New information about the inner workings of the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program (CDCPP)–a multimillion-dollar program administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ostensibly to promote democracy in Cuba—were made public on Jan. 15 when a major USAID contractor filed program-related documents in federal court in Washington, DC. The documents are being used in an effort by Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) to win the dismissal of a $60 million lawsuit against it and USAID by the family of US citizen Alan Gross, a DAI subcontractor now serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for his work there for the CDCPP. The DC-based research group National Security Archive posted the documents on its website on Jan. 18.
The papers include a May 8, 2008 solicitation by USAID for bids on a $30 million CDCPP project and a memo by DAI describing an Aug. 26, 2008 meeting between USAID and DAI representatives. The CDCPP is intended to “[s]upport the [US government’s] primary objective of hastening a peaceful transition to a democratic, market-oriented society” in Cuba, the USAID officials explain in the documents. The US has “between five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba, including “plans for launching a rapid-response programmatic platform.” “CDCPP is not an analytical project; it’s an operational activity,” officials noted, and it requires “continuous discretion.” However, the USAID didn’t classify the project, in order to maintain the appearance of transparency; as a result, project documents can be made public.
Gross won a contract with DAI to distribute communication devices to members of Cuba’s Jewish community as part of the CDCPP project. Cuban authorities arrested him in December 2009 on charges of “acts against the independence or integrity of the state,” and he has been imprisoned ever since. Currently he is poor health and is being held in a military hospital, although the nature of his illness is in dispute. “[M]y goals were not the same as the program that sent me,” Gross told National Security Archive analyst Peter Kornbluh during a meeting at the hospital last Nov. 28. Gross called on the administration of US president Barack Obama to resolve his case and other bilateral issues through negotiations.
Analysts have questioned the claimed purpose of Gross’s mission. “[T]his isn’t simply a matter of supplying equipment to the tiny Jewish community in Cuba,” José Pertierra, a DC-based attorney who has represented Venezuela in its extradition request against Cuban-born former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “asset” Luis Posada Carriles, told the Mexican daily La Jornada. The purpose was “to establish an alternative network of dissidents used in the interests of the US,” he said, adding that “this is illegal in Cuba and in all the countries in the world—no sovereign government accepts a foreign power involving itself in internal activities aimed at promoting regime change.”
Pertierra said he would like Gross to be freed on humanitarian grounds, but he contrasted the case with the 2001 convictions in US federal court of five Cuban men (widely known as the “Cuban Five”) on charges of spying against the US. “Gross’s program had the intention of destabilizing Cuba,” according to Pertierra, who is active in work for the release of the five Cubans. “The Five didn’t have the objective of destabilizing the US; instead, they were working to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuban launched from and protected by the US.” (National Security Archive Electronic Briefing, Jan. 17; Along the Malecón blog, Jan. 17; LJ, Jan. 20)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 20.