Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio speaks during an interview with Reuters in Havana, Cuba, September 2. Photo credit Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini.
HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba has slammed U.S. funding for “democracy promotion” programs as interventionist and illegal, aimed at overthrowing the government just as the island nation faces its worst economic crisis in decades, said the country’s deputy foreign minister on Friday.
The Biden administration announced in July a call for applications to award up to US$6.25 million to nongovernmental organizations and individuals under a decades-long program authorized by US law to “ promote peaceful and non-violent democratic change in Cuba”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told Reuters in Havana that the programs – which over several decades have spent more than $200 million on Cuba-related projects – actually leverage foreign funding. to foment trouble on the island.
“In any country, it’s illegal,” he said, noting that the United States has legislation against people who act as agents of foreign governments.
“That’s precisely what the United States is trying to promote in Cuba today,” he said.
The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) call for applications warned of the challenges and risks of working in Cuba, and said recipients “will not serve as an agent or act under USAID direction.
De Cossio’s allegations come as the island nation suffers its worst economic crisis in decades, with widespread power cuts and hour-long queues for basic supplies such as food, fuel and supplies. medications.
Cuba has long blamed the Cold War-era US embargo and funding of dissidents for its economic and social problems, but De Cossio said the most recent US funding for pro-democracy groups was specifically designed to overthrow the communist-led government.
“They (the United States) are driving down the standard of living of the people and, at the same time, pouring millions of American taxpayer dollars into inciting people to act against the [Cuban – Ed.] government,” De Cossio told Reuters.
The United States has called for applications from groups that would provide humanitarian assistance to persecuted people and those who “empower Cubans through access to information.”
The Deputy Foreign Minister’s statements on Friday follow the first high-level talks between the two countries in four years, at the time described as constructive by longtime enemies.
Relations have nonetheless remained strained, with the United States and human rights groups accusing Cuba of stifling free speech and wrongfully imprisoning protesters following large anti-government rallies on the island on July 11. Cuba has denied these allegations. ~Reuters~