Two of the remaining issues for re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations, as briefly mentioned in a prior post, are (1) the U.S. offering of journalism courses to Cubans at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and (2) U.S. democracy-promotion programs in Cuba. Here are additional details about these issues.
U.S. Journalism Courses
According to an Associated Press article, the free courses cover the ABCs of journalism: how to craft a news story, write a headline and check sources. Taught via video link by professors from the International Media Center at Florida International University, there is no obvious attempt to politicize the material. John Caulfield, a retired diplomat who was in charge of the Interests Section in 2011-14, said the journalism program stays clear of politics. “It’s a very open, transparent program. What we were doing was not ideologically driven except for the fact I guess that part of our ideology is that people should have a right to free expression.”
Cuban attendees confirm the lack of an U.S. agenda for criticizing the Cuban government. One said, “”If the conversation even got close to political, the professor would say, ‘Stop, stop, stop,'”
Cuba has complained in the past about the courses. In 2013, the Cuban Foreign Ministry delivered a diplomatic note of protest, which was followed by a critical story in the official newspaper Granma. There also have been reports of Cuban attendees being roughed up, detained and having equipment stolen by security agents.
More recently President Raúl Castro mentioned the journalism courses as an obstacle to re-establishment of diplomatic relations. He said, ““What most concerns me is that they [people at the U.S. Interests Section] continue doing illegal things. For example, graduating independent journalists.”
The U.S. Department of State, however, has said, “The United States continuously works to promote free expression around the world through bilateral engagement, public diplomacy programming, and multilateral diplomacy,” the State Department said. “This includes support to independent journalists around the world, particularly in closed countries where freedom of the press is lacking or independent journalists are under threat.”
State Department and USAID Democracy Programs
The State Department website states that in the Western Hemisphere the Bureau of Democracy, Human rights and Labor “currently supports over 33 democracy, human rights, and labor programs. . . . Current funding for such programs in [the Western Hemisphere] exceeds $35 million. Program topics include forensic assistance, combating violence against women and children, increasing civic participation of indigenous groups, and supporting free press.”
The latest information about such programs in Cuba on the Department’s website says, the Bureau “has a robust Cuba program that focuses on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” Another Department web page states, “U.S. programs in Cuba include humanitarian support to political prisoners and their families, human rights and democracy promotion, and facilitating the free flow of information to, from and within the island.”
All such democracy programs of the Department would be appropriated nearly $2.265 billion for FY 2016 in Section 7032 (pp. 110-12) of the House Appropriations Committee’s pending appropriations bill for the Department. The programs, as defined in subsection (c ), are not subject to the prior approval by any foreign government, under subsection (e).
Presidential Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, at the June 1st White House press briefing, was asked whether the U.S. would continue in Cuba the democracy-promotion programs of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
After referring specific questions about those programs to those two government agencies, the Press Secretary said, “[T]he U.S. government will continue to invest in efforts to strengthen the engagement between our two countries, between our two governments, and even between the citizens of our two countries.” The new U.S. approach to Cuba, he added, will “give the Cuban people greater exposure to the kind of values and lifestyle that we so deeply value in this country; and that by promoting that kind of engagement, we can actually place additional pressure on the Cuban government to do a better job of living up to the values and the protection of basic universal human rights that we hold so dear in this country.”
Therefore, said the Press Secretary, the U.S. “is going to go and promote our values around the world . . . [as] something that we’ve been engaged in for quite some time in a variety of countries. And we’re certainly going to continue to do that in a place like Cuba that so frequently tramples those kinds of values.”
 Assoc. Press, US Journalism Courses Rile Cuba Amid Effort to Heal Rift, N.Y. Times (June 3, 2015).
 House App. Comm., Draft Bill Making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes (June 2, 2015)