Otto Reich on Terrorism, Carlos Saladrigas in Cuba, and Tracey Eaton's USAID FOIA Mission
If a US government program funds democracy-building work in Cuba, but no one is allowed to learn the details, did the work actually happen? Tracey Eaton, a Florida-based journalist investigating U.S. government democracy-building programs in Cuba to see who receives the money and what U.S. taxpayers get for it, has shared USAID’s response to one of his many FOIA requests, this one on 11 years worth of USAID work in Cuba carried out by its grantee, Freedom House. You might ask, why does a journalist need to submit FOIA request when USAID’s Mark Lopes recently insisted that, "Nothing about USAID's Cuba programs is covert or classified in any way.” The heavily, er, almost totally, redacted FOIA response you see above (which Eaton scanned and posted on his blog, Along the Malecon) presents the real conundrum – what’s a reporter to do when even a Freedom of Information Act request fulfilled yields no actual information?
Just in time for the Summit of the Americas, which Ecuador’s Rafael Correa is boycotting due to the exclusion of Cuba, Otto Reich, with Ezequiel Vazquez Ger, has penned an op-ed for Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government, “How Ecuador’s immigration policy helps Al Qaeda.” Reich and his coauthor argue that Ecuador’s relatively open immigration policy makes it too easy for terrorists to get into the country. I’m not familiar with Ecuador’s visa policies so I won’t debate the merits of his case. What I find so interesting about this piece – aside from the over-the-top headline – is that the same could be argued of a similarly open immigration policy, that of the U.S. towards Cubans, but I’ve never heard Reich, a staunchly anti-Castro Cuban American who was a top advisor to President George W. Bush for Latin American affairs, complain about that policy. That policy, which presumes all Cubans are political refugees, goes something like this: if you arrive in the United States by illegal means – without a legal visa – congratulations! You can stay. (And in 366 days, you can apply for a green card.) Now, if you actually believed that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism – for a recent examination of the U.S. case against Cuba, see this article by General John Adams (Ret.) and David Jones – wouldn’t such a lax U.S. immigration policy towards Cubans who arrive illegally to the United States give you, me and especially Otto Reich, pause?
Finally, it’s heartening to see that while some few in Miami and Havana still fight reconciliation, many others are simply moving forward and achieving incremental and real progress. A Miami businessman and former ‘hardliner’, Carlos Saladrigas, who opposed Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba and regretted it, not only went to see Pope Benedict XVI in Cuba, but stayed behind to give a talk (it's a must-read; full text is here) at a public forum in Havana:
“This was an event of tremendous importance, the first time that a prominent Cuban from [abroad] could express these thoughts in a large forum,” said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, an independent Cuban economist who attended the meeting. He remarked that Saladrigas and the dozen people who stood at the microphone criticized both the Cuban and U.S. governments — and even offered a few solutions — in voices respectful and calm.