U.S. President Barack Obama should conclude the “high-cost, low-impact [George W.] Bush-era programs” in Cuba that imperiled U.S. aid worker Alan Gross, who was sentenced Saturday (March 12) to 15 years in prison for crimes against the Cuban state, an expert on Cuban affairs argues.
Gross was contracted by U.S. development firm DAI to implement U.S. Agency for International Development projects aimed at promoting political change in Cuba. Cuban authorities deemed the program as subversive. The U.S. said Gross was only providing satellite communications equipment and Internet access to Jewish groups in Cuba.
>> Cuba Sentences US Aid Worker to 15 Years in Jail
Philip Peters, vice president of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, says the Bush administration spent U.S. foreign affairs funding to “send foreign artists and musicians to connect with counterparts in Cuba, while denying licenses to Americans who would carry out people-to-people programs on their own dime. And while looking for ways to spend government money on Internet and technology in Cuba, he kept the American private sector out, even forcing American companies to block downloads of free software by users in Cuba.”
On the other hand, Peters lauds the Obama administration for increasing grassroots contact in Cuba and allowing Cubans to access tools such as instant messaging, blogging platforms and open-source software.
Obama “should press on with an overhaul of USAID’s programs, unapologetically ending third-country spending and pseudo-covert operations that play into the hands of Cuban state security,” Peters writes in the Miami Herald.
“President Obama is short on macho rhetoric and hollow regime-change promises, but his approach delivers results: effective communication and support for Cuban citizens, churches, and other institutions at a time when their economic opportunities are increasing and they have a lot of history to make,” he concludes.
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