US Money Pays for Converting Bad News for Cubans into Good News Elsewhere

Photograph Source: Adam Jones – CC BY 2.0

The cruder U.S. methods for destroying Cuba’s revolutionary government – military attacks, bombings of hotels and a fully-loaded airplane, violent attacks on officials, biological warfare – did not work. Nor has economic blockade, which of course continues. A more subtle approach also exists. Its purpose, like that of the blockade, is to cause despair and then dissent.

The U.S. government pays for information that can be construed as bad news about Cuba’s revolutionary government, and pays for its dissemination within Cuba and abroad. U.S. paymasters provide money to agents who deliver it – they keep some for themselves – to real or potential government opponents inside Cuba and beyond. The latter are spurred on to find or devise information unfavorable to Cuba’s image and then spread it.  Well-founded complaints about shortages, bureaucracy, low wages, and living with the pandemic also become news items.

Those organizations that transfer money from the United States to disaffected individuals and groups in Cuba and elsewhere – many are based in Florida or Spain – are key to the entire operation. One recalls the “bagman” who in certain U.S. cities used to deliver pay-offs from point to point within a criminal network. The parties currently handing over U.S. money are an updated version of bagmen.

There’s an odor of criminality. Any interference with Cuba’s conduct of its own affairs violates norms of international law relating to national sovereignty. It turns out that, as of 2011, “Accusations of fraud, reckless distribution of funds, and diversion of monies to stateside anti-Cuban groups have prompted temporary stays in disbursement of funds.”

Manipulation of information about Cuba fits with U.S. efforts to build a political opposition inside Cuba, as authorized by the Helms Burton Law of 1996.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is one of two big U.S. paymasters. Founded in 1983, it’s a non-governmental organization funded exclusively by the U.S. Congress. The projects funded by the NED are similar to those formerly undertaken by the CIA.

The Cuban Communist Party’s Granma newspaper on January 18, 2022 presented a list published on the NED website on February 23, 2021. Groups are named “which received funding to intervene in Cuba during the year 2020, with sums ranging from 20,000 to 650,000 dollars.”

The list includes 42 groups; the total amount dispensed was $5,077,788. The short list appearing below is of groups receiving $146,360 or more along with the amount of money each one received, its home base, and the supposed shortcoming in Cuba needing to be fixed.

The top recipients of NED funds were:

+ Cubalex – $150,000 – Memphis, TN (human rights)

+ National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) – $500,000 – Washington DC (gender rights)

+ Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos – $150,000 – Madrid (human rights)

+ Asociacion Diario de Cuba – $215,000 – Madrid (access to information)

+ Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresion y Prensa – $146,360 – Hialeah, FL (access to information)

+ Cuban Democratic Directorate – $650,000 – Miami (access to information)

+ Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) – $309,766 – Washington DC (private sector needing support)

+ Clovek v tisni, o.p.s. (People in Need) – $150,882 – Prague (access to information)

+ Grupo Internacional para la Responsabilidad Social Corporativa en Cuba – $230,000 – Miami (labor rights)

The State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is another paymaster. On October 23, 2021, journalist Tracey Eaton’s “Cuba Money Project” websitereported on disbursements USAID had announced during the previous month. The total being delivered to 12 organizations was $6,669,000. The list, constructed like the one above, includes:

+ International Republican Institute -$1,006,895 – Washington DC (human rights)

+ Pan American Development Foundation — $800,000 – Washington DC. (labor exploitation)

+ Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba — $717,000 – Miami (medical workers exploited)

+ Digital News Association, $604,920 (military abuse)

+ Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia, $625,000 – Miami (political prisoners)

+ International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, $546,00 – Washington DC (human rights and racism)

+ Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, $545,573 – Washington DC (democracy)

+ Directorio Democrático Cubano, $520,179 – Miami Florida (tourist workers exploited)

+ Outreach Aid to the Americas, $500,000 – Miami (humanitarian crisis)

+ Cubanet News, $408,003 – Coral Gables, (tourist workers exploited)

+ Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos, $250,000 – Madrid (political prisoners)

+ Libertatis, $166,430 – Houston, TX (human rights)

Cubans in many cities, predominantly young people, took to the streets on July 11, 2021. They were protesting shortages of medical supplies, food, and other goods; the failure of remittances from abroad to arrive; and, in some instances, racial discrimination. Arrests and detentions followed and, more recently, trials and prison sentences.

Social media played a major role in mobilizing the protesters and subsequently in disseminating news of arrests, injuries, property damage, and reaction from abroad. As with social-media trial runs in earlier anti-Cuba propaganda campaigns, a portion of U.S. government funds delivered by intermediaries was undoubtedly earmarked for expanding the role of social media in recruiting protesters and in publicizing adverse fallout.

As bad news from Cuba makes its way to anti-Cuban politicians in the United States and Europe, it takes on added value. New pretexts crop up for administrative actions and legislation that, aimed at destabilization in Cuba, imposes sanctions and tightens blockade rules. These in turn generate reports of new grief in Cuba.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently responded to the trials of some of the July 11 protest leaders and the resulting prison terms by announcing visa restrictions against eight Cuban officials. A legislative proposal recently introduced by South Florida congresspersons in response to the protests calls upon President Biden to urge the United Nations to issue sanctions against Cuba. The bill’s title is “Atrocities and Genocide in Cuba.”

The story here is about siege socialism. In his Blackshirts and Reds, Michael Parenti shows Russian revolutionaries under Lenin cutting back on their aspirations due to pressures of civil war and invasion by capitalist nations: “[I]n May 1921, the same Lenin who had encouraged the practice of internal party democracy and struggled … to give the trade unions a greater measure of autonomy, now called for an end to the Workers’ Opposition and other factional groups within the party.”

Fidel Castro once offered a vivid characterization of the situation of a socialist society faced with enemy harassment going back on its goals and those enemies saying it’s the best socialists can do – as if peace were prevailing.  He declared that, “For forty years you try to strangle us. And then you criticize us for the way we breathe.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.