Secret Programs Hurt Aid Efforts


Peter Kornbluh is the director the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. He is the co-author of the forthcoming, “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.”


April 15, 2014
There is a world of difference between American foreign assistance programs that openly support democratic development, human rights and socioeconomic progress, and the type of clandestine operations aimed at regime change that United States Agency for International Development has been running under the guise of a “democracy” promotion program in Cuba. Those programs are not only counterproductive, they are an abject violation of Cuba’s sovereignty, undermine American interests in Cuba’s slow but steady political and economic transition, and endanger the legitimate missions of U.S.A.I.D. around the world.
U.S.A.I.D. was created in 1961 to help the United States win the “hearts and minds” of citizens in poor countries through civic action, economic aid and humanitarian assistance. As a cold war policy tool, the agency was, at times, used as a front for C.I.A. operations and operatives. Among the most infamous examples was the Office of Public Safety, a U.S.A.I.D. police training program in the Southern Cone that also trained torturers.
Regime-change programs have a negative impact on the legitimacy of U.S.A.I.D.’s own core missions.
In the 21st century, U.S.A.I.D. has overcome its tainted legacy and undertaken humanitarian, political and economic work around the globe. It runs democracy promotion efforts from Afghanistan to Kenya — building political leadership capacity, electoral education and registration programs, and judicial reform projects — with little controversy. It is when U.S.A.I.D. undertakes “discreet” regime change operations that it runs into trouble. Indeed, its Office of Transition Initiatives now seems to be competing with, or at least complementing, the C.I.A. on hi-tech propaganda and destabilization programs in Cuba, if not elsewhere as well.
Regime-change programs have a negative impact on larger U.S. foreign policy interests as well as on the legitimacy of U.S.A.I.D.’s own core missions to advance global health and economic welfare. At a Senate hearing on U.S.A.I.D.’s budget last week, Senator Patrick Leahy told the agency’s administrator, Rajiv Shah, that his oversight committee was receiving “lots of emails” from aid workers around the world asking this question: “How could they do this and put us in such danger?” The solution is simple: ban U.S.A.I.D. from conducting such covert operations in the name of advancing democracy.

Tomado del diario The New York Times