Statement from USAID Spokesperson Matt Herrick on Cuba Civil Society Story

For Immediate Release

Monday, August 4, 2014
USAID Press Office
+1.202.712.4320 | Email: USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov | Twitter: @USAIDPress ​​

The United States has a long history of confronting human rights abuses, connecting the oppressed to the outside world, and helping people have a say in how they are governed.

Within repressive environments such as Cuba, civil society and development practitioners alike are often subject to abuse, harassment, threats, verbal defamation, and unjustifiable prosecution and imprisonment. In these environments, USAID works with our implementing partners to ensure they are able to perform their work safely.

Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to empower Cubans to access more information and strengthen civil society. USAID makes information about its Cuba programs available publicly at foreignassistance.gov. This work is not secret, it is not covert, nor is it undercover. Instead, it is important to our mission to support universal values, end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies. Chief among those universal values are the right to speak freely, assemble and associate without fear, and freely elect political leaders. Sadly, the Cuban people and many others in the global community continue to be denied these basic rights.

One paragraph in the article captures the purpose of these and many civil society programs, which is to empower citizens to "tackle a community or social problem, win a 'small victory' and ultimately realize that they could be the masters of their own destiny." But the story then goes on to make sensational claims against aid workers for supporting civil society programs and striving to give voice to these democratic aspirations. This is wrong.

USAID remains committed to balancing the realities of working in closed societies--particularly in places where we do not have a USAID mission and governments are hostile to U.S. assistance--with our commitment to transparency, and we continuously balance our commitment to transparency with the need for discretion in repressive environments. In the end, USAID’s goal is to continue to support democracy, governance and human rights activities in multiple settings, while providing the maximum transparency possible given the specific circumstances.

Last updated: August 04, 2014

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