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Posted November 20, 2006 by publisher in US Embargo

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By Pablo Bachelet | Miami Herald

Two congressmen who oppose sanctions on Cuba said Wednesday they will push for an investigation of U.S. programs to promote democracy on the island after a report uncovered poor oversight and indications of wastefulness.

“The conclusions are disturbing, to say the least,” Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said of a report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The GAO report said more than 95 percent of U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Cuba were handed out without any competitive bids and were then subject to only perfunctory reviews. It cites questionable purchases of items like cashmere sweaters and crab meat for dissidents on the island.

Delahunt is set to become chairman of the Oversight and Investigations panel of the House Committee on International Relations when the Democratic-controlled Congress reconvenes early next year.

He also is co-chair with Arizona Republican Rep. Jeffrey Flake of the Cuba Working Group, a bipartisan caucus that opposes many U.S. sanctions against Cuba. The two lawmakers requested the GAO study.

Delahunt recognized that it was a “challenge” getting democracy promotion material to Cuba given the communist dictatorship that operates there.

“But our concern is the program’s efficacy,” he said, “in terms of what is occurring here in the United states, both in Washington and in Miami.”

Delahunt told a news conference Wednesday that he expected his subcommittee will convene hearings as soon as January and hoped to get testimonies from U.S. government officials as well as grant recipients.

The U.S. government has spent more than $73 million on promoting democracy in Cuba since 1996, with the bulk of those funds being channeled through USAID.

Flake said the problems highlighted by the GAO report show that the programs do little to advance democracy in Cuba.

“I simply don’t know how we can continue with the current individuals who are running the programs and the current structure after this report,” Flake said. “Maybe this also calls for a change in policy.”

Defenders of the Cuba democracy programs say the report may actually help improve the initiatives.

“From what I understand, the report does not question our goal and overall policy to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba,” said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “In fact, based on what I know of the report, I would argue it seeks to reinforce our efforts by providing recommendations on how to improve the process.”

Flake noted that the government is spending up to $20 per pound to send products such as books and shortwave radios to the island. Allowing unrestricted travel to the island would make it much cheaper to send the materials, he added.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 20, 2006 by J. Perez

    Rep. Ros-Lethninen and her Miami crowd are going to bring democracy to Cuba just like Mr. Bush has brought democracy to Iraq.
    Mr. Flake, on the other hand, along with many others in the House has a common-sense approach which is likely to bring democratic reforms to Cuba a lot sooner than those advocated by Ros-Lethninen, Diaz Balart and co., they have had 45 years to work on a solution and have absolutely nothing to show for it.


  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 22, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    The truth always comes out in the end, and what goes around comes around.  Soon, people like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers will be exposed.  All those exile groups who lined their pockets under the pretense of “bringing democracy to Cuba” should be forced to pay back all the taxpayer money or face prison terms.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 27, 2006 by James E. Middleton/Joshua Enterprises, Inc.

    On December 15th, 2006, a contingent of personnel will embark from Miami and dedicate a 16 foot Christmas Tree in Old Havana. The Tree Ceremony will be conducted at The Museum of St. Asissi. This will be the third year in a row that the Cuban Govenment has allowed this event to take place. This gesture is from U.S. Christians to the people of Cuba, as a token of love, respect, and a desire for improved relations between our two countries!

    Pat Rutherford, President and CEO of Praise Broadcasting Network, and The Worship Radio Network, will produce Christian Music programming from Havana.  There will also be interviews with various Cuban personalities.

    Immediately after the Tree Lighting Ceremony there will be a Christian Church Service. Cuban government personnel will record these events for television replay in the U.S.! This will be the first time in over 47 years that this type of Christian activity will be broadcast from Cuba! The contingent will return to Miami on December 18th, 2006!


  4. Follow up post #4 added on November 27, 2006 by J. Perez

    Good work Mr. Middleton. Religious leaders get it, business leaders get it. it seems the only ones that don’t get it are political leaders.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on February 05, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    We have no official US House of Representatives URL for this Cuba Working Group. Please post if you have the URL.

    Thanks.

    PS We own CubaWorkingGroup.com and .org and would be happy to promote its existence on the Internet but we need the URL. So, for now those domain names point to this page.



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