Posts in Cuban democracy program
It's not often you see public infighting between an administration and a Senate chairman of the same party. But last week, an impasse over USAID's Cuba program between USAID and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry heated up on the pages of The Miami Herald. According to the Herald, somebody called somebody a "Communist dupe" and the word "backstabbing" was thrown around.
What's the ruckus about? Last spring, the Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Committees charged with foreign affairs put holds on FY09 USAID funds for its Cuba program. The two chairmen questioned the efficacy of a program which (do we have to remind anyone at this point?) has had its fair share of problems. After successive investigations uncovered embarassing misuse of funds, fraud and embezzlement, and a lack of demonstrable or significant results, the arrest of an American USAID subcontractor in Cuba forced Congress to finally examine how practicable USAID's democracy mission in Cuba really is.
The Chairmen seemed to come to an understanding with USAID after numerous consultations together last spring, and released their holds. The result was a $5 million cut to the program and a shift in the program's strategy and implementation. This spring, when USAID gave notice to Congress that it was ready to spend FY2010 funds, Kerry again held the funds (which were back to $20 million), and submitted more than a dozen detailed questions to USAID. (The notification is here. The questions and answers are here.)
It's pretty in-the-weeds stuff, but the upshot I get from reading it is that team Kerry thinks that USAID hasn't lived up to whatever deals were agreed to last spring. But team USAID thinks not only has it done enough, but that it can "take" Kerry in this rematch. How else to explain administration officials leaking an email from a Democratic chairman's office to the media?