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Posted January 13, 2007 by publisher in US Embargo

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BY OSCAR CORRAL | Miami Herald

Chief of Cuba programs to go work for McCain

The head of the U.S. government’s programs to promote democracy in Cuba and Latin America announced he was leaving to help guide Sen. John McCain’s tentative run for president.

Adolfo Franco, who oversees the U.S. government’s ambitious project to promote democracy in Cuba, will be leaving his post to serve as a foreign policy advisor for Sen. John McCain, who is considering a presidential run.

The announcement by Franco, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean for the U.S. Agency for International Development, comes two months after a critical audit of the Cuba program by the congressional Government Accountability Office; a Miami Herald series also outlined problems with the program’s oversight and effectiveness.

But the Democratic congressional leader who sought the GAO audit said Franco should not be blamed, saying Franco inherited a flawed program.

‘‘The whole Cuba democracy promotion program, it cries out to be reviewed in a very transparent way with rigorous oversight,’’ said Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass. ``Let’s have a full hearing. Let’s air it out.’‘

Delahunt and Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., both opponents of U.S. sanctions on Cuba, requested the GAO audit.

In response to e-mailed questions, Franco said he was not pressured to resign and that USAID had done ``phenomenal work to further the dissident human rights movement in Cuba.’‘

He said after five years on the job it was time to move on. ``I believe I am among the longest serving senior political appointees in the Bush administration serving in the same position.’‘

Franco said he will stay until President Bush taps a successor and the Senate approves the confirmation.

John Weaver, senior strategist for McCain’s exploratory campaign, called Straight Talk America, hailed Franco, a Cuban American, as ‘‘an outstanding public servant’’ who ``understands the issues related to our hemisphere as well as anyone.’‘

McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who later pushed for U.S. trade with that country, has visited Cuban exile leaders in Miami several times, trying to shore up support in Florida.

The Arizona Republican has worked hard to dispel any questions about his stand on Cuba. In August, after Fidel Castro transferred power to his brother Ra�l, McCain told a crowd in Miami: ``My friends, let’s have a dialogue with Ra�l Castro the day after we have a fair election and Cuba is free.’‘

McCain, who lost his bid for the presidency in 2000, told The Miami Herald during that campaign that he was open to negotiations with Cuba if Castro’s government took certain steps, such as setting free political prisoners and allowing ``freedom for business people in Cuba.’‘

Frank Calzon, who heads the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba, one of the largest USAID recipients, said Franco has done an excellent job administering the program.

‘‘Franco executed successfully the president’s Cuba policy,’’ said Calzon, whose center has spent more than $5 million on pro-democracy efforts for Cuba since 1998.

Calzon cited the federal audit, which, he noted, closely examined 10 of USAID’s 34 grantees. ``They found substantial problems in only three grants. That sounds like a success, not a failure.’‘

Andy Gomez, a senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American studies, which is partially funded by USAID, said there are discussions between the U.S. State Department and USAID over which agency will control USAID democracy-funding.

‘‘Those issues need to be worked out to some extent,’’ Gomez said. ``Adolfo has been very supportive of our program, and has given us very good advice over the years.’‘

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen did not return phone calls for comment. A spokeswoman for Rep. Lincoln D�az-Balart said he was traveling and not available for comment. They are strong supporters of the USAID Cuba programs and have praised Franco’s leadership.

For some exiles, USAID’s democracy program has been a disappointment.

‘‘The majority of the money stays in the United States and the dissidents don’t receive it,’’ said exile activist Ram�n Sa�l S�nchez, who has never received funding from USAID. ``The effectiveness that a program like that could have remains clouded over political issues.’‘

In November, a GAO report on the Cuba democracy program found that 95 percent of the $65 million spent by USAID since 1996 were allotted ‘‘in response to unsolicited proposals,’’ meaning there were no competitive bids.

GAO found the program spent millions of dollars without proper oversight, leading to questionable purchases.

The Miami Herald also found that millions of dollars stayed in Miami and Washington—instead of reaching the political opposition on the communist island.

GAO auditors referred their findings to the Inspector General’s office to probe deeper into the program.

Delahunt said Congress plans to hold hearings in March on USAID’s Cuba program and the operations of Radio and TV Mart�.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 13, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Looks like strike one for McCain’s “middle of the road” candidacy. If he is bringing in someone from the USAID camp with the “approval” of the old Cuban exiles, he has just tainted his campaign. I would guess he is doing this to get funding and support from old exiles in Miami.

    Notice that Franco will be serving as McCain’s foreign policy advisor. Great. Time for an Embargo on North Korea, Iran, heck even China until they have free elections too, right?

    Also—“Calzon cited the federal audit, which, he noted, closely examined 10 of USAID’s 34 grantees. ``They found substantial problems in only three grants. That sounds like a success, not a failure.”


    “The Miami Herald also found that millions of dollars stayed in Miami and Washington—instead of reaching the political opposition on the communist island.”

    Yeah, Frank, sounds like a real success.

    And that is why I say that the old exiles secretly say “Viva Fidel” so they can keep the money flowing to them so they can bring democracy to Cuba.

    How’s that 45 year old Plan A Embargo working out for you old exiles?

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 14, 2007 by Someone who can't stand some of the communist BS t

    Why don’t you go smoke a stogie with the commandante himself, while wearing your “cool” “hip” che guevara shirt.  People like you discust me, you sit back and watch your communist brainwash that you see coming from cuba and eat up like a 15 year old watching a porno.  You have no respect for those who have been through hell, for those who had everything just to have it taken from them and have to start all over.  Of course you don’t care though, because you sit here on your sofa watching tv enjoying the luxuries of liberty, all the while not knowing just how good you have it.  Whats so wrong with bringing back democracy to Cuba?  Bring it back to the glory that it once had?  A time when its per capita income was higher than any other spanish nation including spain itself.  The world has turned so communist its sad, the system is a failure, and its a failure because of mankind.  The idea itself sounds great on paper, but we forget one thing, people are power hungry and they think of themselves before others always.  So go support your failed form of government that has proven to NOT WORK time and time again.  I just hope I get to see a democratic Cuba before I die, and I hope people like you don’t, because you don’t deserve it.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 14, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Dear anonymous poster,

    We welcome all viewpoints here. I think you need to read through the Havana Journal a bit more so you understand us better.

    What exactly are you objecting to here?

    Do you know about USAID?

    Do you know about the old Cuban exiles preventing all Americans’ right to travel?

    We welcome everyone to Read. Discover. Understand. as it says in the header.

    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 15, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Bst, I Love your assertion…, “Bringing back Democracy to Cuba…and bring back to the glory it once had? Are we talking about the same Cuba under Machado and Batista..and the Diaz Balart, Bacardi families, where the gulf between the haves and have nots was as wide as the Pacific Ocean. Or perhaps you are waxing nostalgic about the Cuba where the Mafia rulrd the Casinos and clubs and the Cuba had to get the permission of the US Govt. just to pass wind? Sadly, you must one of the privileged who belie that only those of your elevated staus need to live, whilst the others need just to survive!

  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 15, 2007 by Anonymous Poster

    I agree 100% that Machado and Batista were in NO way good leaders, however, under them things were MUCH better than they are now.  That same vast gap that existed between the rich and the poor exists now between what poor was then and is now.  If you intend to argue the point that things are better now than they were, then you should re-evaluate your opinion.  Its easy for you to comment though, lookin in from the outside.  I was not one of the “priveleged” ones you speak about, however, I was priveleged enough to think freely and decide for myself what I wanted to think… something that Fidel and his movement took away.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on January 16, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Anonymous, Perhaps you should read my posting with a little more diligence and comprehension. I was pointing out that your assertions were off the page. It all comes down to who is for the people and who represented the interests of the privileged few. It is rather easy to take sides, based on ideology. However, there is a certain difficulty that man faces when trying to prserve an biased poit of view.

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