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Controversial democracy assistance programs held for review

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

Senator John Kerry (Democrat – Massachusetts), as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has put a temporary hold on all US democracy promotion programs for Cuba while the State Department conducts a review of these programs so that the Committee can investigate their effectiveness. This is a review that many experts have hoped for, questioning the value, for example, of the US-funded Radio and TV Martí, and of supporting opposition groups on the island only to have them labeled as “foreign mercenaries” and isolated from the Cuban population. Still, in the wake of the arrest of the USAID subcontractor Alan P. Gross (who remains imprisoned on the island), some are questioning the hold of funds.

The current points being made for and against the hold and the review:

“We all want democratic change in Cuba… The question is whether American taxpayers are getting progress towards that goal. Sen. Kerry is providing the State Department and USAID a list of questions on the policies, purposes, costs, benefits and modalities of the programs. With assurances that these programs have eliminated waste, fraud, and abuse, this review will not be prolonged.”

– Fred Jones, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Spokesman

“Though we should move on our Cuba policy independently of what the Cubans do, the timing is horrible, and gives the impression to the Cubans that we [may be doing it] in response to their arrest of Gross.”

Senior Republican aide

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America)



Melissa Lockhart Fortner

Melissa Lockhart Fortner is Senior External Affairs Officer at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, having served previously as Senior Programs Officer for the Council. From 2007-2009, she held a research position at the University of Southern California (USC) School of International Relations, where she closely followed economic and political developments in Mexico and in Cuba, and analyzed broader Latin American trends. Her research considered the rise and relative successes of Latin American multinationals (multilatinas); economic, social and political changes in Central America since the civil wars in the region; and Wal-Mart’s role in Latin America, among other topics. Melissa is a graduate of Pomona College, and currently resides in Pasadena, California, with her husband, Jeff Fortner.

Follow her on Twitter @LockhartFortner.