Millions spent on goal of ending Cuba embargo, normalizing ties
By PABLO ALFONSO El Nuevo Herald
Several private U.S. foundations have poured millions of dollars into an effort to persuade the U.S. government to normalize its relations with the Cuban government and lift the trade embargo against the island, an investigation by El Nuevo Herald reveals.
Among the foundations are the Arca Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.; the Ford Foundation, based in New York City; and the General Services Foundation, based in Aspen, Colo. In the past three years, they have given almost $4 million to organizations that favor normalizing relations with Cuba.
The money funds several causes, among them:
To support the Torres-Dodd bill, which would allow the sale of food and medicine to Cuba; the bill, already drafted, is named for its sponsors in Congress, Rep. Esteban Torres, D-Calif., and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who are expected to introduce it in the next few weeks.
To organize seminars in the academic, journalistic and business communities that stress the embargo's negative impact on the people of Cuba.
To develop public campaigns in favor of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba, and to lobby in Congress for it.
To publish studies about the embargo's negative effect on the island and on the U.S. business community.
To promote U.S. tours by musical, theatrical and artistic groups from the island to expand the narrow political spaces between the two countries.
Most of the money from the Arca, Ford and General Services foundations has been donated to public institutions and nonprofit organizations, among them the Cuban Committee for Democracy (CCD), based in Miami; the Center for International Policy, directed in Washington by former U.S. diplomat Wayne Smith, who once was the chief of mission at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana; the World Policy Institute, based in New York City; Oxfam-America, based in Boston; the American Association for World Health, based in Washington; and Inter-American Dialogue, also in the capital.
From 1995 to 1997, the CCD received $130,000 from the Ford Foundation and $88,500 from the Arca Foundation. With the money, the CCD funded its offices in Miami and Washington, the radio program Transition (broadcast in Miami by Union Radio, 1450 AM) and its efforts to promote normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.
The CCD has become the most serious alternative to the Cuban American National Foundation. Until recently, the foundation's voice resounded in Congress almost exclusively, in favor of the embargo.
The Arca Foundation also has delivered funds to the Cuban American Defense League, based in Miami, which in 1996 received $15,000 ``to denounce the abuses committed in South Florida against constitutional rights,'' according to its president, Eddie B. Levy.
``Our concrete objective is to defend those rights, not in Cuba or in Haiti but here in South Florida, where some press media are responsible for those abuses and violations,'' Levy said.
Cambio Cubano (Cuban Change), directed in Miami by Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo, is another organization that has received financial support from Arca. Cambio Cubano received $35,000 in 1996 ``to develop educational efforts in South Florida that will strengthen the voice of Cuban Americans who favor a peaceful solution to the conflict between Cuba and the United States,'' according to the annual report of the Arca Foundation.
However, the largest amounts of money have gone to the centers for documentation, information and analysis that make their influence felt among political parties, the media, academic institutions and business organizations.
Notable centers are:
The World Policy Institute, based in New York City, which in the past two years received $330,000 from Arca ``to educate the American business community'' about the negative consequences of increasing the economic sanctions against Cuba.
The Center for International Policy (CIP), part of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and directed by Wayne Smith. In the past three years, the CIP received $304,000 from Arca, of which $20,000 went to publish its monthly newsletter. The rest was allocated to send delegations to Cuba and organize seminars to lobby members of Congress to lift the sanctions against Cuba.
The American Association for World Health, based in Washington. The association received $134,500 to write a report on the impact of the U.S. embargo on the health of the Cuban people.
Oxfam-America Inc., based in Boston, received $75,000 in 1997 from the Ford Foundation ``to investigate the problem of hunger in Cuba'' and $35,000 in 1996 from the Arca Foundation to help ``increase production in the cooperative farm Gilberto Leon, which belongs to the National Association of Small Farmers.''