Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont on Tuesday lifted the final hold on the last part of a $20 million allocation for Cuba democracy programs, ending a bitter three-month fight over the programs’ effectiveness.

The funds are designed to help more than a dozen types of non-government activities, from youth groups to training on computers, communications and private enterprise and support for the communist-ruled country’s lesbian and gay community.

Leahy, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees State Department spending, announced that he freed the final $14 million of the $20 million package after the Department and its Agency for International Development answered his questions about human rights and civil society initiatives in Cuba.

But his statement made it clear he remains concerned about the programs, repeatedly criticized since their start in 1996 as wasteful and inefficient and managing only to provoke Havana into cracking down on dissidents who receive the U.S. assistance.

“The United States has a strong interest in helping the Cuban people improve their lives and protect their rights,” the statement said.  “We also have a responsibility to know how U.S. taxpayer dollars are used and whether programs are effective.”

“For too long this program has been carried out in ways that have been neither transparent nor accountable, and with no way to measure results.  That needs to change, and getting answers about the way these funds are spent is a constructive first step,” he added.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, put a “hold” on the full $20 million April 1 as his committee challenged the usefulness and transparency of the programs. Leahy added his own hold shortly afterward.

Kerry lifted his hold last week, after winning a promise by State and USAID officials that they would send his committee a detailed report on questions such as the programs’ effectiveness and how many Cubans they benefit.

Leahy let it be known on the same day that he had no issues with $6 million of the $20 million but needed more information on the rest.

The two senators expressed private concerns last week that freeing the funds might anger Cuban authorities amid speculation that they could release Alan P. Gross, a USAID subcontractor serving a 15-year prison sentence in Havana.

The 62-year-old development specialist from Potomac, Md., was arrested in 2009 for delivering a satellite telephone to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community so that it could access the Internet independently of Cuban government controls.

Cuba’s highest court heard his appeal last month, and U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed the hope that he would be released soon on humanitarian grounds because his wife, daughter and mother all face health problems.



Recent Articles

Date Title
8/31/11 Cuba Dissidents Ask Church to Stop Harassment by State
Reuters
8/31/11 Grammy-winning Cuban singer Pablo Milanes, in letter, blasts attacks on dissidents in Cuba
Associated Press
8/31/11 Web rumor on Fidel Castro’s death catches on
By Alfonso Chardy, The Miami Herald
8/30/11 Dissidents say police used tear gas in a raid, beat women
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/30/11 Cuban civil society fights to be heard
By Paolo Paranagua, The Guardian
8/30/11 A&K scraps Cuba tours after reviewing new U.S. regulations
By Gay Myers, Travel Weekly
8/29/11 Cuban singer Milanes’ first Miami concert marked with emotion
By Jordan Levin, The Miami Herald
8/29/11 From Dictactorship to Democracy: The Transition in Cuba Has Already Started
Yoani Sanchez, Huffington Post
8/29/11 Cubans may finally get to buy new cars
By Chris Woodyard, USA Today
8/29/11 Puerto Rico-Cuba Flights Resume After Decades
Associated Press
8/29/11 Updating Cuba's Economic Model
Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva, From the Island
8/26/11 NY Bank to pay $88 million for Cuba transfers
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/26/11 The secret life of Cuba's creative class: photographer Michael Dweck's allegorical narrative of seduction
The Art Daily
8/26/11 Cuba condemns U.S. court ruling on exile's compensation claim
Xinhua English
8/26/11 Cuba's Dual Currency System Provides a Way to Cheat Shoppers
Yoani Sanchez, Huffington Post
8/25/11 Get Cuba off the List of State Sponsors of Terror
Sarah Stephens, Huffington Post
8/25/11 Venezuela’s Chavez says he may undergo more chemotherapy, calls treatment ‘preventive’
Associated Press
8/24/11 Florida Court Awards $2.8 Bln to Anti-Castro Agent
Reuters
8/24/11 Post-Gaddafi, is Cuba next?
By David Roberts, Business News America
8/24/11 Raul Castro Showing Impatience at Slow Reform Pace
Reuters
8/24/11 We Now Know: The Real Enemies of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.
Arturo Lopez-Levy, The Havana Note
8/24/11 Cuba Takes Over as Head of Disarmament Body
Associated Press
8/24/11 Blogger sends uncensored news to Cuban cell phones
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/23/11 Cuba Still On U.S. Terrorism List, but Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Wonders Where the Evidence Went
By Anya Landau French, The Havana Note
8/23/11 Controversy over Milanés concert is déjà vu with a few fresh twists
By Jordan Levin, The Miami Herald
8/22/11 Venezuela debuta esta noche en el Super 4 de Montevideo
8/22/11 Defections prompt calls for change in Cuban sports
By Anne-Marie Garcia, Associated Press
8/22/11 Cuba rejects continued inclusion on US terror list
Associated Press
8/22/11 Ladies in White attacked in Cuba, most violent since spring
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/22/11 The Stomachs of Strongmen
Ann Louise Bardach, The New York Times
8/19/11 Capturing Cuba's TV Culture
By Claire O'Neill, NPR
8/19/11 Debate in Cuba, Skeptics & Content
By Harolodo Alfonso, Havana Times
8/18/11 Pablo Milanes' Miami Concert Plan Drums Up Discord
Reuters
8/17/11 Rivera seeks to restrict some Cubans from returning to Cuba
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/17/11 First Americans in Cuba under easier travel rules
By Jeff Franks, Reuters
8/16/11 Hemingway Bar: Cuba's Clever Daiquiri Diplomacy
By Steve Clemons, The Atlantic
8/16/11 Post-Castro Cuba needs a democracy, not a theocracy
By Carlos Eire, The Sun Sentinel
8/16/11 Cuban dissidents say cops again beat women
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/15/11 Is Cuba Going Capitalist?
By Mary O'Grady, Wall Street Journal
8/15/11 Many Cubans living abroad can’t return to Cuba
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/15/11 Singer Pablo Milanes Urges More Freedom in Cuba
Reuters
8/12/11 Cuba's Fading Fidel Castro Turns 85 on Saturday
Reuters
8/12/11 Cuba entrepreneurs grapple with taxes, an alien concept after decades of paternalism
AP, The Washington Post
8/11/11 Cuba’s Self-Employed & the Survival Struggle
Havana Times
8/10/11 Exile groups oppose Cuban musician Pablo Milanés’ Aug. 27 concert in Miami
Juan Carlos Chavez, El Nuevo Herald
8/9/11 Corruption again alleged in Cuba
Juan Tamayo, Miami Herald
8/8/11 Cuba travel suspended by U.S. tour company
Juan Tamayo, Miami Herald
8/8/11 Where Cubans Can Meet the Beatles at Last
Damien Cave, The New York Times
8/8/11 Engagement With Cuba Is Way to Undermine Communist Rule
Editorial Opinion, Bloomberg
8/7/11 WikiLeaks: Coast Guard officer is key U.S. man in Havana
Juan Tamayo, Miami Herald
8/7/11 In Cuba, free market proves easier said than done
Paul Haven, AP
8/6/11 Cuba opening to private enterprise spurs service sector start-ups
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
8/5/11 Cuba's famed cigar industry is heating up again
Marc Frank, Reuters
8/5/11 Cuba chops prices of agricultural equipment for newly authorized private farmers
Associated Press
8/5/11 Cuban Court Upholds Sentence for Jailed American
Reuters
8/4/11 US Releases More Classified Bay of Pigs Documents
Associated Press
8/3/11 Current Record
8/3/11 Cubans Set for Big Change: Right to Buy Homes
Damien Cave, The New York Times
8/3/11 In Cuba, capitalism thrives on Craigslist-like sites
By Ron Buchanon, beyondbrics Financial Times
8/3/11 Dissident economist says Raul Castro not serious about taking on bureaucracy
By Juan Tamayo, The Boston Herald
8/2/11 Cuba viaja con equipos completos al Mundial de Judo en Par's
8/2/11 Study shows best places to protect marine mammals
8/2/11 Russians look to Cuban offshore reserves
UPI
8/2/11 Drill, Bebé, Drill
By Coral Davenport, National Journal
8/2/11 Castro says he will ease travel restrictions on Cubans
By Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald
8/1/11 The awakening of Cuba’s resistance movement
By Otto Reich, The Miami Herald
8/1/11 United DC-Cancun flight diverted to Cuba by odor
By Peter Orsi, Associated Press
8/1/11 Newly authorized Cuba trips sell out fast, run into controversy
By Kitty Yancey, USA Today
8/1/11 Home sales would be a sea change for Cuba
By Mimi Whitefield, The Miami Herald