Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Buying of "Democracy" Agents in Cuba



“The populace may hiss me, but when I go home and think of my money, I applaud myself. ”

Horace (c. 25 BC)

“Unequal exchange, as practiced by the conquerors with the natives purchasing gold with mirrors, marbles and European trinkets, must  cease.”

Fidel Castro, 1998

In fiscal year 2008-2009 the United States government has budgeted $45,000,000 to finance the opposition against the revolutionary government in Cuba. The money is used to fund rightwing exile organizations, eastern European rightwing politicians involved with Cuba and money oriented “civil society” promoters. Some of the money ends up in Cuba.  The details of such counterrevolutionary program is little known by the world. The Cubans within the island who receive the so-called “assistance” claim to be involved in promoting “civil society” and “democracy.” They maintain that what they are doing is not subversive. The official line from the United States government is that the money it supplies  has a humanitarian intent. The recipients, however, are agents of a foreign power if we follow US law definitions. [1] It is unknown how much money the United States government is really spending to bring an end to the revolutionary government in Havana. [2]

The videos, photos, documents and phone conversation logs transmitted over the Mesa Redonda TV program  in Havana during three consecutive days (May 19, 20, 21) disclosed some of the mechanisms used to provide money payments to dissidents via  Marta Beatriz Roque, a sort of dissident paymaster/accountant in Havana. She describes herself in her emails to rightwing exiles and US officials, as Tia McPato (as in the Disney character – Aunt Scrooge McDuck. )

The money provided to the “dissidents” seem to be mere peanuts, when compared to the total amount of money appropriated by the US Congress. Indeed, it is obvious, that the “dissidents” provide the “cover” for the real entrepreneurs in Florida to enrich themselves. One can very well assume that if the US AID grants a lump sum of, say, $5 million to a Miami “democracy promotion organization” and then the organization puts the money in a bank to get yearly earnings – the earnings might be sufficient to finance the “dissidents”. Miami, of course, will keep the lion’s share of the grant. And the “grant” [our tax dollars at work] will be renewed the following years. Both Republicans and Democrats in the Congress approve of a “foreign aid” that ends up in Coral Gables and the Florida keys.

In a sense, the “dissidents” in the island face all the political and economic costs but receive very little of the financial benefits – when compared to exile “donors.” Granted, a monthly payment of $200-1,500 US dollars is certainly 100 times what the average Cuban earns. Yet, the island “dissidents” thank the exile “donors” abroad when in fact; the exile entrepreneurs should be thanking the “dissidents.” Or, to put it differently, the “dissidents” are the proletarians while the Miami hustlers are the bourgeois employers.

The logic of such political opposition is NOT to be too successful in the REAL recruiting of thousands of political opponents inside Cuba. To do so would be a major logistical and financial conundrum – for that success would imply much more financial accounting. Rather, the best strategy is to CLAIM a lot of political proselytizing in order to obtain as much funding from abroad as possible.

The Miami promoters/handlers need the “dissidents” but do not want them to get too much of a claim over the capital available. This is accomplished by obtaining invoices for all services rendered. In a sense, this whole enterprise moves millions of dollars in Florida and elsewhere, but it comes to “penny capitalism” in Havana.

Marta Beatriz Roque distributes an average of $200 per “dissident”. Thus, if 10 “dissidents”= $200×10=$2000; 100 “dissidents”, $20,000 and so forth. By playing such a role Marta Beatriz Roque is not a political “leader” but rather a financial “accountant.” She knows so and calls herself Tia MacPato. How much money she receives determines how many people she could, potentially recruit. Of course, she could increase the monthly payments of those who are already recruited. On the other hand, that some of the “dissidents” do not seem to get any money payment, perhaps behaving on the basis of “moral incentives” or not realizing that everyone gets a fee for services rendered.

Interestingly, the money is supplied on a monthly basis rather than as a lump sum. Tia McPato would like to get lump sums – that would provide her with discretionary power. But it will reduce the political influence that Miami would have over Havana. The one with the money commands. Thus, payments are done on a monthly basis – although this is a cumbersome logistical mechanism. But it is revealing what the method accomplishes:

1. It reminds the recipient of the funds who is the boss – that is Santiago Alvarez. 2. It makes the recipients financially dependent on a monthly basis, which is a form of control: you don’t deliver political acts, you don’t get paid. This is measured on the basis of the foreign press reporting on the actions. 3. The monthly payments, delivered by Marta Beatriz, is a form of political control. The money payments is a tool of political recruitment and a form of retainer, from month to month. 4. The monthly payments allow the people with the capital in Florida (who received the money from the US government and other undisclosed sources) to set up an account that earns interests. Thus, if AID supplies the “non profit” organization in Miami with the capital, then the money is put in an interest earning account.

The relationship between the Miami promoters/bourgeoisie and the Havana “dissident”/proletarians is a very unique exchange. Miami has US-government supplied financial capital; Havana “dissidents” claim to have political capital. The latter is seemingly correlated with time served in a Cuban prison or openly challenging the Cuban authorities; both generate more political capital in the eyes of the Miami and Washington DC promoters of long-distance “democracy”. Those who have been arrested or answer to the behest of the US Interest Section have a higher exchange value than those who do not. Moreover, those who served some prison time but do not continue their day to day “demonstration politics” then do not get pay as much as those who do. Tia McPato who is the money distributor among the “dissidents” claims the political leadership over the proletarians.

In such a relationship, it becomes imperative for the proletarians to try to extort as much from the employers abroad. This requires that the actions of the “dissidents” be covered by the foreign press. [“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”] In other words, political “show and tell” is the very stuff of such “demonstration politics”. No TV time or press headlines, no pay. It is imperative, then, to cultivate the foreign media stationed in Havana. The foreign media plays the part of the stock analyst who keeps the market ratings on “dissidence” high. Seemingly, the correspondents’ job is to tout the market value of the “dissidents” whose  stock would be worthless if their real value were exposed.

The Cuban government has challenged the US government, the foreign media stationed in Cuba, or the island’s “dissidents” to answer head-on the evidence that has been disclosed and the substantive charges. It is doubtful that any of the players will do so. Meanwhile the commercial enterprise called “democracy promotion” will continue.

Perhaps the promotion of democracy should begin with exporting to Cuba some legislation from the United States.  I propose that our country persuade the government in Havana to adopt from the US Code 18 U.S.C.A. § 953 [1948] – better known as the Logan Act.

The Act reads in part, “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.” [3] All that would be necessary is for the Cuban government to replace the phrase “United States” and include “Republic of Cuba.”

Now, that might be an interesting way of furthering democracy.

NELSON P. VALDÉS is a Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico.

This essay was originally published by Cuba-L Analysis.


[1] See the essay by Salim Lamrani: 05/07/08 – Rebelión (Madrid) – Las contradicciones de Amnistia Internacional.

[2] There is a concurrent effort, also financed by the United States government, to prepare the “transition teams” that will be sent once the Cuban revolutionary regime is overthrown. Just on May 8th, 2008 AID requested proposals to the tune of $30 million from five US corporations who have been involved in such “transitions” elsewhere. Source:  AID email, May 8, 2008 entitled: COMPETITIVE TASK ORDER SOLICITATION IN SUPPORT OF THE CUBA DEMOCRACY AND CONTINGENCY PLANNING PROGRAM (CDCPP).

[3] See: U.S. Code, Title 19, Part I, Chapter 45, § 953




Your Ad Here





Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Inside the Invisible Government: War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump
Andrew Levine
The Hillary Era is Coming: Worry!
Gary Leupp
Seven World-Historical Achievements of the Iraq Invasion of 2003
Paul Street
Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel: 1984 Everlasting
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Comfortably Dumb
Michael Brenner
American Foreign Policy in the Post-Trump Era
Luciana Bohne
Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam
Robert Hunziker
The Political Era of Climate Refugees
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution was an Atrocity
Michael Munk
Getting Away With Terrorism in Oregon
T.J. Coles
Confronting China: an Interview with John Pilger
Pete Dolack
Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More
Joyce Nelson
Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA
John Laforge
US Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria
Paul Edwards
The Vision Thing ’16
Arshad Khan
Hillary, Trump and Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes the Major Presidential Candidates
Peter Lee
It’s ON! Between Duterte and America
Chris Zinda
The Bundy Acquittal: Tazing of #oregonstandoff
Norman Pollack
America at the Crossroads: Abrogation of Democracy
Bill Quigley
Six Gulf Protectors Arrested Challenging Gulf Oil Drilling
Joseph Grosso
Starchitects in the City: Vanity Fair and Gentrification
Patrick Carr
Economic Racial Disparity in North Carolina
David Swanson
Public vs. Media on War
Chris Gilbert
Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics
Ira Helfand
Nukes and the UN: a Historic Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
Brian Cloughley
The US, NATO and the Pope
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Sam Albert
Kids on Their Own in Calais: the Tip of an Iceberg-Cold World
Russell Mokhiber
Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America
Ron Jacobs
Death to the Fascist Insect! The SLA and the Cops
Cesar Chelala
Embargo on Cuba is an Embarrassment for the United States
Jack Smith
And the Winner Is….
Ken Knabb
Beyond Voting: the Limits of Electoral Politics
Matt Peppe
An Alternate Narrative on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Uri Avnery
The Israeli Trumpess
James Rothenberg
Water Under the Bridge
Louis Yako
Remembering Rasul Gamzatov: The Poet of the People
Dave Reilly
Complete the Sentence: an Exploration of Orin Langelle’s “If Voting Changed Things…”
Jonathan H. Martin
When Nobody Returns: Palestinians Show They are People, Too
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Simon Jones
The Human Lacunae in Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake”
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
Charles R. Larson
Review: Brit Bennett’s “The Mothers”
David Yearsley
Bach on the Election