.

This would appeal to a "community organizer", unless he was blinded by pro Castro bias.

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