Within less than a week of what Fidel has described as Obama’s “most sweetened words” it is already clear that one should take what the US President said with a grain of salt as the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) has just announced a Notification of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to support the Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth the aims of which clearly contradict the President’s words.
This program, which targets “(Cuban) residents who demonstrate an interest in independent organizations”, will be funded to the tune of $753,989 to train 25-30 Cubans between 20 and 35 years of age “to advance social justice causes” and “to foster a new generation of civil leaders.”
Cuban youth to travel to USA for training to build NGOs in Cuba
The Cuban participants will travel to the United States in two to three cohorts over three years and “participants will learn to function professionally and effectively in leading and managing a civil society movement at the grassroots level.”
The U.S. nonprofit organization or U.S. educational institution which receives this grant will “support the participation of young emerging leaders from Cuban civil society in a two- to four-month professional development program. The program will include specialized training and an internship with a nonprofit organization in the United States, which will fuel the participants’ development of action plans for nongovernmental community activities in Cuba.”
According to the announcement “assistance to Cuba is governed by a complex series of statutory and other restrictions. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (also referred to as “Helms-Burton Act”, P.L. 104-114) provides notwithstanding authority to furnish assistance and provide other support for individuals and independent NGOs to support democracy-building efforts for Cuba.”
In his speech at the Gran Teatro de La Habana, aimed at Cuban civil society, President Barack Obama said:
“The United States has neither the capacity nor the intention to impose changes in Cuba, the changes depend on the Cuban people. We will not impose our political and economic system, because we know that every country, every nation must forge their own destiny “
He also said:
“There is already an evolution that is taking place here in Cuba, a generational change. Many suggested that I came here and I had to ask the people to destroy something, but I’m not appealing to young people of Cuba who have to build something new, to rise. The future of Cuba must be in the hands of the Cuban people! “
The full text of the State Department’s announcement can be found here.