For the fifth time in less than a month, the New York Times has published an editorial on Cuba, this time acknowledging the numerous futile attempts made by the United States to undermine stability in Cuba, in hopes of provoking an uprising against the government.
On Sunday November 9, under the title, “In Cuba, Misadventures in Regime Change,” the influential paper’s Editorial Committee reviewed the failed U.S. policy, and multiple attempts made to destabilize the country, since the approval of the Helms-Burton Act, in 1996.
The Times emphasizes that these subversive projects have cost the government 264 million dollars over 18 years, in a futile attempt to promote what it calls democratic reforms in Cuba.
The editorial acknowledges, “Far from accomplishing that goal, the initiatives have been largely counterproductive. The funds have been a magnet for charlatans, swindlers… The stealthy programs have increased hostility between the two nations … and stymied opportunities to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.”
The Times details how during the Bush administration, “Spending on initiatives to oust the government surged from a few million a year to more than $20 million in 2004. Most contracts were awarded, without much oversight, to newly formed Cuban-American groups. One used funds on a legally questionable global lobbying effort to persuade foreign governments to support America’s unpopular embargo.
Other grantees sent loads of comic books to the American diplomatic mission in Havana, bewildering officials there. The money was also used to buy food and clothes, but there was no way to track how much reached relatives of political prisoners, the intended recipients.
“According to a November 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office, one contractor used the pro-democracy money to buy “a gas chain saw, computer gaming equipment and software (including Nintendo Game Boys and Sony PlayStations), a mountain bike, leather coats, cashmere sweaters, crab meat and Godiva chocolates,” purchases he was unable to justify to auditors.”
In December 2009, Cuban authorities arrested a U.S. citizen contracted to travel to the island five times on USAID business, posing as a tourist to smuggle communication equipment, the Times recalls, adding “Senior officials at USAID and the State Department were startled by the risks being taken, and some argued that the covert programs were counterproductive and should be stopped. But Cuban-American lawmakers fought vigorously to keep them alive.”
“After Mr. Gross’s arrest,” the Times continues, “The aid agency stopped sending American contractors into Cuba, but it allowed its contractors to recruit Latin Americans for secret missions that were sometimes detected by the Cuban intelligence services. An investigation by The Associated Press published in April revealed a controversial program carried out during the Obama administration.
Between 2009 and 2012, Creative Associates International, a Washington firm, built a rudimentary text messaging system similar to Twitter, known as ZunZuneo, Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet. It was supposed to provide Cubans with a platform to share messages with a mass audience, and ultimately be used to assemble “smart mobs.”
“The program was scrapped in 2012. Contractors had been paying tens of thousands of dollars in text-messaging fees to the Cuban telecommunications company and never found a way to make the platform self-sustaining. A second A.P. report revealed in August that U.S.A.I.D. had been sending young Latin Americans to Cuba to identify “potential social change actors,” under the pretext of organizing gatherings like an HIV prevention workshop.”
The editorial emphasizes that, instead of hatching undercover plots to overthrow the Cuban government, U.S. leaders need to find a way to cooperate with the Cuban government, concluding, “Washington should recognize that the most it can hope to accomplish is to positively influence Cuba’s evolution toward a more open society. That is more likely to come about through stronger diplomatic relations than subterfuge.”
By Staff Writers, Granma Internacional
November 11, 2014