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No laughing matter

cuba bloqueoNews that a federal institution of the United States plans to spend taxpayer money on attacking Cuban leaders through a “humorous” television series revived the debate over the effectiveness and relevance of subversive programs against Cuba, especially when both governments are seeking to normalize relations.

The initiative of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a government agency involved in various scandals regarding the misappropriation of funds, has not caused much amusement inside the United States itself.

“Congress continues to fund efforts that were centerpieces of a decades-long policy of sabotage and confrontation,” wrote Ernesto Londoño, of The New York Times, known for his editorials against the blockade.

“The American government shouldn’t be in the business of commissioning political parody. Our policy toward Cuba has been a joke long enough,” he concluded.

Londoño is not the only one to defend this idea. “It would be nice if someone in the White House and State Department twisted the money spigot off on this dumb waste of taxpayer money,” wrote U.S. academic Sarah Stephens in the Huffington Post.

Stephens, who heads the Center for Democracy in the Americas and has participated in organizing trips to Cuba for members of Congress, even sent a letter to Secretary of State, John Kerry, calling for an end to these programs.

“I think there should be a policy toward Cuba that is based on respect and interaction, and undermining these intentions through government comedy is not funny at all and is a big waste of money,” she told Granma.

Meanwhile, renowned U.S. journalist Tracey Eaton, who announced the OCB’s intentions on her blog “Along the Malecon,” believes that the program reflects the “conflicting and sometimes contradictory” policies of the U.S. government regarding Cuba.

Regarding the level of public scrutiny of OCB activities, a body that annually spends about 30 million dollars on subversive programs, Eaton told Granma that most Americans do not pay much attention to the details of government spending in so-called “programs for the promotion of democracy.”

Nor does the government provide them with information. According to the U.S. journalist specializing in the subject of Cuba, between 1996 and 2012 close to 1,400 Cuba-related programs were carried out.

“And to complicate matters, many of these plans are executed in secret, making it almost impossible for Americans to know exactly what the government is doing with their money.”

Contractors take advantage of the millions of dollars devoted to this purpose across the world, part of which is directed at Cuba. “While these projects have funds, they will take advantage of them, even if they conflict with Obama’s rapprochement.”

It appears that the money will continue to flow.

While the Obama administration battles with Congress for approval of its 2016 budgets, in the Senate and House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committees, million-sum funds continue to be allocated to subversion in Cuba.

The House goes much further than the Senate and proposes to increase these funds from 20 million to 30 million dollars and, in the process, cut maintenance budgets for the new U.S. Embassy in Havana. However, both bodies still need to reconcile their proposals before they are voted on.

U.S. diplomats have been unclear about how these funds will be spent in the future.

“Those programs have changed over time since they began in 1996. I can’t say what changes they may have in the future, but we are constantly looking at how to make them effective,” the then Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, said last May.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, avoided directly clarifying the matter in response to a question fromGranma during the press conference held last August 14 in Havana.

Cuba clearly states that the end of subversive programs is a precondition for the normalization of relations. Parodies like that of the OCB, which threaten this aspiration, do not amuse a people who have suffered the consequences of the U.S. blockade and aggression for over half a century.

Sergio Alejandro Gómez, Granma)

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