About the Miami Herald editorial below
by Walter Lippmann
November 19, 2006
with further documentation added: November 29, 2006, December 8, 2006
Cuban dissidents join call to end travel, remittance limitations
This editorial is exceptionally interesting and significant. What's important is to grasp where it comes from and what it signifies for everyone who wants normalized relations with Cuba. This editorial reflects a radical departure, calling for the complete lifting of all travel restrictions and all remittance-sending restrictions.
Yes, this is just an editorial in the MIAMI HERALD, it's not any change in legislation of policy, but it's very, very important as it can begin to open up further public discussion on these topics as well as on U.S. policy toward Cuba as a whole.
Coming as it does after the recent congressional elections in which the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress were overturned, a sense of hopefullness, of optimism, and of possibility is beginning to spread through the land. I'm feeling that way, aren't you?
In recent months we've also observed the scandal of Miami Herald reporters being revealed as paid government anti-Castro propaganda producers. The U.S. attorney in South Florida has recently filed CRIMINAL CHARGES against a group of Cuban exiles who've been part of the smuggling of Cuban athletes into the United States. Cuban exile terrorist backers Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat recently pled guilty to having large stockpiles of weapons which they were supposedly going to use against the Cuban government. Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is said to also be under investigation by the U.S. government on terrorism charges. He's so far only being held on a rinky-dink visa violation, but there's talk of filing terror charges against him. Last week the General Accounting office put out a 63-page paper outlining the massive slush-fund for militants in the Cuban exile world who've been pocketing millions of dollars which were supposed to go to the Cuban dissidents, but instead of that were lining the pockets of Miami exile rightists, who bought cashmere sweaters, Godiva chocolates and similar important freedom-fighting equipment.
Washington's blockade has failed, as prominent people in the U.S. are starting to finally acknowledge. When Fidel got sick, the Wall Street Journal's response was to advocate the repeal of the Helms-Burton law. That's not quite as good as their editorial at the time of Carter's visit in which they called for an end to the entire blockade (Bush's Cuba Pickle), but it's worth reading and sharing with those who follow such matters.
This MIAMI HERALD editorial, which is motivated by really dumb reasons: to fund the dissidents, nevertheless can help to open up discussion on these topics. It's not a call to end the blockade (or embargo if you prefer) of Cuba. It's not a call to normalize relations, but it's definitely a good good thing to think about.
Let's also keep in mind what this isn't. It's not a call for the right of Cubans to travel to the the United States if they's like to do that. They're not saying that Cuban Latin Grammy winners now should be able to come and get their awards and to perform here, either. They're not saying that Cubans who want to be able to visit friends and family should be able to do that like people from any other place can do. They're not saying, for example, that Cubans who DON'T want to leave the island permanently should no longer have to pay a $200.00 NON-REFUNDABLE FEE just to have an interview, and Washington keeps the fee whether the Cuban is granted permission to visit.
Let's also not forget the Cuban Adjustment Act under which any Cuba who gets to the United States is automatically welcomed to stay here. If Cubans could freely travel to the United States, more than a few might want to stay here. With all of the open xenophobia being expressed in the United States today, does the U.S. government really want something like another Mariel or a balseros crisis to develop, this time ALL COMING LEGALLY?
Today's editorial in the MIAMI HERALD can open up some dramatic new channels for discussion. It's motivated by the wrong reasons, but what it specifically advocates, in terms of U.S. policy: to let people from the United States to be able to travel to Cuba and send money there, those are good things. I strongly urge all who want normalized relations with Cuba to write to the HERALD and thank them. No need to disagree with them, just give your own positive reasons why people should be free to travel, etc. and I'm confident that some of our letters will be printed. And make letters short, sweet and concise. That's my thought.
Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDIT (2006):
WALL STREET JOURNAL: FOR REPEAL OF HELMS-BURTON (2006)
WALL STREET JOURNAL: BUSH'S CUBA PICKLE (2002)
FROM THE MIAMI HERALD: HOW TO WRITE A LETTER
The Herald values its readers' letters. We receive far more than we can print, so we try to publish the most representative, interesting, and provocative. To give more readers a say, we condense letters. And we do not publish letter writers more often than once per 60 days. Letters must bear the writer's name, full address, and daytime phone number.
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Posted on Sun, Nov. 19, 2006
U.S. plan ineffective by design
OUR OPINION: REVAMP CUBA PROGRAMS
AND LIFT TRAVEL, REMITTANCE RESTRICTIONS
U.S. government programs to promote democracy in Cuba have squandered too much money with too little oversight or results. The programs need to be retooled to be more strategic and effective. More important, lifting U.S. restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba would do far more to promote democracy in Cuba than any U.S. aid program. Cuban Americans and private U.S. organizations should be free to directly support Cuba's civil society.
With visits and material support, exiles and pro-democracy groups will reduce the fear of change and demonstrate the benefits of free markets among Cubans on the island. Such contacts with the outside world show goodwill and break the regime's information blockade. These are the best ways to increase the chances of a peaceful transition to democracy.
Promoting democracy in Cuba should be a U.S. priority. Unfortunately, the U.S. government's execution has faltered: The bulk of $70 million-plus spent in 10 years has ended up in Miami and Washington, D.C., paying academics, shippers and for trips to international conferences. Only a fraction actually helped democracy activists in Cuba. Those are the findings of last week's Miami Herald investigative series Promoting Democracy in Cuba.
Spread the money
Worse, it appears these programs were designed to be ineffective. Since the 1980s, no administration has wanted to risk another Mariel boatlift by destabilizing Cuba. The Clinton and current Bush administrations, under which these Cuba-democracy programs grew, were no different. Better to spread the money among vote-rich Cuban constituencies than to rock the boat by sending cash directly to dissidents. Some of the projects and groups funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other U.S. agencies are clearly worthwhile. CubaNet (www.CubaNet. org), for example, posts news and opinion items phoned in by independent journalists from Cuba. The website distributes nongovernmental news from Cuba and publishes outside news to those in Cuba. Thus, CubaNet breaks the regime's information blockade and promotes a free press.
Other recipients have not been as productive. With USAID funds, Miami-based Acción Democrática Cubana bought Nintendo Game Boys, leather jackets, cashmere sweaters and Godiva chocolates -- all sent to Cuba, says the group's executive director.
Some problems result from USAID's lax management and oversight, as described by a Government Accountability Office report released last week. USAID doesn't effectively monitor whether the goods and services it funds actually promote democracy in Cuba. The GAO referred three USAID-funded agencies for further scrutiny.
USAID also has had dubious selection criteria: 95 percent, or $62 million, of awards from 1996 to 2005 were granted without competitive bidding to ''unsolicited proposals.'' In one case of apparent competitive bidding, USAID gave $750,000 to the Creighton University law school to study property restitution in Cuba -- although the school had no expertise in Cuba studies. Coincidentally, Adolfo Franco, director of USAID Caribbean programs, re ceived his degree from Creighton's law school.
The greatest difficulty is Cuba's totalitarian regime. The regime blocks mailings, prevents Cuban students from using U.S. scholarships and makes it tough for independent journalists to complete correspondence courses offered by Florida International University. Yet USAID prohibits using its funds to send cash to anyone on the island when dissidents can often, and more cost-effectively, find what they need on the black market.
A peaceful transition
The $80 million that President Bush wants for Cuba-democracy programs over the next two years is a small price to pay for promoting change in Cuba, but the programs must be completely revamped. Any aid should strengthen Cuba's democrats and promote a peaceful transition. The programs should be strategic, accountable, competitively bid and critically evaluated.
Lifting limits on travel and remittances would give more money and aid to
dissidents and ordinary Cubans, helping to break dependence on the dictatorship.
Whatever money trickles into regime coffers will be minimal compared to what
Cubans suffer and how much isolation strengthens the regime.
Posted on Tue, Nov. 28, 2006
Cuban dissidents ask U.S. to lift travel, aid limits
Four Cuban dissident groups joined in supporting the U.S. 'elimination
of a series of existing restrictions on the shipment of aid and travel to Cuba.'
Four of Cuba's most prominent dissident groups are calling on the Bush administration to lift at least some restrictions on travel to the island and direct U.S. aid to pro-democracy groups there, saying the restrictions ''in no way help'' their struggle.
The dissidents' statement was intended to support the Miami organizations that handle some of the U.S. aid but wound up causing a stir, particularly among hard-line exile groups that support the travel restrictions. It also raised a question of whether the administration would still push its plan for an extra $80 million to aid an opposition that disagrees with its principal policies.
The six-paragraph statement released over the weekend comes in the wake of a Government Accountability Office report that questioned oversight and spending in $65 million by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for Cuba democracy programs.
The report showed that some agencies in Miami which send goods such as medicine to dissidents also made questionable expenditures on items such as Godiva chocolates or Gameboys for dissidents' kids.
''We deem it very important to achieve a greater efficiency in the use of said [USAID] funds,'' the statement said. ``We believe that one possible way to achieve this would be the elimination of a series of existing restrictions on the shipment of aid and travel to Cuba, which in no way help the struggle for democracy we wage inside our country.
``We hope that the errors committed will be corrected and that a greater amount of aid will reach the pro-democracy activists, so we may advance with greater speed toward the economic, political and social freedom of our motherland.''
The statement was signed by prominent opposition leaders Martha Beatriz Roque, of the Assembly To Promote Civilian Society, Gisela Delgado Sabión, of the Independent Libraries Project, Elizardo Sánchez, who heads the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, and Vladimiro Roca, of the Social Democratic Party of Cuba and spokesman for All United.
Roque's signature was by far the most surprising because of her long-standing support for travel restrictions. Roque is controversial even among Cuban dissidents, particularly for her hard-line stances and close relationship with Cuban-American legislators.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, a strong supporter of Bush Cuba policies, noted that Roque has sent several letters to Congress supporting the 2004 regulations that tightened travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans to the island.
''I have questions to ask about this statement,'' he said. ``It's confusing.''
Roque acknowledged that the statement was an about-face for her, but said she signed it because overall it supports continuing the USAID assistance. Other dissident groups oppose the help, saying it gives the Cuban government a way to portray them as hired guns.
Sending U.S. government cash directly to dissidents is currently banned. Seventy-five dissidents were jailed three years ago in a roundup of what the Cuban government considered ``mercenaries.''
''Sometimes you have to take a position, because the other positions are worse,'' Roque said by phone from Havana. ``This is not my position. I signed it, because the people signing it are the closest to my position.''
The signers were unclear as to whether they were calling for lifting all the travel restrictions -- which also ban all U.S. tourist trips -- or just the tighter restrictions introduced in 2004 that cut back Cuban-American family reunification visits from once a year to once every three years.
Delgado, whose husband is a political prisoner, said she wants the entire ban on both U.S. tourism and family reunification visits lifted.
''We live in a closed society and we don't think the doors should be closed even more,'' she said in a phone interview. ``What we need is an opening.''
Roca agreed: ``The travel restrictions have not provided results. They have hurt the opposition more than the government.''
Sánchez said he believed that the group's intention was to oppose the 2004 limitations, not the ban on U.S. tourism. He said lifting the 2004 restrictions would help dissidents because more Cuban-American travelers could bring suitcases filled with medicine and food, rather than waste U.S. taxpayer money on expensive shipping.
A recent Miami Herald investigation found agencies spent large parts of their funding on expensive shipping fees.
The opposition groups' statement puzzled even Juan Carlos Acosta, their representative in Miami, whose spending was criticized in the GAO report.
''Originally the idea was to speak the truth of our efforts for many years,'' Acosta said. ``. . . But the way it was put together, any member of the press would read it as they want to lift the embargo and any American should be able to travel to Cuba.''
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana said they had no reaction to the statement.
''They don't make the policy,'' said spokeswoman Demitra Pappas. ``That is determined elsewhere, and our policy hasn't changed.''
Miami Herald translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.
The undersigned, members of different pro-democracy groups, wish to go on record with our opinion of the report on assistance for the promotion of democracy in Cuba. Once again, the struggle for democracy in Cuba is enveloped in controversy in the United States Congress because of the report of an audit made into the organizations that make use of USAID [United States Agency for International Development] funds to send aid to Cuba.
That report emphasizes the lack of control on the part of USAID and the State Department in the process of assigning and delivering said funds, as well as the scant advice provided to the organizations that utilize said funds, and the need to increase the projects' efficiency. One paragraph in the 60-page report alludes to some articles purchased and sent to Cuba, which the auditors, according to their subjective opinion, consider to be excessive expenditures.
It is precisely that paragraph which some press media in the United States have utilized to cast doubt on the credibility and integrity of organizations and personalities in exile such as Frank Hernández Trujillo of the Support Group for Democracy, and Juan Carlos Acosta of Cuban Democratic Action, in a suspicious coincidence with the interests of the Cuban government and its repressive organizations.
We deem it very important to achieve a greater efficiency in the use of said funds. We believe that one possible way to achieve this would be the elimination of a series of existing restrictions on the shipment of aid and travel to Cuba, which in no way help the struggle for democracy we wage inside our country.
We hope that the errors committed will be corrected and that a greater amount of aid will reach the pro-democracy activists, so we may advance with greater speed toward the economic, political and social freedom of our motherland.
Issued in Havana, Cuba, on 23 November 2006.
Martha Beatriz Roque, Assembly To Promote Civilian Society
Gisela Delgado Sabión, Independent Libraries Project
Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation
Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Social Democratic Party of Cuba and spokesman for All United
(This was the local paper
where I went to school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, from
1961-1967. A very thoughtful letter. A responsible corrective to the enthusiasm
which I feel myself about the recent miraculous transformation of those exile
militants and the Miami Herald who've suddenly become converts to the idea that
the restrictions on our rights to travel should be ended, now that Fidel is on
sick-leave and everything else in Cuba is moving quietly along. This is not what
the militants and the HERALD had predicted. The Cuban transition process has
moved right along. )
December 5, 2006
Keep eye on U.S. actions toward Cuba
A letter to the editor
Dear Editor: There have been many reports of Fidel Castro's ill health and, as always, that raises speculation on what will happen when he dies.
Clearly the Miami Cubans are ready and waiting. Note that Cuban dissidents who work with the U.S. government have recently called for a lifting of the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. This is interesting because in the past they have supported the travel ban, explaining that it kept Castro's government from receiving U.S. tourist dollars. They have recently changed their tune, but in an interesting way ... some call for more free travel for Cuban-Americans, but not other U.S. citizens.
I can't help but think that, with a sense of Castro's impending death, they want to have as many Cuban-Americans who oppose Castro free to be in Cuba when he dies.
There is widespread speculation that the Miami Cubans, who for 40 years have dreamed of getting their old Cuba back, will try to create chaos in Cuba and retake power, something that the U.S. government would clearly support (with millions of our tax dollars).
So, while we keep our eyes on Castro's health, we should also closely monitor the activities of those who seek a U.S.-controlled "transition" in Cuba, rather than a peaceful succession of power to the current vice president, as the constitutions of both our countries describe.
We have already seen what a U.S. transition to democracy looks like in Iraq. No thanks.
Published: December 5, 2006