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    Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the United States’ Cuba Democracy Program

    Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the United States’ Cuba
    Democracy Program
    BY JOSÉ R. CÁRDENAS AUGUST 7, 2014 – 05:09 PM

    For the second time in four months, the Associated Press has published a
    gross distortion of USAID’s Cuba Democracy Program that has made it the
    subject of unjust derision from the legions of U.S.-Cuba policy critics.
    The news agency evidently believes it has stumbled upon a vast, sinister
    U.S. conspiracy to overthrow the Castro regime, calling to mind those
    halcyon days of exploding cigars and poisoned wetsuits. It is nothing of
    the sort.
    Previously, AP reported that USAID sought to foment an uprising in Cuba
    by introducing a rudimentary Twitter service for Cubans to utilize free
    of regime snooping. Now, we are told that USAID sent hapless youths from
    Latin America to Cuba to recruit agents to lead that national uprising.
    Such assertions are ridiculous on their face. Moreover, it is
    distressing to see how easily people can apparently accept the notion
    that their government would involve itself in such lunacy.
    The good news is, we don’t. As I have written previously, I was
    intimately involved in implementing USAID’s Cuba Program in the latter
    years of the George W. Bush administration. I wrote about the Twitter
    program back in April, and I participated in discussions during the Bush
    administration about ways to encourage purposeful foreign travel to Cuba
    by fellow Spanish-speakers to break down the Cuban people’s isolation.
    These were not spotty spring-breakers or members of loopy tourist groups
    that are licensed to travel to Cuba today on “cultural exchanges.” They
    were seasoned members of Latin American NGOs with a commitment to
    democracy, civil rights, and human development. Their task was to
    develop relationships with ordinary Cubans outside of regime control for
    the express purpose of restoring to them some sense of individual
    self-worth and dignity that has been systematically trampled upon by the
    Castro regime for three generations. The idea that the U.S. government
    was running a “clandestine operation” to lead an uprising is simply risible.
    Our real target was breaking down the barriers that the Castro regime
    imposes on Cuban citizens to keep them isolated from one another and
    civil society atomized. Helping individual Cubans to see themselves as
    human beings with natural rights — indeed, in control of their own
    destiny — and connecting them to the outside world was part of the
    strategy. I would venture to say that people on the streets of Peoria
    would hardly find such a policy as scandalous as AP apparently does.
    Beyond the gross mischaracterization of the program, however, there
    appear to be other serious problems with AP’s reporting, not least of
    which is that some of the groups interviewed by its reporters have
    subsequently complained about the reporters’ ethical violations,
    including quotes out of context, identifying interviewees despite their
    request for anonymity, and bullying them into giving answers that fit a
    predetermined narrative. USAID also criticized the report as
    “sensationalist” in a strongly worded defense of the program.
    As for the critics who have had a field day with the latest AP report,
    it’s all so much faux high-mindedness and rectitude. The bottom line is
    that what matters to them is less what is being done under the program
    than the fact that the program exists at all. It represents an irritant
    and obstacle in the long-sought dream of U.S. reconciliation with the
    Castro regime. Frankly, one of the biggest ironies is their charge that
    we are “interfering” in the internal affairs of a country whose
    government has been interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbors
    for five decades.
    Be that as it may, the Cuba program isn’t going anywhere, because it is
    doing good work on behalf of the people of a captive nation. And because
    serious foreign policy practitioners understand that such programs are
    vital tools in the foreign policy toolkit in the 21st century. Indeed,
    some of the techniques developed under the Cuba program have been
    implemented elsewhere in similar situations. That means that, in the
    end, all the critics have is their self-satisfying ridicule for a
    program that exists only in their imagination.

    Source: Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the United States’ Cuba
    Democracy Program –
    http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/08/07/dont_believe_everything_you_read_about_the_united_states_cuba_democracy_program