Despite the election of a new President, US government hostility towards Cuba continues unabated. The New York Times (“US Contractor Seized”, 12-12-09), in an article written by Marc Lacey and Ginger Thompson, quotes US officials as announcing that “A US government contract worker, who was distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications equipment in Cuba on behalf of the Obama administration, has been detained by authorities here [Havana]…” The contractor “was employed by Development Alternatives, Inc., which had at least $391,000 in government contracts last year. Based in Bethesda, Md., the company is a kind of do-it-all development company that provides services to the US government in countries around the world.” according to the authors.
In fact, this little known company received a three-year $43 million dollar contract for work in Pakistan last year, according to Business Week. With offices in DC, Jordan, Mexico, Palestine, Pakistan and Europe, this quiet, “do-it-all” corporation has had projects in many of the world’s hotspots: Afghanistan, Albania, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe. Its major fund sources are USAID, The Millennium Corporation (a well funded US government international “aid” corporation set up in 2004 and dedicated to promoting “good governance and economic freedom”), the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor.
While The New York Times understates dramatically both the funding and government dependence of DAI, it does reveal an interesting aspect of the story. The detainment occurred on December 5 with no public disclosure by the Cuban government. The fact that US officials felt compelled to announce the detainment, confessing the detainee’s activities and his employment, suggests that there will likely be more exposed in the days to come.
The detainment comes at a particularly sensitive time for the Obama administration. They have made a cause célèbre of a young Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez, who has become a darling of the US media with her accounts critical of life in Cuba. Obama has personally submitted answers to her inquiries on her blog, drawing extraordinary attention to her efforts (One would hope that this would give pause to the thousands of liberal US bloggers who cannot get the courtesy of a response from the President for their postings). Given that the detainee was admittedly distributing cell phones, laptops, and “other communications equipment”, this likely signals a calculated US campaign to utilize the internet – tweets, blogs, etc. – to destabilize Cuba, a tactic already exposed in the US intervention in the Iranian post-election demonstrations. Such a campaign would surely cast a shadow on the credibility of the Sanchez blog.
The shift of anti-Cuba covert activity to DAI and the Millennium Corporation is possibly a result of the stunning corruption of past USAID funding to de-stabilize Cuba. The same New York Times article notes that of the $74 million in USAID contracts designated for anti-Cuba activities in the prior decade, the Government Accounting Office reported in 2006 that nearly all went directly into the pockets of Miami-based gusanos. No doubt a good bit of these public funds went to finance anti-Cuba political candidates.
This violation of Cuba’s internal affairs by the US government comes on the heels of a curious public letter signed by 60 African-American notable figures calling ostensibly for the release of an Afro-Cuban prisoner and his case’s elevation to the status of “political prisoner”. No details or documentation of the case, the individual, or the circumstances are offered in the letter, other than a web link to an open letter by a Brazilian professor who repeats the charges, again with little detail. Stranger still, the letter makes the wholesale charge that Afro-Cubans are “the most oppressed citizens” in Cuba. It also speaks of the “brutal harassment” of Afro-Cubans. None of these claims are illustrated or substantiated.
Professor Nascimento – the Brazilian author of the open letter – writes, in a similar vein, of “those most marginalized in Cuba”. Once more, no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, is given for this charge.
Cuba, like any ethnically diverse country, is not immune to racism. The Cubans would be the first to admit that vestiges of the virulent pre-revolutionary racism could not be rooted out in only a few generations. Yet this once popular charge has largely receded since Cuba’s unprecedented sacrifices for the liberation of the former Portuguese colonies, Namibia and South Africa. A figure of the stature of Nelson Mandela, who singled out Cuba’s embracing of tens of thousands of Africans who resided in the country for education and refuge during these struggles, attested to the unique role of Cuba in fighting racism and forging a society antithetical to its ugly manifestations. The Cuban medical missions to Africa, as well as other continents offer a gesture of international solidarity unknown in our time. One certainly does not hear these allegations from African leaders.
There is something oddly skewed about intellectuals of a country that will not allow its citizens to travel to Cuba to explore matters for themselves attacking the internal affairs of Cuba without mentioning that perverse fact in their public statement. While US government contractors are assigned to go to Cuba to meddle in Cuba’s affairs, prominent African-Americans, with- undoubtedly - honest concerns, are forbidden by law to verify those concerns.
These developments mark a continuation, if not escalation, of the provocative, hostile Cold War waged against Cuba since its revolution.