One of the major irritants to normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations has been the U.S. conducting so-called “democracy promotion” programs on the island. In reality they have been misguided programs aimed at regime change in Cuba. Prominent examples have been the “discreet” or “covert” programs sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide communications equipment to Jewish congregations and to promote social media systems in Cuba.
Reforms of such programs have been proposed by Fulton Armstrong, a Research Fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. Here are his suggestions:
- Collaborate with Cuba on the programs. ”U.S. runs programs to support democracy and good governance in many countries, [including] allies like Mexico and Colombia, under the authority of other laws and with a more collegial tone. “
- “Restore and expand what worked in the past. The distribution of books and clippings; support for exchange visits; promotion of academic and cultural events; and other nonpolitical activities that include people with government affiliation should resume. They are inexpensive and, by welcoming people to better understand us rather than trying to drive political change, they are more likely to succeed. [The] U.S. Embassy in Havana could sponsor vehicles offering non-political, non-coercive access to online information.”
- “Decontaminate democracy programs. The organizations that have already spent the $200 million dollars trying unsuccessfully to drive regime change should be bypassed to [have] . . . [legitimate] U.S. civil society organizations forging ties with Cuban counterparts. . . . For example, American librarians can ask their Cuban counterparts for lists of needed books and, with a U.S. grant, buy them so that Cuban youths get the information they need. Doctors eager to provide pro bono medical care should have access to funds to purchase and ship medications and equipment based on appraisals developed with on-the-ground contacts. U.S. and Cuban universities could use money to sponsor two-way exchanges of students whom they choose . . . . ”
- “Acknowledge that Cuba is changing. [Abandon U.S. bans on collaboration with entities connected with the Cuban government affiliated with the Cuban government.]”
- Abandon discreet or covert programs.
I concur in these suggestions.
 Prior posts have criticized such programs: U.S. Secret Cuba Social Media Program Raises Questions about the Validity of Criticisms of Cuba by the U.S. commission on International Religious Freedom (April 4, 2014); U.S. Senate Hearing Discusses USAID’s Social Media Program for Cuba (April 9, 2014); What Is Wrong with the White House’s Plan for Democracy in Cuba? (April 9, 2014); Yet Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba (Aug. 12, 2014); Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba: U.S. Government’s Reactions (Aug. 13, 2014); Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba: Other Reactions (Aug. 14, 2014); New York Times Criticizes USAID’s Efforts To Promote Regime Change in Cuba (Nov. 10, 2014); Email to President Obama Objecting to Covert or “Discreet” U.S. Government Programs Purportedly Promoting Democracy and Human Rights In Cuba (Jan. 7, 2015).
 Armstrong, U.S.-Cuba: Must “Democracy Promotion” Obstruct Normalization? (circa Sept. 2015).