The U.S. Agency for International Development is pushing ahead with Cuba programs worth $21 million, although another $20 million remains blocked after oddly mixed signals by aides to Democratic Sen. John Kerry.
Staffers on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Kerry, lifted his “hold” on the money Friday but put it back on ice Monday, said several U.S. government officials.
“Something smells bad,” Investor’s Business Daily wrote in an editorial that quoted unidentified Capitol Hill sources as pointing a finger at a “rogue” committee staffer “with pro-Cuba sympathies.”
USAID’s public notices Monday requesting proposals on how to spend $21 million were merely a procedural step for future multi-year programs, said the U.S. officials, who asked for anonymity.
The three notices listed $9 million for civil society entities such as cooperatives and church groups; $6 million to expand Cubans’ access to information; and $6 million to increase free expression among Cubans aged 12 to 14.
The $21 million has not been approved by Congress. The $20 million being blocked by Kerry is part of $40 million for Cuba democracy programs already approved by the full Congress in 2008.
Cuba has made it illegal to cooperate with the programs and sentenced USAID subcontractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for delivering communications equipment paid for by the U.S. government to Jewish groups on the island.
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